Transferring Chase Ultimate Reward Points to Amtrak…. Is it Worth it for Northeast Passengers?

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First off, you only have a few days left to transfer Chase Ultimate Reward points to Amtrak. On December 8, 2015, they are discontinuing their partnership, so that leaves you through midnight of December 7, 2015 to actually make any transfers to Amtrak if you so desire. With that being said, is transferring Chase Ultimate Reward points to Amtrak actually worth it? I typically like to get at least 2 cents per point when using my Chase Ultimate Reward points at partner programs.

My knowledge with the Amtrak program is primarily based on the Northeast Regional and Acela trains in the Northeast. Currently, is it a fixed redemption where the regional is 4,000 points and the Acela is 8,000 points one-way. That means if your fare is more then $80 for the regional, or $160 for the Acela then it can be worth it. If you book far in advance, you can usually find a fare less then those prices, but if you wait last minute, redeeming points might actually be your best option. From my experience, using points with this current redemption system gets me less then 2 cents per point, but it all depends on the person.

Now, starting January 24, 2016, Amtrak is changing their entire point system. Instead of a fixed redemption, you’ll redeem at 2.85 cents for the regional and 2.5 cents for the Acela. This means a $80 regional will only require 2,760 points. And a $160 Acela will only require 6,240 points. For the majority of people, you actually might be able to redeem less points with the new program vs. the current program.

But is it worth it to transfer your Chase Ultimate Reward points? Overall, I’d say if you like to redeem for the regional then no or “it depends” and if you like to redeem for the Acela then yes!

  • Regional trains: For regional trains, the “saver” fares are not eligible for redemption. So let’s say the “saver” fare is $53, but the “value” fare is $76. The number of points you redeem will be based on the $76 fare and will cost you 2,662 Amtrak points. While this is less then today’s fixed redemption of 4,000 points, you are actually only getting 1.9 cents per point, not 2.85 cents per point as advertised. The only time it would be beneficial is if the saver fare is not available, which is typically the case if you are looking to book a train close in, or during a popular travel date/time. Also remember, the 2.85 cents per point is based on the advertised fare, and doesn’t take into consideration if you are eligible for any other discounted, i.e., AAA, student, etc. So if you are eligible for those discounts then the 2.85 cents per point will actually be less. For example, with the AAA rate that $76 fare ends up being $68.40. This means you are really getting 2.57 cents per point, not 2.85 cents per point as advertised. Still a good redemption rate for most.
  • Acela trains: You’ll always get 2.5 cents per point for your Chase Ultimate Reward points. If you typically redeem your points for less then this, then it is a great value. If you typically get more out of your points with Hyatt, United, British Airways, etc. then do not transfer! For most people, getting 2.5 cents per point is a good value! But remember, once you transfer your points over you are locked into that program and they no longer become flexible.

I personally will not be transferring any points over to the program. Between my husband and I we already have a lot of points in the Amtrak program and do not want to speculatively transfer over any more points. I also only take the regional as I do not find the Acela any better. Between New York and Boston you save many 30 minuets which doesn’t justify the additional cost in my opinion.

Will you be transferring over any points? If so, how many?

 

Amtrak has set the value of their points at 2.9 cents for most tickets, or 2.5 cents when redeemed for Acela trains. That’s actually pretty good.

Comments

  1. Ah, you’ve apparently forgotten about the choice transfer option, from Amtrak (as Drew at TravelisFree first spelled out) As such, I’m planning to transfer 60,000 points shortly, from CUR to Amtrak. Also just got the new Amtrak card w/ BA (the version with the fee, that w/ 20k spend permits earnings towards necessary status to transfer at 1 to 3 from Amtrak to Choice — that plus 1k from “rail running” in early January, before the 100 points/fare go away on the 24th. Over next two years expect this 60k transfer of CUR to Amtrak will end up as 300k with Choice — oh, and that’s before I figure in a LOT more traveling w/ Amtrak. (CVS my home port) Anybody doing anything similar?

  2. I like the biz seats on the NE Regional and it seems that redemption is much better, down from 6500 pts to a little over 4k at the standard prices. So I will be transferring points!

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