Great Deal: Double the Value of Your Priority Club Points Today

Update: Deal is dead. Some folks have received cancellation emails as well.

Points.com is almost never a ‘good deal’ — the website lets you transfer points from one frequent flyer program to another, but almost always at a substantial devaluation — often greater than 90%.

I would use the site about once a year to earn a partner activity credit in the US Airways grand slam promotion, perhaps transferring about 4 American Airlines miles into 1 US Airways miles. The idea there was any activity with Points.com moving a mile into US Airways would count towards a bigger bonus. Sadly that promotion didn’t come back this year, and I’m quite confident I didn’t use Points.com in 2012.

There are occasionally really good values — arbitrage opportunities — and years ago I would earn eBay Anything points for successful Priceline hotel bids and transfer those points into Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles. I could make about 35 one-night Priceline bookings and generate a business class transatlantic award ticket for the deal. I was always happy to make Priceline bookings for people, and they thought I was doing them a favor!

Sometimes these exceptional opportunities are a mistake, someone keying in an extra digit for instance in the Points.com transfer calculator. And one never really knows which is which, unless or until Points.com removes the transfer value. (And occasionally, since the points don’t transfer instantly, they’ve caught the mistake and reversed the transfer.)

Loyalty Lobby highlights a current very good deal at Points.com, transferring Priority Club points into Amtrak at a ratio of 1000 : 1333.

5000 Priority Club points transfer to (among others) your choice of 439 American Airlines miles.. or 6666 Amtrak points:

I’m actually low on Priority Club points, having redeemed some recently for myself and for others. But I went ahead and made a transfer.

What you can do with Amtrak Points

Of course there’s train travel, one-way Northeast corridor regional trains in coach are 4000 points each way (6500 for business class). The Acela Express train, with tons of blackouts, runs 8000 one-way for business class (12,000 points for first).

Some folks love the ‘roomette’ and ‘bedroom’ awards for long haul train travel, personally I couldn’t imagine taking the train cross country.

But train redemptions usually offer the best value per point, you should be able to do 2 cents a point (meaning you triple the value of those Priority Club points) with Amtrak redemptions.

Since I don’t do a ton of Amtrak travel, even living in DC with regular trips to New York, my intention is to redeem for Hyatt gift cards.

I usually value Priority Club points at 0.6 cents apiece. I’m hugely happy when I can redeem those points at close to a penny apiece. And with this option the points are worth a minimum of 1.3 cents apiece. Because 10.000 Amtrak points are worth a $100 Hyatt gift card.

So this represents the ability to redeem Amtrak points at a penny apiece, which means at 1:1.3 transfers from Priority Club to Amtrak you’re getting 1.3 cents per Priority Club point.

And in addition to Hyatt gift cards there’s also Starwood stay certificates.

You can also straight-up redeem for gift cards or gift certificates worth 1 penny per Amtrak point with Hertz, Macy’s, Applebee’s, Barnes & Noble, Bath and Body Works, Bloomingdales, Chili’s, CVS, GAP, Staples, Lowe’s, and others.

Elite members of the Amtrak program can transfer points to Hilton HHonors or Choice hotels. Amtrak co-branded credit card holders (who have a minimum in Amtrak spend each year) can as well. Depending on level of Amtrak status this option is capped at 25,000, 50,000, or 100,000 Amtrak points per year.

For folks who qualify, since Amtrak points transfer 1:2 into Hilton, this means you can transfer Priority Club points at a ratio of 1:2.6 into Hilton which is huge. And Amtrak transfers 1:3 into Choice, meaning you’re at about 1:4 Priority Club to Choice with this method.

And since 5000 Choice points transfer into 1000 airline miles, you can even transfer Priority Club points at better than 1:1 into miles in your choice of programs. Of course this option is only available for elite members and co-branded credit card holders with the Amtrak Guest Rewards program. I’m not one of those, I’m just going for Hyatt gift cards.

Buy Unlimited Points at 0.7 Cents Apiece, Redeem Them for 1.3 Cents Apiece

You can leverage the deal by buying Priority Club points at a discount and turning around and redeeming those points at a higher value. Where in the world can you get that sort of investment return?

Priority Club allows you to book Cash and Points reward night reservations, buying 10,000 points in the process for $70 (0.7 cents apiece). Then cancel that reservation [make sure it’s a reservation for a stay far off into the future so as not to run afoul of advance cancellation requirements]. You keep the 10,000 points rather than getting a $70 refund.

Then you can transfer those 10,000 Priority Club points into 13,333 Amtrak points. And Amtrak points are worth a penny apiece in gift cards or gift certificates.

The risk here is that Points.com could decide the transfer ratio was a mistake and refuse to honor it, returning your points to Priority Club. Then you’ll be ‘stuck’ with the 10,000 Priority Club points. Priority Club points, to me, are worth about 3/5ths of a cent though I can certainly get a bit more value out of them so I’m not terribly worried about the risk here but it certainly exists.

Nothing to Do But Wait

I’ve transferred my Priority Club points to Amtrak via Points.com, now I just have to wait for them to show up in my Amtrak account. This will likely take a couple of days, though the Points.com confirmation says it can take up to 7 days.

As soon as the points post to Amtrak I’ll be redeeming them. I don’t like the idea of building up an Amtrak balance, the program has too big a history of making changes with no advance notice whatsoever — whether changes to who their partners are (United dropped out overnight), changes in their redemption rates (making train redemptions more expensive) or changes to their rules (restricting transfers out of the program to elites only) — that I simply don’t trust them as a store of value.

But as an arbitrage play this is great if it works. And worst case scenario is that Points.com just reverses the transfers, putting the requested points back into Priority Club because they declare this a glitch.

It’s that possibility that has me on the fence about really going big and buying tons of Priority Club points in order to make this transfer, although I still may do so.

Update: as pointed out by Ruy in the comments, Points.com published rules for Amtrak transfers say that you can move or get up to 50,000 points per transaction and 100,000 points per calendar year.

If I had realized this I would have split my 61,000 point transfer up as 37,000 points and 24,000 points to stay under the limit of 50,000 Amtrak points received per transaction.

Whether or not that limit is enforced we’ll have to wait and see, Points.com certainly accepted the transaction so doesn’t have this limit hard coded into the transfer process.

And we’re quite near the end of the calendar year so any 100,000 point per year cap could easily be 200,000 points if this lasts until January 1.

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. Fantastic timing – I need Hertz certs. Hope this processes quickly enough so that the certs are mailed quickly too.

  2. Thanks–as someone who actually redeems Amtrak points for long-haul sleeper travel, this is a great deal for me.

  3. Amtrak rules at points.com state that you can only move or get 50000. Points per transaction to a maximum of 100000 points a year.

  4. Ditto. I moved 83K to get just over 110K. Hoping to use on cars and give a gift of a cross country train trip to someone.

    But as you point out Gary – since I didn’t buy the points I shouldn’t lose. Though had I noticed that I’d have done this in two transactions anyway. Oh well.

  5. I don’t trust Amtrak to come through with this – when they pulled out of a similar deal with Continental some years ago stranding thousands of points in their scheme. Care!

  6. The Hyatt gift cards are good in US, Canada & Caribbean only…I also dont trust Amtrak (Remember the Amtrak,Choice,SWA points…..)

  7. I did a 10K transfer, but I’m nervous about getting burned holding a butt load of PC points. I’ll wait 7 days until the Amtrak points post, then double or triple dip on this before New Years and next month.

  8. Instead of an active “Exchange” button, I’m getting a “minimum move of 10,000 required”. The amount I’m trying to exchange is higher than 10,000.

    I have Exchange buttons for other options, just not Priority Club.

  9. I figured out what I was doing wrong.

    In the top section, I’d selected “get more” “Amtrak points” instead of “move points out of a program” and “priority club”.

    If you do it in the wrong direction, the exchange ratio is the same, but the Exchange button is not active.

    Anita

  10. I got in on this. I have 10k PC points sitting and bought 10k more via the cash and points booking option and cancelled.

    I am aiming for a bedroom redemption but if it gets reversed then I can use for 4 points break nights instead. My risk is only $70 which I was willing to do for this deal!

    I hope it posts!

  11. What is the price of buying priority club points if you have none? How quickly do they post? What is the minimum number of points you need to buy to redeem for a cash and points booking. Lastly what is the strategy to make sure you are not left with orphaned points in PC or Amtrak thereby reducing the value of arbitrage?

  12. @Unclesam: Move fast, don’t dawdle. I’ve already executed my PC->AR exchange, and will keep an eye out for email notification and poll my AR balance at least once a day.

  13. Hi Gary,

    Only elite amtrak can redeem for hotel points?That’s how it looks on their website.Any workaround this?I am from Canada I hope I can get choice points if not I would settle for same gift cards.
    If works good use for 10000 PC points.Thanks for tip.

  14. newb here, but it seems like Amtrak Points can be redeemed for Hyatt GC’s.

    The website outputs an error that says “You cannot redeem for this retailer with your selected program. Please try another program.”

    Am I doing something wrong?

  15. @polarbear as I say in my post, only amtrak elites and co-branded credit card holders who purchase a minimum amount of amtrak travel can move points from amtrak guest rewards to other programs, sorry!

  16. I just received cancellation emails from points.com for successfully-executed transfers:

    “Thank you for performing an exchange transaction on Points.com. Unfortunately, your exchange has been cancelled as we were unable to process it. If you would like to try again, please visit Points.com.”

    So, even if you can still exchange, it appears this is not being honored.

  17. Just received this:

    Cancellation of Exchange Confirmation
    Dear XXXXXX,

    Thank you for performing an exchange transaction on Points.com. Unfortunately, your exchange has been cancelled as we were unable to process it. If you would like to try again, please visit Points.com.
    transaction confirmation number: XXXXXXX
    Transaction Date: December 24, 2012
    You Want To Move:

    32,000 Priority Club® Rewards
    To Get:
    42,666 Amtrak Guest Rewards

    At Points.com we’re committed to delivering 100% customer satisfaction. If you need any help with the site, please contact our Customer Support Team.

    Sincerely,

    Customer Support
    Points.com

  18. Mine isn’t cancelled… yet?

    Seems interesting that the Points.com folks would be so on the ball on Christmas Eve Day.

    Still looks like they haven’t corrected on the website…

  19. Cancellation of Exchange Confirmation

    Dear,

    Thank you for performing an exchange transaction on Points.com. Unfortunately, your exchange has been cancelled as we were unable to process it. If you would like to try again, please visit Points.com.

    Exchange rate has also been corrected: 5000 PC points is 666 Amtrak Points

  20. Wow-
    Transferred 75K to 100K Amtrak, confirmed on website,
    but then e-mail saying order was cancelled…
    and back on points.com it now wants 375K, not 75K,
    to get the 100K Amtrak.

    So, of the ones you mentioned,
    I think we know which scenario is playing out.
    Fun while it lasted, though !!

  21. Did 2 exchgs. Got earlier confirm emails. But now I also got my cancellation emails. Damn, they acted fast.
    Too bad, but thanks for the great tip Gary. Appreciate it.
    Now gotta figure out what to do with an extra 150k PC 🙂
    Sometimes you go big and sometimes you go home to more PC hotel nights than you want!

  22. Deal is definitely dead, I transferred 20,000 Priority Club points –> 26,666 AGR points and just got a cancellation email. Now the ratio is back to showing 7,500 Priority Club points –> 1,000 AGR points.

    DEAD.

  23. I think “never was” is more accurate than “dead.” I got cancellations as well.

    I imagine someone at Points.com is having an un-Merry Christmas Eve.

  24. Deal dead.Website now says 10,000 Priority points exchanges for 1,333 Amtrak points. Thanks anyway and Happy Holidays!

  25. Thanks Gary.
    I got the cancellation emails as well.
    All transactions are final only for the customers, not the merchants.

  26. From the points.com website:
    “Points Advisor
    Our customer service centre will close at 12 pm ET today and re-open on December 27th at 9 am ET. See our FAQs for help in the meantime:
    http://questions.points.com/home.
    Happy holidays from Points.com!”

    I’m guessing that they will be working a little late today to (un)do all the exchanges……..

  27. Interesting discovery. You will save some readers some time if you put the “this is dead” update at the top.

  28. Ah, well, at least this particular deal-that-was-not-meant-to-be didn’t leave us hanging for weeks on end….

  29. This is the second time I am using Points.com and the second time they back paddle and change the terms in mid game. They pulled the same crap during the last US Grand Slam. Points.com should be boycotted as it doesn’t seem like a good tool for people pursuing our hobby.

  30. This deal was posted 4 days ago on Flyertalk, Gary did not come up with it.

    Right after he posts it for everyone to see, it dies.

    Great job Gary.

  31. I don’t care so much that they made a mistake and pulled the deal. But I think the cancellation e-mail should be upfront about it. Don’t send me a vague cancellation that makes it seem like there was a technical glitch and inviting me to resubmit the request.

  32. You should move the update that this is dead to the top so others won’t waste their time reading the whole thing, like I did.

  33. @Robert Hanson — I did a quick update on my way out the door doing holiday-ish stuff. Came back, saw the suggestion, implemented it right away. I do the best I can!

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