One-time opportunity to buy 450,000 Choice Privileges points for $1,600

Via Drew at Travel is Free, until December 8, 2015, there's a one-time opportunity to buy 450,000 Choice Privileges points for $1,600. That's not exactly how Drew framed it, so I'll walk through the essential elements of the deal.

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers to Amtrak end December 8, 2015

Through December 7, 2015, it is possible to buy Amtrak Guest Rewards points for 1 cent each by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash) to Amtrak Guest Rewards.

Amtrak Guest Rewards Select and Select Plus elites can transfer up to 50,000 points to Choice Privileges per calendar year

One Amtrak Guest Rewards point can be exchanged for 3 Choice Privileges points, but only if you have elite status with Amtrak Guest Rewards, which starts at 5,000 Tier Qualifying Points.

The Bank of America Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard earns both Amtrak Guest Rewards points and Tier Qualifying Points

The $79-annual-fee Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard earns 20,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points after spending $1,000 within 90 days of account opening.

It also earns 1,000 Tier Qualifying Points each time you spend $5,000 with the card, up to 4,000 Tier Qualifying Points per calendar year.

Finally, it earns 1 Amtrak Guest Rewards point per dollar spent.

Buy 450,000 Choice Privileges points for $1,600

Here's how this one-time opportunity works:

  1. Transfer 110,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak Guest Rewards ($1,100 cash value);
  2. Sign up for the Bank of America Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard ($79 annual fee);
  3. Spend $20,000 with the MasterCard ($421 opportunity cost compared to 2.105% cash back on unbonused spend);
  4. Earn an additional 1,000 Tier Qualifying Points;
  5. Transfer 50,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points to Choice Privileges in each of 2015, 2016, and 2017 (before your elite status expires on February 28, 2017).

You'll end up with 450,000 Choice Privileges points (well, hopefully you'll be redeeming them as you go, since Choice Privileges points do expire) after having paid $1,600 in fees and foregone cash back.

Should you do this?

I went on something of a Choice Privileges tear back in July, and had a lot of fun researching and writing about the program. The key thing I learned was that there are a lot of Choice Privileges properties in the world.

The second thing I learned was that properties start at 6,000 Choice Privileges points per night.

In other words, for your $1,600 you could buy 75 nights at a 6,000-point property ($21 per night) or 56 nights at an 8,000-point property ($29 per night).

Alternatively, you could buy 7 nights at a 60,000-point Preferred Hotels & Resorts property, paying $228 per night for a property like the Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal in Venice, which retails for over 350 Euros per night in June.

Just keep in mind you won't have the final 150,000 Choice Privileges points until January, 2017, which makes this what we call a "long con."


I'm normally pretty blasé about deals like this which require large up-front cash investments and only speculative returns later on.

But this is a deal I'm actually tempted to jump on! Keep in mind that the only truly time-sensitive part of the deal is the transfer to Amtrak Guest Rewards by December 7, 2015. You can transfer any number of points speculatively now, and then follow steps 2-5 of the technique next year, allowing you to make transfers in 2016, 2017, and early 2018.

Of course, if you naturally earn Amtrak Guest Rewards points and elite status through your travel, the deal is even sweeter, allowing you to transfer just enough Ultimate Rewards points to allow you to maximize the next three years' Choice Privileges transfer limits.

Finally, remember to redeem the points you earn! If you commit to this technique and end up with hundreds of thousands of Choice Privileges points, don't let yourself be stingy with them while you wait for the perfect redemption to come along — stay at Choice Hotels properties!