How to Guarantee Your Amtrak Ticket is Always Less Than $50

One of the less-used partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards is Amtrak. While some may detest the use of Amtrak, and think that Amtrak is fading away, it can be a very lucrative point transfer partner if used the right way.

Fares in the Northeast Corridor (traditionally, Newport News, VA up through Boston area) can be sky-high, especially at the last minute, or during weekday commuter hours.

Take for example a Northeast Regional train on October 31st from Washington DC Union Station to New York Penn Station.

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It’s $149 for the cheapest coach ticket. This train is Amtrak’s “slow train,” and is not the higher-speed Acela Express, which cuts out many smaller stations to save on time.

The great thing about Amtrak’s loyalty program, Amtrak Guest Rewards is that they allow redemptions on any train as long as there is a seat still for sale. It’s rare trains are entirely sold out (with the exception of peak times such as Thanksgiving), so you have a very decent shot of getting a seat if you need one.

If you don’t want to spend $149 on that coach ticket, there is a work around. Since Amtrak is a Chase Ultimate Rewards Partner, you can transfer points to Amtrak with ease.

Routes in the Northeast Corridor start at 4,000 points.

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So, spending 4,000 points will exempt you from paying the $149 ticket mentioned above. There are no fuel surcharges, and the points are deducted from your account immediately.

There are two ways I recommend accumulating Amtrak Guest Rewards points – using a Chase Ink Bold/Ink Plus, or the Chase Amtrak Guest Rewards Credit Card.

Here’s how to accumulate 4,000 points for under $50:

  • Assuming you have a Chase Ink Bold/Plus card, buy (4) $200 gift cards from your favorite office supply store, where you will earn 5x the points for every dollar spent. At $6.95 a card, you’ll spend $27.80 on the purchase, and earn 4,000 Ultimate Rewards Points which can be transferred to Amtrak. If you subtract the 1% you can get back for having your card enrolled in the Visa Savings Edge program, you’ll spend even less.
  • Assuming you have the Chase Amtrak Guest Rewards card, buy (8) $500 gift cards at any store that sells them, where you will earn 1 point for every dollar spent. At $5.95 (usually) a card, you’ll spend $47.60 on the purchase. Compared to the $149 original cost of the ticket, you are saving over $100.

Here’s how to make Amtrak travel even more lucrative: Get a Chase Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card, and you’ll get 5% of the Amtrak points you redeem back to your account to spend on future travel. So, for a 4,000 point redemption, you are getting 200 points back. The card has no annual fee, so if you’re an Amtrak user, it pays to have the card, even if you aren’t spending a ton on it.

You can use this same principle on other Amtrak redemptions, though your costs may be higher. Even with a higher cost, you still have the potential to save hundreds of dollars with each redemption. Since having Amtrak status is something I know longer value and use, Amtrak travel is solely award-travel for me.

Have you ever redeemed points on Amtrak?

 

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Comments

  1. Nathan says

    I think Amtrak is an incredibe value for points, especially last minute travel. I worked in DC and lived in Philadelphia 3 days out of the week, so the 4,000 last minute ticket saved me so much money (especially during the winter when a freak snow storm could disrupt travel and I suddenly got to work from home). Also, the trains usually still run during weather events when planes may be grounded–another advantage.

    I disagree with your statement about trains not being sold out. I’ve ridden the train about 12 times in the last two months and everyone has been packed. Granted maybe not sold out, but if you’re traveling in a group you better be the first in line and hope you’re not getting on at an intermediate station. Even the pricey Acela trains are selling out during non-peak travel times. There is an incredibly high demand in the Northeast for rail service, and Amtrak is running at capacity a lot of the time.

    I really like taking Acela first class from Philly to Boston (12,000 points). It’s a 5 hour ride (which is verging on being competitive with air) and is a very nice product in my opinion. If you have a group, it’s really nice to get a whole section (with a table) and enjoy your complimentary alcoholic beverages and food during the trip. It’s a slow, relaxing way to travel that is not for everybody but is definitely fun.

    For those of us whose travel plans include frequent last minute trips up the Northeast (DC, PHL, NY, New Haven, BOS) Amtrak Guest Rewards is great. I like knowing I can take a quick weekend to New York, be there in 80 minutes, and do it for cheap without traffic (and without JFK or LGA in the mix)

  2. Kate says

    I also find the northeast corridor to be an amazing value for last minute travel. This summer my family of three redeemed tickets for 24,000 points whereas the Amtrak cost of the tickets was almost $1000. For great planners, I’m sure the value declines a lot.

  3. Ven says

    This actually seems like a great alternative to using UR points to book a 4,500 mile avios ticket for my trips from DC to NYC with no LGA involved!

  4. Bill n DC says

    The Chase Amtrak Credit card sign up bonus is great. You get almost enough for two free 1-way Acela DCA-NYC + a free companion ticket. two folks can travel Saturday (Free) and return Monday (use Free companion ticket. RT for 2 total $150. Sweet. and for some we can walk to Union Station from home and walk from Penn Station to Hotel

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