I am currently on Amtrak headed down to DC just for the night. I wasn’t 100% sure of when I was making the trip South, and by the time I went to purchase my Amtrak train ticket the $49 or even $69 were no longer available. The cheapest ticket I could get was $101 with my AAA card (side note: AAA card gets you 10% off if purchased at least 3 days prior to departure). Semi expensive to get from NYC to Washington, DC but oh well, it is what it is. I could have flown for about the same price, but from JFK and getting there is much more of a hassle then Penn Station. I purchased my ticket and moved on.
Yesterday though, when I was updating my Promotions page on this site I was reminded that Amtrak was offering a 30% bonus on all purchased miles through June 30th. I went to the Amtrak site and priced out the cost for purchasing 4,000 miles (the cost of a one way train ticket along the Northeast). 3,000 points + 900 bonus would cost me only $82 (I also have a few random Amtrak points laying around so it was fine that I was able to purchase 100 points less then the 4,000 points required). I purchased the points, redeemed my point reservation with the points, cancelled my already existing paid reservation, and saved myself $19! By no means a massive savings, but for about 5 minutes of my time I’ll take a $20 bill back in my pocket any day. Yes, there is a slight opportunity cost as I will not be earning points, but unless there is a bonus promotion or you are taking the Acela, I find the number of points earned on each trip so minimal. I would have only earned 202 points on this trip, which I’d value at about $5, if that.
Some things to know with Amtrak travel:
- As long as the reservation is not ticketed, you are able to cancel with no fee
- The terms with purchasing points state that they can take up to 72 hours to post, however, in my experience they post immediately
- You can only purchase up to 10,000 points in a calendar year
- You can redeem your points for another passenger (this means if you’ve already hit the 10,000 point amount for purchases, use a friend/family members account)
So while I should have just booked a few different train reservations way in advance (as the cost was only $49 at that point) and then cancelled the one I did not need (for no fee), I didn’t. When I finally got around to it purchasing points was by far the best value!