Amtrak Double Days and AGR award redemptions

Registration is now available for Amtrak’s Double Days Spring promotion.  Between March 18 and May 18, 2013, you can earn double Amtrak Guest Rewards points for up to two one-way trips per day.

This is a great opportunity to discuss some of the valuable redemptions offered by the Amtrak Guest Rewards program.

Earning AGR Points

On most Amtrak travel you’ll earn 2 Amtrak Guest Rewards points per dollar spent, with a minimum of 100 points per one-way trip.  You’ll earn 500 points per Business Class ticket and 750 points per First Class ticket on Amtrak’s Acela high-speed service between “select city pairs” (see Amtrak’s website for details).

Buying AGR Points

Additionally, you can purchase between 500 and 10,000 points per year for 2.75 cents per point.  As we’ll see, there are lots of redemption opportunities which can make buying points an excellent value, even speculatively.

Transfer Partners

Amtrak Guest Rewards is a transfer partner of both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.  Points transfer from both programs to Amtrak Guest Rewards at a rate of 1 : 1 (Starwood 20,000 point increment bonuses don't apply to Amtrak transfers).

Co-branded Credit Card

Chase offers a co-branded Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card, which earns 1 point per dollar spent and an additional point per dollar on Amtrak purchases, and has a number of valuable benefits:

  • The card has no annual fee.
  • 12,000 point signup bonus after spending $500 within 3 months.
  • Whenever you redeem for Amtrak travel, you'll receive a 5% rebate on the points used (you must have enough points to make the redemption before the rebate is applied).
  • Finally, one valuable benefits of the co-branded card is available to customers who spend more than $200 per calendar year on Amtrak travel using the credit card.  Cardholders who qualify can transfer up to 25,000 Amtrak points per year into Hilton HHonors points at a rate of 1 Amtrak Guest Rewards point to 2 Hilton points.

Redeeming AGR Points

Some of the most valuable Amtrak redemptions are for travel on Amtrak's high speed Acela service and for long-haul passenger sleeper accommodations.

Acela Travel Redemptions

There are three ways to redeem Amtrak Guest Rewards points for travel on Acela (however, see blackout dates below):

  • You can redeem 8,000 points for an Acela Business Class ticket.  Looking at sample dates between Boston and Washington, DC, tickets can cost between $195 and $279, meaning you’ll receive between 2.43 and 3.49 cents per point for Business Class redemptions.  On the higher end of this range, purchased Amtrak points are already worth redeeming for a small profit.
  • You can redeem 12,000 points for a First Class ticket, which costs between $321 and $405 on the same Boston to Washington route, giving 2.68 to 3.38 cents per point in value.
  • Finally, you can redeem 10,000 points for 5 coupons that can be used for space-available upgrades from paid Business Class reservations to First Class.  Since a First Class ticket costs $126 more than Business Class, this redemption offers an incredible 6.3 cents per point.

Long Haul Redemptions

Some of the most valuable Amtrak Guest Rewards redemptions are for sleeper accommodations on Amtrak’s long-haul passenger routes.

For the purpose of these redemptions, Amtrak divides the country into three zones.  The important thing to keep in mind is that the cost of the redemption is the same for any valid routing between two cities, based only on the zone in which the origin and destination cities are located.  For example, a two-zone bedroom redemption between Chicago and Portland, OR, costs a flat 40,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points.  For this price you can take the direct route between the two cities on the Empire Builder, a $1778 value on a sample date in May, or 4.44 cents per point.  However, for the same number of points you can first take the Southwest Chief to Los Angeles, then the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Portland, a $2562 value, or 6.4 cents per point.  You can check what routings are available between two cities by making a simple one-way reservation search at amtrak.com.  Since Amtrak offers last-seat award availability, any seats or sleeper accommodations which are available on amtrak.com are available for award redemption, subject to the blackout dates below.

Blackout Dates

All Amtrak Guest Rewards redemptions are subject to the following strictly-enforced blackout dates:

On Acela service, weekday travel origination may not occur from any boarding point between start-of-service and 8:59 a.m. inclusive, or between 2:00 p.m. and 5:59 p.m. inclusive (weekend Acela travel is permitted at any time except on any weekend dates defined below). Select Plus and Select Executive members may redeem for travel during blackout dates by using our "rule buster" awards, but Acela blackout times still apply.

Upcoming blackout dates are as follows:

  • December 20–23, 2012
  • December 26–30, 2012
  • January 2, 2013
  • February 15, 2013
  • February 18, 2013
  • March 28–29, 2013
  • April 1, 2013
  • May 24, 2013
  • August 30, 2013
  • September 2, 2013
  • October 11, 2013
  • November 26–27, 2013
  • November 30, 2013
  • December 1, 2013
  • December 20–22, 2013
  • December 28–29, 2013
  • January 3–5, 2014
  • February 14, 2014
  • February 17, 2014
  • April 17–18, 2014
  • April 21, 2014
  • May 23, 2014
  • July 3, 2014
  • July 6, 2014
  • August 29, 2014
  • September 1, 2014
  • October 10, 2014
  • November 25–26, 2014
  • November 29–December 1, 2014
  • December 20–24, 2014
  • December 26–31, 2014