I’m a fan of Amtrak Guest Rewards and the redemption opportunities. Sure, a train isn’t the fastest way to get across the country, but if you have the time, and want to see the country go by outside your window, its an opportunity you shouldn’t miss.
Amtrak Guest Rewards are a 1:1 transfer partner from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Let’s look at a few sweet spots where using these points can save you lots of money, or get you into a premium accommodation for less points/miles than flying.
The first thing to note is that when redeeming Amtrak points, everything is dependent on the zone you are traveling in/to. The US is decided into 3 zones, with some cities bordering more than one zone.
The Northeast zone is the highly populated, and heavy commuter traffic area between Newport News and Boston. Trains in this area mostly serve folks traveling for work, or between the metropolitan areas of Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. For this reason, and because this is the bread and butter of Amtrak’s operation, this is the most expensive area for using points.
A one-way ticket starts at 4,000 points, while Business class jumps to 6,500 points. I wouldn’t recommend getting a Roomette or Bedroom for any rides solely within the Northeast Zone, since these tend to be shorter trips anyway.
All other travel is decided into how many Zones you will travel through. Here, you’ll see that a coach trip costs 5,500 points one-way. So, you could go from New York to Miami for just 5,5000 points – something that would traditionally cost you 25,000 airline miles.
A Roomette is a smaller bedroom, and a one-way trip is still only 15,000 points. A Bedroom is 25,000, though it can sleep more people. Since these trains tend to be overnight, and also include meals, depending on how many people are traveling with you, this could be a tremendous value. I enjoy traveling on trains – even the ones that go throughout the night – and would have no problem doing a long distance routing. That said, you should plan to leave buffer time on the back end since Amtrak trains are notoriously late.
Jumping down to three zones, which will get you from coast to coast, you can still see some great value. You can go from Washington DC to Los Angeles for just 10,500 points in coach, or 35,000 points in a Roomette. For such a long distance trip as this, I would recommend taking the train one-way and flying the return, just to save on time.
You can also redeem Amtrak points for access to their Club Acela lounges, or (5) one-class upgrades. I would only recommend choosing the upgrades if you intend to use them on the Acela Express, since this is where you will get the most value since you’ll be going from Business Class (the lowest service offered) to First Class (which can run upwards of $200 additional from Business Class).
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