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Not flying this summer? Buy Amtrak points with a 50% bonus

June 11, 2020
4 min read
Amtrak Empire Builder Nears Glacier National Park. (Photo courtesy Amtrak)
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

If you're not ready to take to the skies this summer and plan on booking train travel instead, listen up. Amtrak is currently offering a bonus when you buy points, but only for a limited time.

Now through June 17, you can get 50% extra points when you purchase Amtrak Guest Rewards points. Unlike many of Amtrak's previous buy points offers, this promotion is not tiered, and you'll get the 50% bonus as long as you purchase at least 1,000 points. TPG values Amtrak points at 2.5 cents each — the highest of any award currency — and taking advantage of this promotion means that you're paying roughly that amount (2.51 cents per point).

Let's take a closer look to see if this makes sense for your next train trip.

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The details of Amtrak's buy-points promotion

  • Offer is valid now through 11:59pm ET, June 17, 2020
  • Must purchase at least 1,000 points to get the 50% bonus
  • Members can buy a maximum of 30,000 points per calendar year (Select Executive members have no annual point purchase limit)

Related: The current buy points and miles promotions worth considering

Is it worth buying Amtrak points?

Amtrak — like Southwest and JetBlue — ties its points redemptions to the dollar value of the ticket. Generally, this means that purchasing points is only a good idea when you need to top off your account. However, with this promotion, it looks like the bonus might just be enough to make it worth it in certain circumstances. Keep in mind that Amtrak points expire after 24 months with no activity.

On this sample itinerary, the cash cost for a ticket from Los Angeles to Chicago (with a roomette) is $623.

The same ticket would set you back 21,494 points:

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With the bonus on purchased points, you can buy enough to cover this award for $565.50, thus saving you $57.50.

Of course, we'll skate past the 43-hour trip length for this itinerary. Still, if you're looking for a unique way to cross the country, this is an interesting option.

Related: 45 Hours, 8 States, 3 Burgers, 1 Cabin: Riding the Rails From Portland to Chicago in an Amtrak Roomette

This promotion can be valuable on shorter itineraries too, such as New York City to Rochester (in business class):

If you're a huge train buff or have some upcoming Amtrak travel, this could be a good deal for you — just be sure to crunch the numbers to ensure it makes sense.

Which credit card to use

Amtrak point purchases are processed by, so these purchases won’t code as travel and won’t earn bonus points from cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Instead, you'll want to use a card that offers maximizes return on everyday spend, like the Citi® Double Cash Card (2% cash back; 1% when you buy, plus 1% as you pay) / 2x points on all purchases) or the Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5% cash back / 1.5x points on purchases). Both of these cards become more rewarding when paired with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Citi Premier® Card because you'll be able to convert your cash back into fully-transferable points.

Related: The best travel rewards credit cards

Featured image by Amtrak Empire Builder Nears Glacier National Park. (Photo courtesy Amtrak)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.