I've mentioned before that Amtrak has some remarkably lucrative award redemptions. Since flexible Ultimate Rewards points transfer instantly into any Amtrak Guest Rewards account, this is a great way to get value out of Ultimate Rewards points. I recently used Ultimate Rewards points to book a short vacation next weekend, taking Amtrak down to Philadelphia. Now that I finally have all my reservations booked, here's a breakdown of all the rewards components.
Getting there: Acela First Class
I've been living on the East Coast fo a year, but still haven't ridden on one of Amtrak's Acela high speed trains, so I decided to take Acela First Class to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. A business class redemption costs 8,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points, and a first class tickets costs 12,000 AGR points, and there are no additional taxes or fees.
If you're interested in riding on Acela, keep in mind their very strict blackout policy:
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.The key element here is that blackout times are determined by scheduled boarding time. So an award ticket boarding Acela Express 2167 in Boston at 1:15 PM is legal, while an award ticket boarding the same train at 5:00 PM at New York Penn Station is not.
I'm thrilled to be taking Acela for the first time, and I'll report back here on the experience.
Total cost: 12,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points (transferred instantly from Ultimate Rewards). Total value: $259. Value per point: 2.16 cents.
Staying There: Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel Philadelphia
For my stay in Philadelphia I used the "last night free" feature of the Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa to book two nights for the price of one: 44,000 Gold Points.
This hotel is located just a block off the central Rittenhouse Square, where I used to live in Philadelphia. It's walking distance from the train station and all the downtown tourist attractions, shops, restaurants, and sites I'll be visiting while I'm in town.
I'm a little concerned by the "hotel alert" on Club Carlson's website:
RENOVATION IS TAKING PLACE WITHIN THE HOTEL. ALL AVAILABLE GUEST ROOMS HAVE BEEN FULLY RENOVATED URBAN ROOM PRODUCT IN ALL GUEST ROOMS WITH REFRIGERATORS NO WORK PERFORMED B/F 9AM OR AFTER 4PM. NO WORK ON WEEKENDS.
They claim there won't be construction on the weekends, so hopefully that means I won't be woken up early by men at work!
Total cost: 44,000 Club Carlson Gold Points. Total value: $435.46. Value per point: 0.99 cents. This is a really remarkable value, especially considering that the card earns 5 Gold Points per dollar on all purchases!
Getting back: Amtrak Northeast Regional
I decided against spending another 12,000 Ultimate Rewards points to take Acela First Class back from Philadelphia, and instead booked a simple coach class Northeast Regional ticket for 4,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points. As always, there are no additional taxes or fees on Amtrak redemptions.
Total cost: 4,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points. Total value: $164. Value per point: 4.1 cents.