LAST FEW HOURS to Transfer Chase Points to Amtrak. Should You Do It While You Can?

Chase no longer issues the co-brand Amtrak credit card. Alongside Amtrak’s new revenue-based loyalty program comes a new co-brand credit card partner, Bank of America. Here are details of the new Amtrak credit cards.

Under the new Amtrak program points are worth 2.5 to 2.9 cents apiece… kind of. That’s less than a 6% rebate for paid Amtrak travel, but represents good value for points transfers or credit card earning.

In August both Chase and Amtrak said that Ultimate Rewards points would continue to transfer to Amtrak “until further notice” which I took to mean that such transfers would indeed be ending. (Amtrak used different language regarding transfers from Starwood, saying those ‘would not be impacted’ at this time. You can still transfer Starwood points to Amtrak, we’ll see if that survives Marriott buying Starwood next year.) Then in September the severing of the Chase transfer relationship was announced.

Today — December 7 — is the last day to transfer points from Chase to Amtrak.

I don’t view this as a great loss for the Ultimate Rewards program. I’ve never used the option, and far prefer transfers to Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, United, and Hyatt.

But for those that used the transfer options it’s a loss (December 7 will be a day that lives in infamy?).

Here’s how I think about whether or not you should transfer points to Amtrak today before it’s too late:

  • In general I value a Chase point at 1.9 cents.

  • Using points through Amtrak will get you more value than that if you’d otherwise spend cash for an Amtrak ticket.

  • If your Chase balance is limited, you want to displace the greatest amount of spending possible with those points.

  • Whether you should transfer to Amtrak depends on your best alternative use for those points.

So how can you predict that? If you’re someone who buys Amtrak tickets with some regularity, and thus are likely to use the points in the near-term, it could be worth making a transfer. Remember that Amtrak points can devalue, I don’t think you want to do this as a store of value for future use especially since you’re giving up a ton of flexibility when you make a transfer.

If you live in the Northeast Corridor your likelihood of using the points is greatest. If you live in New York, DC or Boston you probably take the train — especially if you live or work closest to downtown.

I don’t view this as life or death for most people, especially since there remain great value transfers for flying. For instance, even though the British Airways 4500 Avios short haul award goes up to 7500 in the US in February, that’s still a pretty good deal for the American Airlines shuttle between New York, Boston, and DC (and other short haul non-stop routes up to 650 miles). As a separate matter, and not a Chase transfer options, American’s March 22 award chart devaluation comes with a new 7500 mile short haul award for flights up to 500 miles.

Still, regular Amtrak riders may want a stash of Amtrak points. The rest of us, probably not.

Are you transferring Chase points to Amtrak before December 8? How come?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I’ve shifted 55K points to Amtrak in the past week – I live near Orlando and use the auto-train to DC (to ultimately get to NJ) once or twice a year…not sure because I just moved here last year, but I’ve done the trip 3x with my SUV. I know they’re going revenue-based, which will keep the passenger ticket roughly the same, but if they do that for the car too, then I score @ 2 cents per point, and I think they’re valuing them higher than that? The car is $190-230 depending on peak/off-peak, and currently goes for 15K points. If they don’t treat it differently from passenger services, I should see that drop to ~10K. So now I have about 4 trips’ worth in my account; beyond that will likely be partially covered by points from the shopping portal and partially cash. Hm, maybe I should go shift another 20K points….

  2. If you live near one of Amtrak’s regional routes (Michigan, Illinois, California, Washington, etc.), it may be worth it. We’re losing the flat 1,500 or 2,000 rate for tickets, but with redemption at 2.5 cents or more per point, the new prices may be similar or even cheaper.

  3. Long distance Amtrak travel in sleeper cars using Amtrak points has been a terrific deal if you value the experience. A two zone sleeper car award is 40,000 AGR points under the current chart (soon to change). The California Zephyr (Chicago to Oakland) is fantastic ride, especially the section west of Denver. So, yes, I transfered Chase points to Amtrak recently before the option goes away.

  4. There seems to be a lot of bloggers who take long first and biz class trips “for the experience” — staying in far flung places for only a few days — but not so many who take train trips “for the experience.” 🙂

    Amtrak actually provides a travel experience somewhat comparable to int’l biz class: “lie flat seats” (actually real beds!) and about equal food quality (but, alas, no free booze whatsoever).

    That said, taking a long distance Amtrak train is pretty pointless, since you can fly the same distance in a tiny fraction of the time. But is it sillier than taking a long haul int’l flight for no real reason? Probably not! To each his own, I suppose.

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