Amtrak Guest Rewards – Train MIles

Amtrak Business Class.jpg

In a recent article I reviewed my recent trip on Amtrak. In this article I continue my train story with reviewing Amtrak’s Frequent Traveler program – Amtrak Guest Rewards. It is actually a pretty good program with good earning rates, good redemption options and several partners – including an airline.

Earning Miles

Trains:

Earning Miles on Amtrak is pretty straightforward. You earn 2 points for every $1 spent. No difference in earning based on class or service. The only exception are the Acela Express trains. They earn 500 points for each trip for certain high traffic city pairs (or 750 points in First Class). This seems to be Amtrak’s way of leveling off the playing field for daily commuters who may earn enormous amounts of points if they travel daily on these routes.

Partners:

Amtrak has developed a very extensive list of partners.

These include

Hotels:

  • Hilton
  • Choice Hotels
  • Hyatt
  • Starwood
  • LaQuinta
  • Omni
  • Wyndham

Car Rentals:

  • Budget
  • Enterprise
  • Hertz

Car Sharing:

  • Connect by Hertz
  • Zipcar

Air & Cruise:

  • Continental (more on this below)
  • Cruise Locators

Financial:

  • Chase MasterCard (more on this below)
  • TD Ameritrade

Shopping:

Long list…

I want to take a step aside here to talk about two partners in particular. Continental and the Chase Credit Card.

Continental Airlines:

This is a unique partnership. Continental and Amtrak actually code-share. The code-sharing is limited to some flights and trains out of Newark airport (EWR). But this allows earning of Amtrak points on flights or Continental Miles on Amtrak trains. One does hope that this code sharing will survive the United merger.Amtrak Acela Express.jpg

Chase MasterCard:

The MasterCard is a fairly typical rewards Credit Card – no annual fee, 1 point for each dollar spent, 2 points for each dollar spent on Amtrak. What is unique about this card is that is allows access to certain features of the Guest Rewards program, that is only available to Elites. The most notable is the ability to transfer Amtrak points to hotel programs. This is a feature introduced a couple of years ago. Till then, anyone was allowed to transfer points out of the program. Several people (yours truly included) transferred Amtrak points to even United airlines. This was done by a circuitous route: Amtrak -> Choice Hotels -> United. Today only Elites and MasterCard holders can do it.

Redemption:

As I have said before:

Points/Miles are only worth what you can redeem them for.

Amtrak has good options.

Trains:

Start for as low as 1,000 points for a short one-way trip. A typical one-zone (yes, all train rewards are by zone, or in some cases by special routes). is 5,500 points, one-way.

Carbon Offsets:

For all you tree-huggers…

Airline Miles:

Points can be transferred to Continental in increments of 5,000 points.

Hotel, Car, Cruise, Retail:

All available as point transfer to the appropriate program or as redemption for certificates.

Elite Levels:

Amtrak has two Elite levels – Select and Select Plus.

Select:

Qualification is 5,000 points earned on rail travel (BITS – Butt in a Train Seat). Partner earnings do not count. Select Elites earn 25% bonus points on train rides. They also get special offers from partners.

Select Plus:

Qualification is 10,000 BITS points. They earn 50% bonus points on train travel. Unlimited access to Club Acela (Amtrak’s lounge) for you and a family members and one non-family guest. And, access to Continental Presidents Club!

Not a bad program at all. If you do have to travel by train, Amtrak does not make you feel bad about all the airline miles you are missing.

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Comments

  1. I’ve actually been looking into some of the Amtrak rewards and there are some pretty cool options. If you did something like a one zone roomette (say, from Chicago to New Orleans) you’d get a private area with two beds that also gets your food and drink covered. 15,000 for Chicago to New Orleans or you could do a scenic trip from Chicago to Seattle for 20,000 points (two zone). Same deal, food and drink covered. Some very nice options.

  2. i am looking for more information on what options there are for transfering airline miles and/or credit card reward points into Amtrak Guest Rewards points. thanks for any thoughts.

  3. Note that the roomette and bedroom rewards mentioned by Jason are good for two people. That includes meals for both people too. Alcoholic drinks are extra.

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