Amtrak Guest Rewards offers members 50% bonus points from September 1-30, 2011 on purchases of 5,000 points or more, up to the maximum of 10,000 purchased points in a calendar year. Points regularly cost $13.75 per 500 points or $27.50/1,000 points. Buying 10,000 points from September 1-30, 2011 includes an additional 5,000 bonus points for 15,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points for $275.
The cost of Amtrak points is reduced to $18.33 per 1,000 points.
Loyalty Traveler analysis:
Amtrak Guest Rewards is a program I have read about for years as a versatile tool in loyalty program points and miles exchanges, but I personally took my first Amtrak train trip June 2011 between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada. The round trip ticket was about US$40 and since I was staying four nights at the Sheraton Wall Centre in downtown Vancouver I saved over $100 in hotel parking fees by taking the train.
Reading the Amtrak Guest Rewards forum on FlyerTalk indicates frequent Amtrak travelers, particularly in the northeast U.S. find Amtrak Guest Rewards points often have a redemption value in the range of 5 to 10 cents a point. That is $50 to $100 per 1,000 points. Paying $275 for points that could be worth more than $750 in train travel.
Train travel offers a minimum 100 points per segment or 2 points per US$1 for Amtrak travel purchases.
Transferring Amtrak Guest Rewards points to Choice Privileges, Hilton HHonors or Continental Airlines
Reviewing the Amtrak Guest Rewards website burn options for points shows the loyalty value for exchanges into Continental Airline miles, Choice Privileges and Hilton HHonors.
- 5,000 Amtrak points = 15,000 Choice Privileges points.
- 5,000 Amtrak points = 10,000 Hilton HHonors points.
- 5,000 Amtrak points = 5,000 Continental miles.
- 5,000 Continental miles = 5,000 Amtrak points.
Choice Privileges points can be a good value with a $275 purchase of 15,000 points exchanging into 45,000 Choice Privileges points. Four months ago I published a Choice Privileges hotel reward category breakdown of more than 5,000 Choice Hotels globally to show relative proportion in each reward category from 6,000 points to 75,000 points per night. Some Choice Hotels in the 8,000 points range provide a redemption value of $10 to $15 per 1,000 points. This places the value of 45,000 Choice Privileges points at $450 – $675.
Hilton HHonors points allows an Amtrak credit card member or elite member who purchases 15,000 Amtrak points to exchange to 30,000 HHonors points. Paying $275 for 15,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points with this 50% bonus points purchase promotion and exchanging into 30,000 HHonors points is a lower cost than buying 30,000 HHonors points directly from Hilton ($300). This is also a way to get more HHonors points in your account if you already reached the 40,000 points annual purchase limit with HHonors.
The Roadblock for Amtrak Transfers
The rules of Amtrak Guest Rewards limit the benefit of transfers from Amtrak points to other loyalty program points and miles to elite members designated Select and Select Plus members or Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard members.
Chase Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard (no annual card fee and 5% point rebate on Amtrak travel redemptions) allows cardmembers who spend at least $200 per year on Amtrak travel the benefit of Amtrak point transfers to Choice Privileges, Hilton HHonors and Continental Airlines. There is also the option of transferring 5,000 Continental miles to 5,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points.
- Amtrak Mastercard members may transfer up to 25,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards out of the program annually.
- Select and Select Plus elite members may transfer up to 50,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards out of the program annually.
Amtrak Guest Rewards Select member benefits.
- Select elite status requires 5,000 earned Amtrak Guest Rewards base points in a calendar year for Amtrak travel where your membership number is used. This seems like it takes $2,500 in Amtrak travel to earn this status at 2 points per $1, but the 100 points per segment minimum earn rate means a $10 ticket can earn 100 points and 5,000 points can be earned for $500 to $1,000 in some locations with numerous segments of low fare ticket travel over the course of the year.
- Bonus points and promotion points do not count for elite qualification.
- Select member benefit is a fast-track option for HHonors Gold elite.
- Select members earn 25% bonus points.
Amtrak Guest Rewards Select Plus member benefits
- Select Plus members earn 50% bonus points.
- Access to Continental President’s Club.
- Unlimited access to all ClubAcela®, Amtrak’s Metropolitan Lounge®, and First class lounges for immediate family members traveling with you or one non-family guest.
Amtrak Guest Rewards follow-up posts to come:
- Earning Amtrak points for Hotel Stays (Sep 3, 2011).
- Amtrak Guest Rewards Fall Double Points Promotion September 7-November 23, 2011.