Amtrak is a popular and convenient method of transportation, particularly for people living in the Northeast. People using Amtrak to frequently travel between cities such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston were able to earn rewards points from Amtrak. Among those benefits, Chase credit card holders could use rewards points on Amtrak tickets.
Unfortunately, Amtrak announced substantial changes to its guest rewards program starting in 2016. The company switched to a revenue-based point rewards model, which allows riders with the most expensive fares to earn the greatest number of rewards points.
Amtrak also created a new redemption scheme for those in its guest rewards program. All rewards redemptions are now based on the cost of the ticket and the type of train. Amtrak rewards points redemptions are now priced between 2.5 and 2.9 cents per point, and only tickets in the “Value” category or higher are eligible. Tickets that fall in the “Super Saver” category are not eligible for rewards point redemptions.
Prior to December 2015, Chase cardholders were able to turn their Ultimate Rewards points into Amtrak Guest Rewards points. This had been a great way for Chase cardholders to earn and use Ultimate Rewards points to pay for personal travel expenses. Cardholders were also able to benefit from the difference in the relative cost of earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points compared to Amtrak Guest Rewards points.
Compare Chase Cards
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Get 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, 1X points on all other purchases
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- Earn 3% cash back on purchases in your first year (up to $20,000, then 1.5% cash back after)
- Lengthy intro APR on balance transfers
As a result, converting Chase rewards points into Amtrak rewards points was a kind of reward point arbitrage opportunity. Other travel rewards points from Hertz, Hilton Honors, La Quinta Inn & Suites, Starwood Preferred Guest, Points.com, and Wyndham Rewards can still be converted into Amtrak rewards points.
Amtrak, however, did more than simply end its rewards points redemption program with Chase cardholders. Amtrak offered its own co-branded credit card to customers through Chase bank. By severing ties with Chase credit cards, Amtrak also ended its partnership with Chase on the Amtrak co-branded credit card.
Now, Amtrak offers the Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum Mastercard and the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard through Bank of America.
Amtrak has faced financial difficulties for many years. So these changes might have been part of a strategy aimed at improving the company’s revenue structure and profitability.
Although riders might not like the changes because it is harder for them to earn rewards, chances are that the changes won’t cause Amtrak riders to switch their mode of travel.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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