Best Use of Amtrak Guest Rewards Points

Amtrak is an awesome hidden gem/transfer that goes largely unmentioned. Yet, it has awesome short-haul redemptions for super cheap, awesome hotel transfers, and amazing value on long-hauls in a bedroom for 2-3 people. The bedrooms apparently make great travel for those with kids.

For a family, Amtrak is one of the most hassle free ways to travel. And the bedrooms or roomettes are completely private. Stick the kids in a roomette, and take the bedroom and enjoy the long haul… with food included.

And the best part: If there is a seat/room for sale it will be available for points (with the exception of a few blackout dates).

 

Earning Amtrak Guest Rewards Points:

As an Amtrak Guest Rewards member you earn 2 points per dollar spent on Amtrak. Which… won’t get me very far.

However, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Ink Bold and Ink Plus transfer 1:1 from Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak. Transfers are instant.

You can also transfer from the Starwood (SPG) Amex card. SPG transfers 1:1 in increments of 5,000 points. Not my first choice, for SPG points, but I will show some incredible redemptions below, so YMMV.

Another way is to purchase points, with a limit of 10,000 points per account per calendar year. It’s 2.75 cents per point, which is expensive, but there is a 30% bonus right now for purchases of 10,000 points. Meh.

 

Explaining How Amtrak Redemptions Work

There are zones, much like an airline’s award chart, but simpler because the price is solely the number of zones you cross. If you stay within 1 zone here are the prices:

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 11.32.03 AM

Pretty simple. Any train ride that stays in one zone is 5,500 for a regular seat, or 6,500 for a business class seat.

 

Rooms for multiple people

Now one super cool thing that’s not intuitive to just looking at the award chart is “Roomette” and “Bedroom” allowing multiple people. A Roomette allows two people, and a Bedroom allows three people.

One cool thing about the rooms/roomettes is that they provide meals for the entire journey. So when I say “allows two/three people”, I mean both that you can have  2/3 people and that they provide 2/3 meals.

But how comfortable you will be totally depends on the size of the people. Roomettes are very private but small. When I say small, it’s obviously way bigger than a regular seat as you have beds that fold down. But when you compare to the size of the Bedrooms, it’s a big difference.

However, the two fold-down beds aren’t much bigger in the Bedroom than the Roomettes. Therefore, it may not be advisable to put 3 people in one room. Now Carrie and I shared a twin bed for the beginning of our marriage, and she’s tiny, so we could do it. But these beds are like twin beds, and the top bunks are more like, camping-mat sized.

As my friend Dave told me, “if you see the difference between the Roomette and Bedroom, you will certainly pay the extra 10,000 points for the Bedroom.” It’s huge.

 

Explaining Zones & Pricings

Before I get back to the pricings, I figured I would actually show what zones there are.

Yes, these zones are awesome.

Going from Montreal to Miami would be one zone and therefore be 5,500 for a seat or 25,000 for a Bedroom for 3.

Same with Detroit all the way to San Antonio, or Fargo to New Orleans.

Same with Denver to Seattle (via San Fran), or San Diego to Glacier National Park.

These awards are incredibly generous. That being said, it’s a heck of a long time and many of these trains don’t have wifi (although I’d be on my free FreedomPop wifi the entire time (being anywhere that gets sprint)).

The other thing is, there aren’t always direct trains. Going all the way down the east coast would not only take a while, you would have to change trains, likely in DC. Which, depending on the wait and how much you packed, could be a pain.

Northeast Zone

The other thing you may notice on the map is that in the bottom right it shows a Northeast Zone. It’s both a part of the Eastern Zone and its own zone. Not a big deal, but it’s a slight discount.

 

Different Pricing Options

Some will wonder if you get stopovers, and the simple answer is no. But the more complex answer involves explaining the rest of the award chart.

One Zone Two Zones Three Zones
Coach 5,500 8,000 10,500
Business Class 6,500 10,500 12,500
Roomette 15,000 20,000 35,000
Bedroom 25,000 40,000 60,000

A bedroom in one region is 25,000 points, but a bedroom in two regions is 40,000 points.

So look at the award map above and follow me with an example. If you live in Omaha and wanted to go to Seattle, you would have to travel in two regions, making it a Two Zone award.

You could go about it one of three ways, and we’ll take an example of booking a bedroom.

1) Book a Two Zone award for 40,000 points.

This is the simplest. It’s all one ticket and 40,000 points for up to three people in a Bedroom. No stops.

2) Book two different One Zone awards in a Bedroom for 50,000 points and stop in Denver.

If you look at the award map, there are many zones that are on the border of two regions. I’ll list those below in a second. But Denver is a great example. You could do Central Zone to Denver as a single One Zone award, and then Denver to anywhere in the Western Zone as one award.

Again, the point of this is to get a stopover on a border city.

3) Book a One Zone award in coach, and then a larger One Zone in a Bedroom for 36,000 points (for two people).

You can mix and match anything you want really when doing it like this. But in the example above, Omaha is not that far from Denver, but a trip to Seattle would still price as Two Zones. Therefore, you could do coach, or a Roomette (for two) to Denver, and then book a trip in a Room from Denver to Seattle for 25,000 points.

 

Examples of cities on the borders between zones:

  • Wolf Point, MT
  • Denver, CO
  • Trinidad, CO
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • El Paso, TX
  • Toledo, OH
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • Atlanta, GA

There are the cities you could technically stopover in on a two zone award. However, you should know about specialty routes.

 

Specialty routes for 1,500 points (or 2,000 points in Business Class)

Special Routes include the following: Blue Water®, Wolverine®, Cascades®, Pacific Surfliner®, Capitol Corridor®, San Joaquin®, Hiawatha®, Downeaster®, The Lincoln Service®, Illini[os] Service®, The Carl Sandburg®, Missouri River Runner, The Illinois Zephyr®, The Saluki®, The Hoosier State®, The Pere Marquette®, The Piedmont®, and The Heartland Flyer®.

I don’t know about you, but I only know what a few of these things actually are, so I googled researched them and put the routes below. These are routes that are 1,500 points or 2,000 points in Business Class:

  • Kalamazoo – Battle Creek – East Lansing – Port Huron
  • Chicago – Detroit
  • Vancouver, BC – Seattle – Tacoma – Portland – Salem – Eugene
  • San Luis Obispo – Santa Barbara – Los Angeles – San Diego
  • Auburn – Sacramento – Emeryville (San Francisco) – Oakland – San Jose
  • San Francisco Bay Area/Sacramento – Bakersfield/Southern California
  • Milwaukee – Chicago
  • Brunswick – Portland – Boston
  • Chicago – Quincy/St.Louis/Carbondale
  • St. Louis – Kansas City, MO
  • Indianapolis – Chicago
  • Chicago – Holland – Grand Rapids
  • Raleigh – Charlotte
  • Oklahoma City – Fort Worth


 

Hotel Transfers

This is the one that may or may not blow your mind. Yet, it’s a little bit complicated. So the good news first. Amtrak transfers to two hotel chains:

  • 5,000 Amtrak points = 10,000 Hilton HHonors points
  • 5,000 Amtrak points = 15,000 Choice Privileges points

Now there are so many other better ways to transfer to Hilton HHonors points. I would not waste very valuable Amtrak points for Hilton, whose redemptions go as high as 95,000 HHonors points. No way.

However, 1:3 to Choice is incredible given that there are some really incredible and cheap choice hotels out there. Now maybe I should go and do a best use of Choice points, but to give an idea of some of the value available, I’ll give two examples of hotels I’ve been eyeing.

The Keekorok Lodge in Masai Mara, Kenya for 40,000 Choice points instead of $400++/night! This is a super cool luxury camping style hotel on the great Masai Mara. The hotel is practically a safari itself. The best part is that it’s less than 14,000 Amtrak points per night!

On the low end redemptions, is the “Clarion Suites Roatan at Pineapple Villas” on the island of Roatan, Honduras for 6,000 Choice points. That would be 2,000 Amtrak points! 2,000 points is an incredible redemption for a $100/night hotel on a beautiful caribbean island that has a 90% TA rating.

 

The bad news for hotel transfers

To be able to transfer to Choice or Hilton, you need to qualify. There are 3 ways to qualify:

1) Have the Amtrak credit card and spend $200/year on Amtrak.

“Active cardholders of the Amtrak Guest Rewards® MasterCard® issued by Chase Bank with an Amtrak travel spend on the card of over $200 per calendar year may redeem up to 25,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points per calendar year for hotel points.”

That’s probably the easiest way. Have the credit card, which does not have a good sign up bonus right now. It used to be 25,000 points for signing up and now it’s 12,000.

2A) Have “Amtrak Guest Rewards Select or Select Plusstatus and be able to transfer 50,000 points a year.

The only way to get Amtrak Select is to get 5,000+ Qualifying points, which is $2,500 in spend on Amtrak. And the only way to get Select Plus is 10,000+ Qualifying points, which is $5,000 spend on Amtrak travel.

Neither of those are ever going to happen for us.

2B) Have “Select Executive” status and get unlimited transfers.

This would involve 20,000 Qualifying points, aka, $10,000 in Amtrak travel. Also not doable… ever.

If there are short-cuts to status, I would love to know but I have not been able to find any. Therefore the best option for this kind of redemption is to have and keep the Amtrak card. Then it would basically look like this…

  • Chase UR points 1:1 –> Amtrak Rewards
  • Every year spend $200 on the Amtrak card
  • Amtrak Rewards 1:3 –> Choice points

In a way it’s a Chase to Choice 1:3 with $200 of spend on Amtrak and having the Amtrak credit card. A bit of a round about way of doing things, but I’m sure it could be well worth it for many.

 

Upgrades

5 upgrade passes for 10,000 points. The upgrades get you from a paid coach seat to business class and are supposed to be used within 12 hours of departure.

Coupon valid for one (1) space-available upgrade from Coach to Business class or Business class to First class, or from Acela Business class to Acela First class, on a single travel segment or leg.

 

Conclusion & Best Uses of Amtrak points

  • Two Zone in a Roomette (for 2) for 20,000 points.
  • Long haul bedrooms in one zone for 25,000 points (up to 3 people). Remember what Dave said, if you see what the Bedroom gives you, the extra 10,000 is an easy decision.
  • Specialty trains for 1,500/2,000 points.
  • Choice transfer 1:3. Stay at a resort in Honduras for 2,000 Amtrak points a night.

In my opinion, any of the above redemptions are totally worth the transfer from Chase (Ink Bold, Ink Plus, or Chase Sapphire Preferred), or the Amex SPG card.

To be honest, I haven’t jumped on the Amtrak card yet, but if I really want to do the Choice transfer thing, I will get it and keep it. If the bonus goes back up to 25,000 points, that will make my decision easy. (Here’s the link to the 12,000 point offer (I do not get paid or commission for this Amtrak card offer)).

In conclusion, Amtrak is the looked-over transfer partner of Chase and SPG. The redemptions have equally great value as many airlines, and even better for families that can throw three kids in a room.

If you have any experience or other suggestions, please let me know.

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71 Comments

    • Who’s Dave?

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    • Dave, aka BikeGuy, is a friend of ours who sometimes talks about Amtrak at the Chicago Seminars.

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    • This was totally inspired by Dave, lol.
      The observation car looks awesome. Glad to hear the beds are nice. Probably better than any plane.
      I actually had decent wifi from NYC to Charlottesville, VA. But I hear the further west you are the worst it is. Most out west don’t even have wifi.

      Reply
  1. The Northeast zone can be pretty valuable too. 4k for a coach ticket from Virginia all the way up to Maine. Avios redemptions might come close to this, but since you’re almost always going to find availability it might help. I used one going from NYC to DC. Way easier to get to Grand Central Station in NYC than to any of the NYC airports. So the total transit time was pretty much the same as flying.

    Reply
    • Yes, second this. So many people live in the NE corridor that is served by Amtrak. The train is nearly always more convenient (there are a lot of stations NOT in downtowns too!), and often faster, than flying there (e.g., DC-NY) – plus absent the hassles and with generally greater certainty on travel times. Plus a bigger seat. Plus it’s cheaper (in points terms). Plus (and this is most important) there is nearly always award space, even at the last minute. I’m a big fan and have redeemed this many time. I’ve never used the other options, but in terms of creating flexibility and cost savings from points… the NE zone rocks.

      Reply
    • Totally agree. Amtrak from NYC to CVille was a great deal. Although sometimes it’s cheap anyways. But yeah, going from Manhattan to a few blocks from my house just doesn’t happen flying. Plus, you’re supposed to show up to an airport two hours early nowadays.

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  2. Thanks for the comprehensive reference for Amtrak redemptions! It’s funny how the Amtrak/Choice transfer opportunity gets almost no mention in the travel community, and even fewer people talk about the redemptions at Preferred Hotel Group hotels. We’ve literally stayed in some of the top luxury hotels in the world using Amtrak points. The Keekorok is just one of many.

    So, here are a few additional tricks for Amtrak redemptions…

    First, Superliner Family Bedrooms are available for the same number of points as standard bedrooms, and provide two additional beds and a larger room that stretches from one side of the car to the other.

    Second, there’s a site called AmSnag (http://biketrain.net/amsnag/) that will let you search Amtrak availability over a one month period. If you’re looking for the elusive Family Bedroom during a peak travel period and have some flexibility in your schedule, AmSnag will help you find the room you’re looking for.

    Finally, the Amtrak Credit card comes with a decent signup bonus, but it’s worth mentioning that it also has NO ANNUAL FEE. Given the redemption opportunities it opens up, this is a card you can hang on to for a long time without worrying about fees.

    Reply
    • Dang. This is a golden comment.

      Superliner Family Bedrooms – that’s great. According to wiki, the superliner serves:
      Auto Train, California Zephyr, Capitol Corridor, Capitol Limited, City of New Orleans, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Heartland Flyer, Pacific Surfliner, Pere Marquette, San Joaquin, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, and Texas Eagle

      Love the http://biketrain.net/amsnag/ tip.

      Agree about the no annual fee value. Anyways, thanks for the comment. May go back and add some of this in the post later.

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  3. Another good tip is that kids ride for 50% off fares. I can’t figure out quite how that works for award redemptions so if anybody knows, let me know

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    • I’m not sure the 50% fare works award tickets. I mean, I have no idea, I just no a lot of 50% off things don’t work on awards for airlines and hotels… but if it does, I hope someone chimes in.

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  4. Are the bedrooms big enough for 2 adults and 2 small children (5 & 2)? Will Amtrak even let us populate a room that way or will they make us purchase two?

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    • Amtrak won’t let you book 4 in a regular bedroom. They will let you book 3. 2 kids will fit in the lower bed. I’d go with the family bedroom, which I didn’t know was an option until TheInternationalLine’s comment. Thanks TIL.

      If you have a large group needing 2 bedrooms, book two bedrooms next to each other and they will open the door between them.

      Reply
    • Not sure if Amtrak has changed their redemption policies recently, but when I attempted to book 3 in a regular bedroom in August I ran into a slight hassle. Hassle being they said only 2 are part of the reward redemption and the 3rd had to purchase an “open ticket”. The open ticket was basically the current coach price for the route and the child can still stay in the bedroom.

      Reply
  5. The route map does not seem to show all the stops. For example, Amtrak stops in Austin (between San Antonio and Ft. Worth) although that city isn’t shown on the map.

    Reply
    • It’s more like a map of time zones. It seems to list border towns to if you’re east or west of a border city, you should be able to know what region you’re in.

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  6. Another fantastic post. Thanks for all the awesome work.

    Reply
    • Thanks Andy.

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  7. I must be missing something. I do not see the Keekorok Lodge in Masai Mara, Kenya for 40,000 Choice points. Where did you find that you can get that hotel using choice points?

    Reply
    • How do you use Choice points at Preferred hotels?

      Reply
    • Just use the booking instructions at the link above (http://www.preferredhotelgroup.com/2014ChoiceMem). Once you find availability, you need to call the number on that page to book. Be aware that almost no one books these, so the agent you get may not be familiar with the process. If you stay persistent, you’ll eventually find someone who can make it happen.

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  8. How much do these roomettes and rooms cost in cash? It would be nice to see a comparison to understand the value. For example, a round trip between NY and DC on Acela is often $300-400. So at 8,000 points each way we are getting $.025/mile.

    How much do rooms and roomettes cost?

    Reply
    • That totally depends on the route. But if you just search on amtrak.com for a cash route, it will have roomettes on the right of each route. You can flip through to see rooms.

      For Charlottesville to New York (6.5 hour ride) it’s $250.

      For Denver to Seattle (30 hours) it’s $730.

      While the award prices are similar the cash price is pretty different. But for me the value is in the hours not the cash. I don’t need a roomette to NYC. It’s a quick ride with wifi and big seats. I don’t sleep on it, I just work. Not long enough to need a meal either.

      Reply
  9. Has anyone have experience with 3 adults in bedroom? I didn’t know that was a possibility and was considering booking 2 roomettes either across or by each other for my coming Amtrak tour. If I am able to fit 3 in 1 bedroom that would be fantastic, especially if family bedroom is the same cost and Amtrak would allow me to do so.

    @Tom: cost varies but generally $4-800 for roomette and $1100-$1400 for bedroom from end to end of the cross country rides.

    Reply
    • I’ve done it before (one way) and would never do it again. The third bed in the family bedroom is too small and is child sized. You can fit two on the bottom bunk of the Superliner bedroom, but it is a tight fit. Coming back we did two roomettes which was a lot better.

      Reply
    • We traveled with 3 adults, a 4-year-old, and a 2-year-old round-trip in a bedroom (Trenton to Savannah) in 2001, and it was fine, as my wife and I are small (5’6″ and 5’1.5″ and slim). We shared the bottom (2-person) bunk with my 2-year-old, and the 4-year-old slept in the top bunk with another adult (nanny); there is some type of safety net that prevents falling over the side. I recommend the accessible bedroom if available, as it has a lot more space for the kids to play, and a much bigger shower.
      We made the mistake of falling asleep with both kids, my wife, and I on the bottom bunk on the way down, which was too crowded. On the way back, it was fine.
      As far as booking, my recollection is that they were able to squeeze my wife and I, and the two kids, into the bedroom (kids at 50% off; I was lowest coach fare), and my nanny was booked into a coach seat, but I think because we had the room, they gave her the lowest rate. And when we went to eat, all the meals were included.

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  10. Again, posts like these make you one of the best bloggers around! Thanks!

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    • Thanks Cliff!

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  11. I love the idea of converting Amtrak to Choice. If I don’t have any planned travel right now on Amtrak, any idea if I can buy 200 of Amtrak gift cards and meet the spending requirement?

    Reply
    • As long as it posts as an Amtrak spend I would assume it would work. So if you buy off of Amtrak.

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    • I thought the $200 must be spent on Amtrak travel. Could someone who knows please comment?

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    • Yes, it does have to be spent on Amtrak. So buy a cancelable amtrak ticket.

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  12. Drew, great post with a lot of interesting points. I hadn’t considered the stopovers between zones by breaking up the trip – a great option.
    @jay I just returned from a Montana to Seattle trip in a bedroom. I wouldn’t personally recommend 3 adults but technically it might be possible. Technically you can fit up to 6 people in the connected 2 bedroom “suite” or 2 adults and 2 children in a family bedroom (same number of points as bedroom)
    @Drew – you can’t combine the 50% off discount for kids with redeeming with Amtrak points, kids are the same number of points as adults, but you might be able to get an adult tickets with points and buy the 50% off kids ticket by calling Amtrak
    @theInternationalLine don’t forget about the benefit with the Amtrak Guest Rewards card of 5% points back on all Amtrak travel booked with points, even if the points are transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards (used to be 10% back)

    Reply
    • I ran a few test bookings to see if 3 adults in one room is possible. Turns out 1 room (family or otherwise) is not even an option. The pull down menu only lists 2 or 3 room.

      @Drew How were you able to book 3 adults into 1 bedroom? Even on the list, the most they mentioned were 2 adults in roomette/bedroom and possibility of 2 adults + 1 child in bedroom.

      Is it bad form having 2 people in a family bedroom? Getting the family bedroom seemed like a smart move since we get more space for the same cost, but I would feel bad if there are actual family with kids forced into the regular bedrooms.

      Reply
    • I meant to say 3 people. So 1 kid.

      @ Zach, that’s what I thought.

      Reply
  13. on Amtrak’s website it seems like you first have to purchase or redeem points for a regular coach seat before having the option of using points for a roomette/bedroom. Can you not just get the romette/bedroom without also getting a coach seat? Thanks.

    Reply
    • You should be able to book straight into a roomette or bedroom.

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  14. I think the best value would be an El Paso to Vancouver, BC roomette for two people for about 3 days of free food.

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    • I’d pay 15,000 points for three days of food for two if it’s good. 😀

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  15. Hi Drew, from my understanding the standard bedrooms recommended capacity is 2 people, and amtrak only allows points redemptions up to the recommended capacity, and you either had to pay the lowest ticket price or the points value of the third person.

    I tried with multiple representatives and none budged, so if a family’s traveling with a child they could pay the kids half off ticket in cash.

    And on the family bedrooms I see the recommended capacity is 2 adults & 2 kids, I don’t know if it cost the same points as a standard bedroom

    Reply
    • I’ve booked a bedroom two times with one adult and 2 kids. Agents were fine with that. Surprised they would balk at 2 adults and 1 kid.

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  16. The Choice hotels seems like a great option. As I also don’t have plans to travel with Amtrak, what purchases qualify for the $200 purchase at Amtrak? Can hotels, car rentals, and gift cards be counted toward this $200 spend?

    Reply
    • I imagine it has to be coded as Amtrak purchases. My guess is that car and hotels are more or less partnerships. I just went through the booking process and it said powered by orbitz. So despite it actually being booked on Amtrak, I have no idea what company will actually be charging the card.

      I guess you can book a cancelable room and if it’s shows up online as an Orbitz charge, you cancel.

      Reply
  17. I signed up Amtrak Guest Rewards program but haven’t applied for the Amtrak credit card yet. On their website, I saw I could transfer Choice Privileges points to Amtrak like this:
    “Transfer 32,000 Choice Privileges points into 5,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points. Transfer Now”. Is that strange? If they have this transfer ratio, how can I get the 1:3 transfer ratio from Amtrak to Choice Privileges after I get their credit card?

    Reply
    • What you just pasted was transfer from Choice to Amtrak. It’s 1:3 from Amtrak to Choice.

      Reply
  18. I have never done a cross country trip on Amtrak but I have taken the Pacific Surfliner from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles, and back, at least once a month. If you are taking this train on a holiday weekend do yourself a favor and book the business class award. Otherwise, coach has been just fine. Also, the wifi is terrible. Don’t expect to get any work done on it.

    Reply
    • I hear anything not on the east coast has terrible wifi or none.

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  19. what if you just buy a $200 Amtrak refundable ticket 6 months out, transfer the 25K Amtrak points to Choice, then cancel the $200 Amtrak ticket for a full refund?

    Reply
    • Well, I do know amtrak can take your points back from choice.

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    • Did you try this? What if you already used your Choice points?

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  20. Top class post. And all these comments and nobody picked up on the Masai Mara point? Does this include game drives? If so, I think you just found the single most valuable award … like anywhere, ever!

    Reply
    • I looked into this for real, and the upsells are pretty big. Nothing is included and one day pass into Masai Mara, even selfdrive, is expensive. Still good, but definitely doesn’t include anything.

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  21. I am very interested in finding out the easiest and least expensive way to get amtrak select status so that I can transfer 50000 Ultimate reward points each calendar year to amtrak and then from 50000 amtrak points to 150000 choice hotel points. The select status ordinary spending requirement of $2500 to get 5000 rail points is not an option for me. I have heard that people on the east coast who do cheap ($4) short frequent commutes get 100 point credit for each $4 commute ride. My thought is to buy 50 $4 tickets for $200 and get 50 100 point credits to get the 5000 rail credits needed for select status. Do you or anyone reading this know if that idea is possible?

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    • The biggest problem with the cheap tickets is that sometimes they won’t get scanned. You will literally have to search for a conductor to scan those since they are used to people riding for several stops on the corridor trains, not one stop. Also trips that you might think are cheap, like NYC-Newark, actually cost $10-$20 as Amtrak wants to discourage those riders. On some of the short distance trains on the West, where the prices are set with input from the State (i.e., LA-Glendale or Oregon City-Portland) the prices are more reasonable.

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    • If they don’t scan it – you can still get the points, you’ll just have to contact customer support. I’ve done this.

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    • do transfered points from Starwood count toward their select status?

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  22. I want to travel between Chicago and Seattle (two zones) in a roomette (20,000 points) to begin a cross country bicycle tour 3,100 miles to Washington DC. Is that 20,000 points inclusive of two people? Or would I need to buy another ticket for the other person?

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    • That’s inclusive. Both get free meals too. Great deal. (As long as you’re in no hurry.)

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  23. Just got Amtrak credit card with a plan to transfer my 12000 miles to Choice. Did NOT know about the Amtrak purchase rule. What if I bought a refundable ticket ? Made my transfer and refunded the unused ticket? Not kosher but it would work?Thanks.

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    • Did that work for you? buy a refundable ticket, then transfer, then cancel ticket?

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  24. The Chas Amtrak card isn’t currently available, correct?

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    • Looks like the Amtrak Credit Card has been discontinued, so the only option to be able to transfer Amtrak points to Choice is to become a select member through spend. Any ideas if the credit card will be coming back? Don’t really have the option to spend 2.5k to become a select member

      Reply
  25. Just checked and the current price for points is $18.75 per 500. I couldn’t find it on their website without being a member and had to call in. I’m now a member :)

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  26. BTW, there is a sale on buying points until July 12.

    10% bonus
    5,500-9,500 => 20% bonus
    10,000+ => 30% bonus

    I just booked a roomette for my wife and I from Truckee, CA to Milwaukee, WI with 10,000 Chase Sapphire points and 10,000 bought points. With the bonus it cost $320. Two coach tickets purchased with cash would have been >$400. Flying would have cost about the same, but we still would have needed to get to Reno. The train takes longer, but we get to see a beautiful part of the country and meals are included. I can’t believe I never looked into this before.

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  27. Anybody confirm if using Amtrak credit card to buy $200 in Amtrak Gift Cards counts as an Amtrak purchase for the purpose of being able to transfer to Choice?

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  28. Drew – I plan to do Chicago to Pittsburg trip on Amtrak. 4 adults (parents and wife+me). From the map it looks like 2 zone tickets. I would like to reserve biz class or bedroom for my parents. What do you suggest is best redemption of points here? I plan to transfer points from Chase UR. Thanks.

    Reply
  29. Hi,
    I am booking a trip to Disney on the auto train. I know from riding previously that you need to book a good 6 months in advance in order to get the family bedroom on this train. That would be NOW! Can I pay for my trip now in order to reserve the room and then later when I have enough Amtrak points to cover the 80,000 I need, will they refund me Or can they cancel it and rebook it with points? I am more concerned about getting this room for the specific dates than anything else. Thanks for your time!

    Reply
  30. They have bedroom suite. Can we book these with points?

    Reply
  31. This is old information. The points by Zone had to be booked in January (Seattle here we come!) Now cashing has dollar/point calculation. Other places that can accumulate Amtrak Points besides the credit card we use are- united frequent flyer, audience reward (broadway shows offer 2500 bonus on open seats even if purchased thru cheapseats.) They have had bonus buy periods twice a year where points can be purchased for 1.5-2.5 times more. Great way to charge $200 on Amtrak card! In zones, that plus groceries (also gets points on card) $200 used to get 2 people roundtrip w meals and roomette. Hotel stay thru wyndham, and car rental hertz bonus, adds back with points for next year to stay and explore. I have met more than a few homeschoolers and retirees that have been doing it for a trip a year. But that is pretty well gone with new system.

    Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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