The Almost Irresistable Appeal of Amtrak Redemption Options

Next year our family is going to be doing a fair amount of traveling.

Guess what?  I’m trying to plan ahead so we can do it as cheaply as possible.  Of course, I always give first priority to free travel, and when necessary, I pull out bills from my own pocket.

Lately, I’ve been exploring some possibly appealing redemption options with Amtrak.  I thought I’d let you know what I’m discovering.

First, you ought to know that Amtrak is a transfer partner with Ulitmate Rewards.

Therefore, if you get the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and spend $3,000 in the first 90 days, you can get 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points.  Through the process mentioned above, that can become 50,000 Amtrack points.

So, what?

Amtrak has some interesting redemption options.

First, I have family that is close to Buffalo, New York.  We’ll be visiting them in May of 2012.  Our family has always been interested in traveling in the Northeastern US, but so far we haven’t.  May might give us that possibility.

Amtrak has a Northeastern redemption rate.  You can travel to several states for 3,000 Amtrak points per passenger.  Let’s say we wanted to go from Buffalo to New York City.  Our family could do that for 15,000 Amtrak (and thus 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points).  Tickets would cost about $90 one way.  Our 5 seats would have a  $450.00 value.  That’s a 3 cent per point value.  Not a bad way to use Ultimate Rewards points.  Especially because even with the bonus 20% travel bonus, you’d only be able to get $180 value out of your 15,000 points.

Amtrak also has long distance trains that could take us from Buffalo, New York to Denver, Colorado which is where we fly to visit my wife’s family.

The trip would be MEGA long – 28 hours in the train and 4 hours in Chicago.

Ultimately, the question is – would we really want to be stuck on a train for that long?

However, if we did, we could use 30,000 Amtrak points for each view liner bedroom.  Since we have three young kids, we’d need two rooms.  That means we’d need to be prepared to drop 60,000 points to get from Buffalo to Denver.

We could fly 62,500 so the point / mileage difference (2,500) is inconsequential.  However, there is a huge price savings taking the train and using points.  From Buffalo to Denver, it would cost our family $1,466.50.  If we were ever going to take the train, this would be the time as we could get a 2.4% return on each point.

Amtrak does present two advantages.  First, there is no cost for checking bags.  Second, all our meals would be included.

In the end, I don’t know how seriously we’ll consider Amtrak, but at least it does present us with some options.


  1. james says

    With bedroom dimensions (47 square feet) this may not be for everyone (read tall people, or the claustrophobic), and if one of the group is a snorer, look out, but it can make for a fun family trip costing for little more than a credit card sign-up bonus round trip.

    • Craig says

      I do think it would be fun to try! I hate to think about what it would be like if it was a miserable experience.

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