My New Favorite Usage of Amtrak Points for My Family — 2 Bedroom Suites at Bluegreen Vacation Properties

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My husband travels to New York quite often for work and since we live in Boston, taking the Acela is by far the easiest method for him to get to and from the city. Over the years he has actually racked up quite a big Amtrak Rewards balance. I’ve used some of the points on a few different occasions for my daughter and I to take some mommy/daughter trips into NYC, but for the most part, the points have just been sitting there with a no real redemption need in mind. And in my opinion, the only reason to travel for work is to earn points and miles that my family can then use for free travel!

I always knew Amtrak had some transfer partners, but I never really looked into it much. The problem is that you must have Amtrak status to be able to transfer your points OUT of your account. Fortunately my husband was able to snag status last year, but it doesn’t look like he will maintain this status again this year. His client lists have changed and instead of trips to NYC he might be flying elsewhere across the country. No complaint to me as he will now be earning more JetBlue points and I prefer JetBlue Mosaic status anyways, but I will now need to actually decide what to do with his points before his Amtrak status runs up. While we can always use the points to take Amtrak, if I want to transfer them to a partner program, I will have to do it this year.

Amtrak Transfers to 3 Partner Programs

As long as you have Amtrak status, you can transfer your points into three different partner programs—Audience Rewards, Choice Privileges, and Hilton Honors. I am not really interested in earning “ShowPoints” and the Hilton transfer ratio isn’t too favorable since it costs a ton of Hilton points to redeem for a free night award.

The third transfer partner is Choice Privileges. I’ve always written them off as I typically do not stay at Choice properties. But that is about to change! I just learned about Choice’s partnership with Bluegreen Vacations timeshare properties which is part of the Ascend collection. While there aren’t too many of them throughout the US, they do have some pretty awesome locations. I personally have stayed at their property in Cape Cod (without even knowing about the affiliation) and just recently stayed at their property in New Hampshire which is about a mile away from the ski slopes. Both were great properties and I would 100% stay there again, especially if I can use points!

South Mountain Resort near Loon Mountain—use your Choice points to stay here!

When transferring points from Amtrak to Choice, they actually transfer at an extremely favorable ratio. For every 5,000 Amtrak Guest Reward points transferred over, you’ll receive 15,000 Choice Privileges points—a 1:3 ratio I will take any day! With Choice Hotels, the amount of points you need to redeem for a free night is typically pretty low. For example, for the Bluegreen Vacation resort in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, it only requires 16,000 points for a free night over the winter! That means for every 5,000 points you transfer over you are essentially getting a free night! If you need more points, you can also purchase Choice points when they are offering a bonus promotion for a minimal amount. You can always purchase 1,000 points for just $11.

Amtrak Guest Reward points are worth about 2.5 cents per point (although there are slight variations depending on the fare type or train type). That means 5,000 points is worth about $125. If I were to transfer those same points over to Choice Hotels and redeem for the property in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, it would cost around $300 a night during peak dates and that is just for a regular studio room. The real value here is that you can redeem the same amount of points regardless if you are booking a studio or a 2-bedroom suite!

For my family, being able to book a 2-bedroom suite for the exact same cost as a studio is amazing! No need to beg at the front desk for a complementary upgrade—if a suite is available while making the reservation, it is yours to book! And it seems like this is the case for many of their properties as I checked a handful of them and saw the same results! On top of snagging a large suite, since they are timeshare properties you’ll also have a kitchen which is great for breakfast in the morning!

Choice Hotels Program Isn’t Perfect

The big issue with the Choice Hotels program is that when you go to redeem your Chase Privileges points you can only look at point availability 100 days out. This absolutely can be a problem if you are looking to redeem during peak times, i.e., July 4th in Cape Cod or during Presidents Weekend at a ski mountain. So you definitely need to be ready 100 days out on the button to book if you want any hope. And then there is still no guarantee.

The other thing is that they have peak and off-peak pricing. And since you can only look 100 days you might not be able to check the number of points required during your particular stay. For example, the White Mountain hotel that I stayed at is 16,000 points over the winter and while I would consider that peak time due to ski season, the summer time is considered peak and costs 30,000 points. If I didn’t search for some random date a few months out I might not have realized that and would have been in for a rude awakening if I went to redeem points at a later time and they were asking for almost double the amount of points. However, if you look at the specific hotels overview page, it will list out the number of points required throughout the year.

Overall…

For those that have a large stash of Amtrak points hanging around (and status), this can absolutely be a great opportunity to use your points! Just remember that you can only transfer a maximum of 50,000 points in a calendar year and in 5,000 point increments.

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Comments

  1. As long as you hold 6,000 Choice Privileges points in your account, then you can book a Points + Cash reward buying points for $7.50 per 1,000 points anytime. Cancel the Points + Cash reservation and points go back into account.

    This is an easy way to pick up thousands of points at a lower rate than normal purchase price and a lower rate than most Choice Privileges promotional buy point discount rates.

    Just don’t be obvious, meaning buy points with a Points + Cash booking and cancel a week later rather than booking and canceling 3 Points + Cash reservations in 10 minutes to buy cheap points.

    16,000 points = $120 through Points + Cash bookings.

  2. I use my Amtrak points for an entirely different reason. I use them to book Auto Train reservations between the Washington, DC area (Lorton, VA) and Sanford FL (near Orlando). You don’t need a sleeper as the seats are large and comfortable. The point cost is reasonable. Families could use this to take the family to Disney World or to visit grandparents over the holidays and have their own car available.

  3. I transfer 6000 audience rewards points to Amtrak and then I tried to redeem for a e-gift card but 10 days passed and I still haven’t received the gift card they told me I was gonna get it in my email in the next 5-7 days .. but I have been waiting for more than 10 days and from 5 emails that I sent they responded to only one where they asked me to call and talk to a representative but after I called the representative told me that the gift card was supposed to arrived to my email a few days ago so she was gonna send a message asking what was the status and she said it should arrive soon .. that was 3 days ago still no gift card and they don’t even answer my emails ..

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