See America by Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

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Update:   The Chase Ink Plus 70,000 point offer is no longer available, but check Hot Deals for the latest offers!

Update:   You can no longer transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak.

Most miles-and-points enthusiasts focus on flights and hotels, so the Amtrak Guest Rewards program doesn’t get much attention as a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.

But if you don’t mind traveling at a more easy-going pace, or want to see the country from your own private bedroom, you might want to consider using points to travel on Amtrak.  Because you can get valuable train tickets for relatively few points!

By transferring the increased 70,000 point sign-up bonus from the Chase Ink Plus to Amtrak, you can get lots of (interesting!) Big Travel with Small Money!

Note: The Chase Ink Plus 70,000 point bonus offer ends on October 19, 2014.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

All Aboard! Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards Points on Amtrak and Get Some Great Deals!

So what can you get with 70,000 points on Amtrak?  Let’s have a look!

How Does the Amtrak Guest Rewards Program Work?

Link:   Amtrak

Link:   Amtrak Guest Rewards

Link:   Amtrak Redemption Guidelines

1.   Zones

Amtrak divides the country into zones, and the number of points needed for an award ticket depends on the number of zones you cross, not the total distance.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

Award Ticket Pricing on Amtrak Depends on the Number of Zones You Cross

The Northeast Zone overlaps the Eastern Zone.  Travel completely within the Northeast Zone has discounted pricing compared to trips within or through the rest of the Eastern Zone.

And there are special routes between certain cities which also have reduced prices.

All award tickets are priced as 1-way trips.  NO stopovers are allowed, although overnight connections are.  And with 1 exception, award tickets can only be taken on Amtrak’s published routes (itineraries generated by Amtrak’s reservation system).

So you can’t get creative and build your own route with lots of 23-hour layovers! 🙁

However, if there’s a connection on a published route, you can take a later connecting train as long as it departs on the same date as the original connection.  So you could take a few hours to sightsee in a connecting city if you can find a later train that day!

2.   Classes of Service and Sleeping Accommodations

Link:   Amtrak Seating Accommodations

Link:   Amtrak Sleeping Accommodations

Like the airlines, Amtrak has coach class and Business Class seating.  And on the Acela Express (their high-speed train service which runs between Boston – New Haven – New York – Philadelphia – Baltimore – Washington, DC) only, you can sit in First Class, which includes complimentary food, drinks, and lounge access.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

Amtrak’s High-Speed Acela Express Trains Even Have a First Class Section With Free Food and Drink and Lounge Access

On long-distance routes, Amtrak generally operates 2 train types (the double-decker Superliner and the Viewliner) which have several different options for sleeping.  All sleeper tickets come with meals included and you get your own dedicated train attendant (like a train butler, I suppose?).

On the Superliner:

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

The Roomette’s Seats Turn Into a Single Bed and a Top Berth Folds Down to Sleep 2 in Total

On the Viewliner:

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

The Seats in an Amtrak Bedroom Turn Into a Larger Bed for 2 (Small) People, and the Upper Berth Folds Down for One

The great thing about award tickets on Amtrak is that if you book any sleeping accommodation (roomette, bedroom, or otherwise) the cost of the award is per room – not per person!  So you’ll pay the same number of points if you book a bedroom for yourself, or yourself and 2 others.

I love that meals are included for everyone!  Plus, with any sleeper ticket, you get access to Amtrak’s Station Lounges, which are similar to (though not quite as nice as) airport lounges.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

Who Knew That (Decent-Looking) Meals Were Included on Amtrak Sleeper Tickets?

How Many Points Do You Need?

Link:   Amtrak Award Chart

Another thing that’s great about the Amtrak Guest Rewards program is that if there’s a seat (or room) available on the train, you can book it using points.  It’s not like the airlines where they only release a certain number of seats (or in some cases, hardly any) per flight for award travelers.

However, there are a few blackout dates, mostly around holidays or busy travel periods, when you can NOT book award travel on Amtrak (except for some elite members, but for that you’ll pay more points).

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

You Won’t Be Able to Travel on Dates Close to Most Major Holidays Using Amtrak Award Tickets

Here are the number of points you’ll need for a 1-way award ticket on Amtrak:

One Zone

  • Coach Class – 5,500
  • Business Class – 6,500
  • Roomette (for up to 2 people) – 15,000 total
  • Bedroom (for up to 3 people) – 25,000 total

Two Zones

  • Coach Class – 8,000
  • Business Class – 10,500
  • Roomette (for up to 2 people) – 20,000 total
  • Bedroom (for up to 3 people) – 40,000 total

Three Zones

  • Coach Class – 10,500
  • Business Class – 12,500
  • Roomette (for up to 2 people) – 35,000 total
  • Bedroom (for up to 3 people) – 60,000 total

Northeast Zone

  • Coach Class – 4,000
  • Business Class – 6,500
  • Roomette (for up to 2 people) – 15,000 total
  • Bedroom (for up to 3 people) – 20,000 total

Special Routes (Various Short-Haul Between Popular Cities)

  • Coach Class – 1,500
  • Business Class – 2,000

Acela Express (High-Speed Train Between Boston and Washington, DC)

  • Business Class – 8,000
  • First Class – 12,000

Note:   The price of a Bedroom Suite (2 Bedrooms joined together) is double the cost of a Bedroom.  But Family Bedrooms on Amtrak Superliners are the same price as a Bedroom, and they accommodate an extra person (2 adults and 2 kids in total)!

What Can You Get for 70,000 Points?

1.   Example:  Family Bedroom From Washington, DC, to San Francisco (3 Zones)

A family of 4 could travel cross-country from Washington, DC, to Emeryville, California (near San Francisco) for 60,000 points.  So you’d even have 10,000 points left over from the Chase Ink Plus sign-up bonus.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

A Family Could Take Amtrak From Washington, DC, to San Francisco in a Family Bedroom for 60,000 Points

Family bedrooms sleep 4 (2 adults, 2 children) and cost the same number of points as a regular bedroom.  You’ll get your own bathroom with shower, and the cabin spans the width of the entire train car.

A paid ticket for the same trip in May costs $2,545!

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

You’d Pay More Than $2,500 for the Same Ticket

The journey takes 3 days, with a connection in Chicago.  That could be a fun way to travel with kids.  And remember, all meals are included.

2.   Example:  Three Roomettes From Denver to New Orleans (2 Zones)

A group of 6 could travel from Denver to New Orleans (also connecting in Chicago) for 60,000 points (3 roomettes x 20,000 points each).  So you’d also have 10,000 points left over from the Chase Ink Plus sign-up bonus.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

You and 5 Friends Could Head From Denver to New Orleans for 60,000 Points

Each roomette sleeps 2 (1 upper, 1 lower) but bathroom and shower facilities are shared with other passengers.  All meals are included.  The journey takes 2 days.

If you paid for the same tickets, it would cost $3,264!

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

Six Friends Could Pay to Travel on the Same Route for $3,264!

That’s a lot of travel for 60,000 points!

3.   Example:   Business Class From Boston to Niagara Falls (Northeast Zone)

A family of 5 could travel from Boston to Niagara Falls for scenic long weekend for only 65,000 points round-trip.  So they’d have 5,000 points left over from the 70,000 point Chase Ink Plus sign-up bonus.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

Take Amtrak to Niagara Falls, the Most Powerful Waterfall in North America

Meals aren’t included in Business Class, but you can pack snacks or buy food on the train.

It costs ~$1,328 for 2 adults and 3 children to travel this route round-trip.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

You’ll Get ~$1,328 Worth of Travel for 65,000 Points

That’s not a bad deal, but you can get much more value using your points for other types of tickets.

4.   Example:   Coach or Business Class, Special Routes

Amtrak charges only 1,500 points in coach class or 2,000 points in Business Class on its “Special Routes,” which are generally short-haul trains between major cities.

Here are the routes which qualify:

You could get 46 coach class tickets (with 1,000 points left over) or 35 Business Class tickets on 1 of these special routes with the Chase Ink Plus 70,000 point sign-up bonus.

This would be a great deal for business folks who travel these routes frequently.

For example, a Business Class ticket between Seattle and Portland costs $52.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

A Business Class Seat on the Amtrak Cascades Train Between Seattle and Portland Costs $52

You’d get 35 of these tickets, worth $1,820 ($52 cost of ticket x 35 tickets) with the Chase Ink Plus sign-up bonus!

A coach class ticket between Santa Barbara and San Diego costs $42.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

The Pacific Surfliner, Which Runs Along the California Coast, Costs $42 in Business Class Between Santa Barbara and San Diego

The Chase Ink Plus sign-up bonus can get you 46 of these tickets, worth $1,932 ($42 cost of ticket x 46 tickets).

5.   Example:   First Class on the Acela Express

The Acela Express is the only high-speed train service in the US, running from Boston – New Haven – New York – Philadelphia – Baltimore – Washington, DC.  There’s no coach class on the Acela Express, only Business and First Class.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

The Acela Express Is Now the Most Popular Way to Travel Between New York and Washington, DC

With the 70,000 points from the Chase Ink Plus sign-up bonus, plus another 2,000 points from minimum spending, you could get 9 Business Class tickets (8,000 points each) or 6 First Class tickets.

A Business Class ticket from New York to Washington, DC, costs $205.  So tickets have a value of $1,845!

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

You’d Pay Over $1,800 for 9 Acela Express Business Class Tickets

And in First Class, you’d pay $321.  That’s worth $1,926 for 6 tickets!

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

Travel In First Class (Meals and Lounge Access Included!) for $321

There are lots of folks who commute between Acela Express cities for work who could get their money’s worth out of this deal!

Note:   Amtrak restricts award travel on the Acela Express during busy times (early morning and late afternoon), likely because they’re so busy with commuters.  You can read all the redemption guidelines here.

What Else Can You Do With Amtrak Points?

1.   Starwood Hotel Stay Certificates

You can use Amtrak points towards stay certificates (not points) at Starwood hotels, but only from category 1 to 4.  These include Aloft, Element, Four Points, Le Meridian, Sheraton, St Regis, The Luxury Collection, Westin and W brand hotels

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

You Could Redeem Amtrak Points for Free Nights at Starwood Hotels, Like the Category 4 Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa Keauhou Bay in Hawaii

Each certificate is good for 1 night.  Here’s what they cost:

So with the 70,000 points from the Chase Ink Plus sign-up bonus plus up to 5,000 points from meeting minimum spending requirements, you could get:

  • 7 nights in a Category 1 hotel (70,000 points)
  • 5 nights in a Category 2 hotel (75,000 points)
  • 3 nights in a Category 3 hotel (67,500 points)
  • 2 nights in a Category 4 hotel (55,000 points)

For example, 7 nights at the Category 1 Aloft Jacksonville Airport could cost ~$845.  That’s not a great deal, because you can get ~$875 in travel by using 70,000 points on the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal!

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

Not a Good Deal: 7 Nights at the Aloft Jacksonville Airport Is Only Worth ~$845

And 2 nights at the Category 4 Westin Grand Berlin cost 504 Euro, or ~$640.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

Two Nights at the Westin Grand Berlin Cost ~$640

So you’re still not getting terribly good value from this deal.  I wouldn’t redeem Amtrak points for Starwood stays!

2.   Transfer Points to Hilton

Link:   Hilton Award Chart

If you meet certain criteria, you can transfer Amtrak points at a 1:2 ratio to Hilton hotels, in 5,000 point increments.  So 70,000 Amtrak points is worth 140,000 Hilton points!

This is a better deal than transferring the Chase Ink Plus sign-up bonus to Virgin Atlantic and then Hilton, because in that case you’d only get 105,000 Hilton points (2 Virgin Atlantic miles = 3 Hilton points).

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

Certain Folks Can Transfer Amtrak Points to Hilton Hotels at a 1:2 Ratio

But there’s a catch.  Only certain folks can transfer points to Hilton!

So this probably won’t work for most people.  But if you happen to meet the criteria, 140,000 Hilton points can get you 28 nights in a Category 1 hotel (5,000 points per night), or up to 2 nights in a Category 10 hotel (70,000 to 95,000 points per night).

3.   Transfer Points to Choice Hotels

Link:   Choice Hotels Award Chart

You can also transfer Amtrak Points to Choice Hotels at a 1:3 ratio, in 5,000 point increments.

Choice Hotels include:

But the same limitations apply.  Only Amtrak elites or Chase Amtrak Rewards cardholders who spend $200 on Amtrak each year can transfer points.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

Amtrak Points Transfer to Choice Hotels at a Ratio of 1:3

That said, 1:3 is a very good transfer ratio!  So 70,000 points is worth 210,000 Choice Hotel points!

The lowest-tier Choice Hotels cost 6,000 points per night, and the highest tier costs 35,000 points per night (except for certain hotels in Australasia which go up to 75,000 per night).

You could get 35 nights at a low-level hotel with 210,000 points.  For example, the Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista, near Disney World, costs 6,000 points per night.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

Transfer Amtrak Points to Choice Hotels and Stay Near Disney World

A paid night at this hotel in February costs ~$93.

See America By Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

You’ll Pay ~$93 per Night at the Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista

So in this case, 35 nights would be worth $3,255.  That’s a great deal, if you qualify to transfer Amtrak points to Choice Hotels!

Note:   You can transfer Choice Hotel points to Southwest and they WILL count toward the Companion Pass210,000 Choice points will get you 63,000 Southwest points (the transfer ratio is 6,000 Choice points to 1,800 Southwest points).  This could be a very good deal if you’re trying to qualify for the Companion Pass!

Amtrak points can be used for restaurant, entertainment, retail, and car rental gift certificates, but you won’t get a terribly good deal.

Bottom Line

Transferring the 70,000 point Chase Ink Plus sign-up bonus to Amtrak can be a very good deal!

You can get over ~$3,200 (or more!) worth of train travel, depending on how you use the points.  The best values come from redeeming long-haul, sleeper accommodations, because you pay the same number of points regardless of the number of people occupying the roomette, bedroom, or otherwise.  Plus you get free meals!

Amtrak points can also be used for Starwood hotel stay certificates, or transferred (in certain instances) to Hilton or Choice Hotels.  The Choice Hotel transfer ratio is very good!

Have you transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak?  Please share your experiences in the comments!

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12 responses to “See America by Amtrak With 70,000 Point Ink Plus

  1. Hi Guys! I’m a huge Amtrak fan (My wife and I even took our honeymoon on a 2 week around the country trip), and love to see them getting some attention in the miles and points world.

    I do have two minor nits to pick:

    1) You’re correct that a bedroom can hold 3 people (both in the Viewliners and Superliners), but Amtrak Guest Rewards will only allow you to book the “recommended capacity” in a room, not that maximum capacity, which is 2 people. The third person can purchase an “open sleeper” ticket, which costs the same as the lowest price coach ticket (even if that lowest price isn’t available in coach). This will give them access to the bedroom and the included meals.

    2) The Family Bedrooms (on Superliners only) don’t have a private bathroom or shower. There are restrooms and a shower room right outside the bedroom, but they’re shared with the people in roomettes (and people that choose not to use the ensuite toilet/shower in the bedrooms).

    Thanks for throwing Amtrak some love! It’s a different way to travel, but it’s great fun!

  2. Thank you for this post! I”ve researched and dreamed of traveling across country via Amtrak. But the fares are cost prohibitive. With this offer and your research, it becomes a real possibility for me. Question – do Amtrak rewards exipire? And will I have to pay a fee to tranfser from Chase Ink to Amtrak? Thanks!

  3. Greetings Daraius from the Coast Starlight train. I am on my way from Seattle to Los Angeles in a bedroom. Great way to travel. Sleeping and taking a shower on a train is definitely an interesting/unique experience.

  4. One problem with Choice Hotels is that you can’t book award rooms more than 60 days in advance. So, ti will be very hard to book hotels at popular destinations which gets filled up much earlier than 60 days.

  5. I really had no idea Amtrak was a transfer partner with Chase, and I’ve been wanting to take a LA->SEA trip or something but normally the $ is just such a waste. However with these redemption rates, this is way more doable with points than $. Thanks!

    Their site is rather annoying to try to actually book award travel, and you can’t even preview the cost of a route without having the miles in your account already, kind of odd.

    Anyone have any luck actually booking a bedroom on the website, or do you always have to call for that?

  6. @Kyle, if you want to book a roomette or a bedroom (I recommend the bedroom for 25K Amtrak Points), you will have to have 25K Amtrak Points in your account and give them a call. They will be able to book it over the phone right away. Best part, no taxes/fees and you can cancel up to the day your train leaves.

  7. @KIM There’s no fee to transfer points into Amtrak from Chase. Points transfer easily on line or you can call up Chase. You will need to set up an Amtrak Guest Rewards account first. Points expire in the Amtrak Guest Rewards account if you have no paid Amtrak travel in 3 years. However you can extend the expiration indefinitely, if you also hold the Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card, which is also from Chase and it has no annual fee. It basically offers 1 point per $ and 2 points per $ on Amtrak travel. While the credit card doesn’t offer great earnings, it doesn’t cost anything and every now and then they offer a decent enrollment bonus.
    I use my Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Amtrak to take the Auto Train to and from Florida. It can be booked 1 way for 15,00 points for the auto or SUV (yes, they also take motorcycles) and 5,500 per accompanying person. At least one person must travel with the auto. It is an overnight trip and I don’t take a sleeper as the seats are spacious.

  8. Thanks Darius. That’s a nice write up.

  9. Thank you for this information. We have been thinking of doing an Amtrak trip.

  10. Amtrak long haul trains (particularly the Empire Builder Chicago to Seattle and California Zephyr Chicago to San Francisco) are running with extreme delays due to increased freight traffic and right of way laws regarding freight traffic. I highly recommend doing a long haul train trip. They are great. However, I HIGHLY recommend only doing it when your start and end points are the beginning and terminus of your vacation. It is nearly impossible to plan your stays around things to do in the in-between stations. For example, the empire builder train I was on was 8 hours late. Some people had bought tickets to see Glacier National Park in Montana and had booked accommodation at a lodge there. We didn’t pull into that station until 3 or 4 am, when we were supposed to arrive in the evening.

    This is a very common complaint of Amtrak and I know they are working on it. My suggestion is to not make any plans based on the timetable of the train, and enjoy the journey!

  11. I’m a railroader’s daughter – and train travel is in my blood! Recent experiences:
    1) I booked a roomette from Pasco WA to Tucson AZ a year ago – 15,000 Amtrak points gave us first class meals and amenities. It was really fun! (I had the 12,500 points from signup bonus, so I purchased the rest of the points from Amtrak website. It was an awesome trip – cash price for same itinerary was over $1300 ! Even if I had to buy the points from Amtrak it would have been a pittance compared to the cash price.
    2) I booked a bedroom (25K) plus a roomette (15K) from Pasco WA to San Diego last month for us and our 2 grandchildren. Rules say kids can’t stay in a sleeper alone, but it was no problem; the conductor was very protective and kind to them. Kids loved the free meals onboard – we loved the bedroom with its own shower and toilet – and it was awesome overall. The only glitch was that Amtrak trains have low priority over some freight trains – so we were 4 hours late into LAX and missed our connection to SAN. They did bus us there – but the bus driver was very un-acommodating and wouldn’t drop us off at an earlier station (for motel) even tho the conductor told us we could just get off early, without making itinerary changes. Ended up costing us $50 in taxi fare from downtown SAN and we checked in at 5am instead of midnight. Felt bad for the kids. I wrote Amtrak to complain – they apologized and gave me $175 travel credit, but I don’t pay for tickets – I only use points – so I’ve asked for a comparable amount of points instead of credit. Haven’t heard back yet.
    3) We’re booked Indianapolis to Pasco, WA in November. It’s 2 zones and we opted for a bedroom (40K) even tho a roomette (20K) would have been half the price — the shower and toilet and extra room were appealing. I can still change my mind if rooms are available. If rooms aren’t available – it’s good to check back periodically because people change their mind and rooms sometimes open up. No change fee for Amtrak Reward trips.

    Xferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to Amtrak? Piece of cake. It’s instant – and no problems on any of several recent point transfers. U can’t book a ticket without points in Amtrak account, but the agents will stay on the phone so they can hold the rooms for you if you wish – while you do the Chase xfer. Sweet! Rooms sometimes go fast – so it’s wise to let them help you this way. Amtrak agents are very creative and accommodating — suggested we hold 2 diff itineraries since we weren’t certain which direction we wanted to train to Indianapolis (I had sufficient points in my account for two one-way trips). After we booked our 1-way flight, I called to cancel the leg I didn’t need. Points were returned to my account instantly.

    Amtrak — possibly THE best value for Chase Ultimate Reward point transfers. Hyatt transfers are right behind. I love it that the Amtrak (and Hyatt) points never expire. Can’t xfer them back to Chase UR, tho. I just xfer from Chase UR whatever I need at the moment since xfers are so seamless.

  12. Suggestions please. I have a family of five. Youngest daughter is very skinny. What I best way to hook amtrak. Since bedroom is 4 people. Can i book cheapest coach seat but my daughter can stay in room with us? What’s the best way to book with less points for 5. Thanks