With Bonus, Buy Amtrak Points Now and Redeem for Train Tickets Later

In general I don’t recommend buying points for travel, since the points needed in order to get a ticket are often more expensive than just getting a ticket outright. But with bonuses, that might not be always the case. Throughout the month of September 2011, Amtrak is offering a 50% bonus for any point purchases over 5,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points, which can be redeemed for Amtrak travel on any of its routes (as well as several other things including hotel stays). 5,000 points plus the 2,500 bonus points is sold for $137.50, and the maximum points you can buy, 10,000 plus 5,000 bonus points costs $275.

Base Points

Bonus Points

Total Points

Price

500 0 500 $13.75
1,000 0 1,000 $27.50
2,000 0 2,000 $55.00
3,000 0 3,000 $82.50
4,000 0 4,000 $110.00
5,000 2,500 7,500 $137.50
6,000 3,000 9,000 $165.00
7,000 3,500 10,500 $192.50
8,000 4,000 12,000 $220.00
9,000 4,500 13,500 $247.50
10,000 5,000 15,000 $275.00

For those of you who travel the Northeast Regional line, which goes through DC, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, buying the points and redeeming them for travel could save you quite a bit money. The price of a one-way ticket on the Northeast Regional varies significantly based on the distance you travel and the time of day, but as an example, a ticket from New York to Washington, DC, this coming Sunday ranges from $78 if you are willing to take an 8 AM train to $134 if you want to travel in the early afternoon. Tickets on Friday afternoon may be even more expensive.

On the other hand, 3,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points can always be redeemed for a one-way ticket on the Northeast Regional, regardless of the day, time, or distance traveled. So if you buy 7,500 points for $137.50 during this promotion (5,000+2,500), you could redeem your points for 2 Northeast Regional tickets between New York and DC this weekend, and save between $18.50 and $130.50 depending on which ticket you book; and you’d still have some points left over for your next trip. At $275 for 15,000 points (10,000+5,000), you can get 5 one-way tickets on the Northeast Regional, saving even more.

You can find similar savings on the other coast. Tickets on several train lines going through California, including the Capitol Corridor, San Joaquin, and Pacific Surfliner line, can be exchanged for 1,000 Amtrak points each way. With the 50% bonus on purchases, you can get 12 tickets on any of these Special Routes for just $220 (8,000+4,000 points for $220). In contrast, a ticket from Santa Barbara to San Diego this coming Sunday costs $41 at any time, so 12 of them would come out $492, or more than twice as much. Tickets from Sacramento to Oakland are $26 this weekend, so using Amtrak points instead would still save you money.

This 50% bonus promotion is running until September 30, 2011, and Amtrak Guest Rewards points expire only after you go 36 months without purchasing any Amtrak tickets. That means you can take advantage of the bonus now and hold onto your points until you are ready to purchase a ticket any time over the next 3 years. The only downside of this promotion, if you can count that as one, is that tickets exchanged through points cannot earn points themselves. Nonetheless, the huge savings should more than make up for that small loss.

Special thanks to the Loyalty Traveler.

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Amtrak Extends Northeast Summer Deal into the Fall

Two months ago, we wrote about Amtrak’s summer sale for travel in the Northeast corridor.  With the 25% discount offered, taking the train became a slightly more accessible option, with a one-way New York – DC trip going for $49 and Philadelphia- New York going for $34.  This deal was due to run out just before Labor Day, but has now been extended for another four months, to December 16, 2009.  The discounted fare is calculated automatically (no coupon codes necessary), and, to qualify, tickets must be purchased 14 days in advance.  There are blackout dates around Labor Day (September 4 and 7) and Thanksgiving Day (November 24-25 and 28-30), but otherwise this extension is great news all around.

Summer Training: Deals on Amtrak

The bus is undoubtedly the cheapest way to travel in the Northeast corridor, but the train has its convenience, too – namely, not getting stuck in weekend traffic.  And as an added upside, Amtrak is offering a 25% discount on the lowest available fares on the Northeast Regional throughout the summer.  Here are some of the new rates under this promotion:

Boston – New York                                         $49

New York – Philadelphia                               $34

New York – Washington, DC                        $49

Philadelphia – Washington, DC                  $33

For more routes visit the Amtrak website.  This sale is going on until September 3rd and requires purchasing 14 days in advance.  For the rest of the year, there is actually another deal with similar prices and also requiring advance booking, but is only for Saturday and Sunday travel, with a maximum one night stay.

Last week, I also mentioned Amtrak’s frequent traveler program, Guest Rewards, which is similar to airline programs but awards points per dollar spent rather than distance traveled.  If you have a Guest Rewards account, using the deals above does not have to mean losing out on points – until August 31st, Amtrak is also giving 100 bonus points for travel on Coach class, 200 for Business, and 400 for First Class on all trains in all routes.  Just make sure to log into your Guest Rewards account and register for the offer (I try to do this as soon as I find out about it, so that I can forget about it and not have to worry about finding the link again when I decide to travel).  Better than these discounts and bonus points is only when Amtrak finally makes wireless available on its trains!