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

Jun 11, 2020

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi Premier® Card

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the latest promotion.

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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(Photo courtesy of Amtrak)

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:

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 photo and all screenshots courtesy of Amtrak.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
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Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
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