Two New Amtrak Credit Cards, Should You Get One?

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Amtrak is shaking things up!  Not only do they have a new revenue-based award program beginning January 24, 2016, but now they have 2 brand new credit cards.

And 1 of them is great for frequent Amtrak riders!

The points you’ll earn are best used for award trips on Amtrak, because they’re NOT very flexible!

Two New Amtrak Credit Cards Should You Get One

Amtrak Has a Couple of New Credit Cards. I’ll Let You Know Who Should Consider Them!

I’ll share the details, and help you decide if either card is a good choice for you!

Emily and I don’t receive a commission on these cards, but we always want our readers to know about the best deals available!

Bank of America Amtrak Cards

Link:   Bank of America Amtrak World MasterCard

Link:   Bank of America Amtrak Platinum MasterCard

Link:   Amtrak 2016 Points Estimator

I wrote about upcoming changes to the Amtrak Guest Rewards program.  Starting January 24, 2016, the number of points required for an award ticket will be based on the retail price.  It’s currently zone-based.

The changes will benefit folks who plan their travel in advance, or usually buy inexpensive, short-distance tickets.  There is no longer an award chart, so the best way to see how many points you’ll need is to use the Amtrak Points Estimator.

Amtrak points will be worth:

  • ~2.9 cents each for most award tickets
  • ~2.56 cents each for travel on the high-speed Acela Express
Two New Amtrak Credit Cards Should You Get One

The New Amtrak Cards Might Be a Good Choice For Regular Amtrak Customers!

The new Amtrak credit cards have great benefits if you ride Amtrak a lot.

1.   Bank of America Amtrak World MasterCard

With the Bank of America Amtrak World MasterCard,  you’ll earn 20,000 Amtrak points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within 90 days of opening your account.  You’ll also earn:

  • 3X Amtrak points per $1 spent on Amtrak
  • 2X Amtrak points per $1 spent on travel purchases including airlines, car rental agencies, hotels, motels, inns, and resorts, steamship/cruise lines, and travel agencies
  • 1X Amtrak points per $1 spent on other purchases
  • 5% of your points back when you redeem for award travel on Amtrak
  • 1,000 Tier Qualifying Points toward Amtrak elite status per $5,000 spent on purchases (earn up to 4,000 Tier Qualifying Points per calendar year)
  • A 1-day Acela Club, Metropolitan Club, or First Class lounge pass upon account opening valid for  yourself and 1 companion or immediate family
  • A 1-class upgrade certificate from Coach to Business class, or from Acela Business class to Acela First class, on a single travel segment or leg certificate (not valid on sleeper cars) upon account opening, and each year you renew your card
  • A companion certificate for Amtrak travel with the purchase of a regular round-trip or 1-way full-fare ticket (not valid on Acela or long distance trains) upon account opening, and each year you renew your card.  You and your companion must reserve at the same time and travel together at all times.
  • NO foreign transaction fees

The annual fee on this card is $79.

This card is terrific for folks who want to earn Amtrak points, and who regularly use their points for award travel.  That’s because you’ll get 5% of your points back each time you redeem for an award ticket!

Two New Amtrak Credit Cards Should You Get One

All Aboard! You’ll Receive 5% of Your Points Back Each Time You Redeem for an Award Ticket

20,000 Amtrak points are worth ~$580 in regular Amtrak tickets or ~$512 for travel on Acela Express.

This sign-up bonus is 8,000 Amtrak points more than the no annual fee version of the card.  That’s worth ~$232 in regular Amtrak tickets or ~$205 on Acela Express trains, which more than makes up for the annual fee the 1st year!

Two New Amtrak Credit Cards Should You Get One

The Annual Upgrade Certificate Can Easily Be Worth Over $100!

Plus, the annual companion ticket and 1-class upgrade can more than cover the annual fee.  Each 1 can easily be worth over $100, or more, depending on how you use them.

Two New Amtrak Credit Cards Should You Get One

Depending on the Route, Your Companion Certificate Can Save You $200+!

You’ll get both each year when you renew your card, which helps to offset the annual fee.

2.   Bank of America Amtrak Platinum MasterCard

The Bank of America Amtrak Platinum MasterCard has a sign-up bonus of 12,000 Amtrak points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within 90 days of opening your account.  And you’ll earn:

  • 2X Amtrak points per $1 spent on Amtrak
  • 1X Amtrak points per $1 spent on other purchases
  • 5% of your points back when you redeem for award travel on Amtrak
  • With NO foreign transaction fees

12,000 Amtrak points are worth ~$348 in regular Amtrak tickets or ~$307 for travel on Acela Express.

There is NO annual fee on this card.  But you’ll earn fewer points on Amtrak purchases, and lose the ability to earn Tier Qualifying Points toward Amtrak elite status.

All things considered, you can earn more points with the Bank of America Amtrak World MasterCard.  And if you can use the extra perks like the companion ticket, upgrade, and lounge passes, they’re worth far more than the $79 annual fee.

If you like Amtrak, I recommend that 1 instead!

New Credit Card Issuer

The prior issuer for Amtrak credit cards was Chase, but now it’s Bank of America.  This is good news for folks who have a lot of Chase cards, and especially if you don’t have a lot of Bank of America cards.

It’s possible for some folks to get more than 1 Bank of America card at a time.  And, when you apply for more than 1, your credit inquiries are usually combined.

Two New Amtrak Credit Cards Should You Get One

If You’ve Had Your Eye on Another Bank of America Card, You Can Usually Get More Than 1, And Bank of America Combines Inquiries Made on the Same Day

That means you can get more than 1 credit card, but it will look like only 1 on your credit report.  So folks might consider getting the Bank of America Alaska Airlines card or Bank of America Virgin Atlantic at the same time as 1 of the Amtrak cards.

If you have trouble getting approved, you can call Bank of America and ask them to reconsider your application.  The number of cards you can have is based on the overall credit they’re willing to extend to you.  So you can ask to reduce your credit limits to get approved for more cards, or move credit from 1 card to another.

And keep in mind Bank of America posts your sign-up bonus on the billing statement following the completion of your minimum spending requirements.

Transfer to Choice Hotels

Link:   Transfer Amtrak Points to Choice Hotels

Link:   Award Mapper

Another way to use Amtrak points is to transfer them to Choice Hotels for award stays.

If you had the old Chase-issued card, you had to spend $200 a year on Amtrak before you could transfer up to 25,000 Amtrak points to travel partners.

But, with the new Bank of America Amtrak World MasterCard, you have to spend at least $20,000 on purchases and you can only transfer 25,000 Amtrak points per year!

Bank of America says:

Members that are active cardholders of the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard issued by Bank of America with an annual net retail spend on the card of $20,000 or more per calendar year may redeem up to 25,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points per calendar year for hotel points and Audience Rewards points.

Two New Amtrak Credit Cards Should You Get One

Now, You’ll Need to Have Elite Status, or Spend $20,000 on Purchases With the Bank of American Amtrak World MasterCard, to Transfer Points to Travel Partners

I spoke with an Amtrak representative who told me members with Amtrak Guest Rewards Select or Select Plus elite status, can still transfer up to 50,000 Amtrak points per year.  And members with Select Plus Executive status will retain unlimited points transfers.

And the Bank of America Amtrak Platinum MasterCard won’t allow you to earn Tier Qualifying points or transfer Amtrak points at all.

So this option is now out of reach for most folks, unfortunately.

Two New Amtrak Credit Cards Should You Get One

You’ll Receive 15,000 Choice Hotels Points for Every 5,000 Amtrak Points

But, if you can transfer Amtrak points to Choice Hotels, you could stay at hotels all over the world, like the Comfort Hotel Paris La Fayette, which is 16,000 to 25,000 Choice Hotels points a night, depending on the season.

Two New Amtrak Credit Cards Should You Get One

Stay at the Comfort Hotel Paris La Fayette for 10,000 Amtrak Points per Night in the High Season (You’ll Receive 30,000 Choice Hotels Points, and This Hotel Costs 25,000 Choice Hotels Points)

You can only transfer Amtrak points to Choice Hotels points in 5,000 point increments, so you’d need to transfer 10,000 Amtrak points to get 30,000 Choice Hotels points.

Choice Hotels does NOT have an official award chart.  But you can find out how many points you’ll need, and compare the number of points needed with the paid rate to make sure you’re getting a good deal, by searching on Hotel Hustle.

Read my post about how to search for hotels on Hotel Hustle!

This is a good option for folks who meet all the criteria need to transfer their points, and who want more flexibility from their Amtrak points.

Transfer to Choice Hotels, Then to Southwest

This trick involves another added step, and has lots of restrictions before you can make any transfers:

If you meet the conditions above, and you’re aiming to get the Southwest Companion Pass, 1 of the best deals in domestic travel, you can transfer Amtrak points to Choice Hotels.  And then to Southwest.

Two New Amtrak Credit Cards Should You Get One

Fly With a Friend for Nearly Free With the Southwest Companion Pass. Transfer Amtrak Points to Choice Hotels, Then to Southwest – but There Are a Lot of Hoops to Jump Through!

For 10,000 Amtrak points, you’ll receive 30,000 Choice Hotels points.  The Amtrak representative I spoke to told me this transfer ratios would stay the same.

Two New Amtrak Credit Cards Should You Get One

You’ll Receive 1,800 Southwest Points for Every 6,000 Choice Hotels Points

If you transfer all 30,000 Choice Hotels points to Southwest, you’ll receive 9,000 Southwest points.

So, 10,000 Amtrak points becomes 9,000 Southwest points.  That’s nearly a 1:1 ratio!

But because of the spending needed or elite status requirement, this option is NOT a good idea for most folks.

Bottom Line

There are 2 new Amtrak credit cards, the Bank of America Amtrak World MasterCard, and the Bank of America Amtrak Platinum MasterCard (note the slight difference in the names).

For frequent Amtrak riders, the Bank of America Amtrak World MasterCard is the better of the two.

That’s because you can earn Tier Qualifying Points toward Amtrak elite status, and you’ll get a companion certificate and a 1-class cabin upgrade when you renew your card each year, which can more than make up for the $79 annual fee.

You can transfer Amtrak points to Choice Hotels, or even transfer them to Choice Hotels and then to Southwest to count toward the Southwest Companion Pass.  But only if you spend at least $20,000 on the Bank of America Amtrak World MasterCard or have elite status with Amtrak.

So this is NOT a good option for most folks.

Emily and I don’t receive a commission on these cards, but we always want you to know about the best deals available!

Do either of the new cards appeal to you?

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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7 responses to “Two New Amtrak Credit Cards, Should You Get One?

  1. Another nice post, Daraius. For me, what most catches my interest is the potential capacity to transfer to Choice. One key line above (that appears sharply different than what other bloggers have written — e.g., fm):

    “And the Bank of America Amtrak Platinum MasterCard won’t allow you to earn Tier Qualifying points or transfer Amtrak points at all.”

    FM, (as of Sept. 16th) by contrast, goes on at some length with the opposite presumption:

    “The $79 World MasterCard offers a couple of perks for big spend:
    Earn 1,000 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) towards earning status for each $5K spent in a calendar year. Limit 4,000 TQPs per calendar year.”

    This is a critical difference, and for me, a deal breaker. Any sense of why Greg argues the new BA credit card spends will counts towards TQP’s and you assert the opposite? Occurs to me he may be relying upon CURRENT Amtrak rewards program descriptions, and perhaps you’ve found out something about a change for the new card that Greg missed?

  2. Will, I think you are mixing up the two different cards offered by BofA.

    The free free Platinum card does not have TQP earning bonus that Daraius mentioned above.

    The World Mastercard version that FM mentioned, with the $79 annual fee, does have TQP earning option where you can earn 1000 TQP for each $5000 spend on the card.

    Both Daraius and Greg distinguishes both World and Platinum cards on their posts.

  3. I could use AMTRAK points. I wonder if you can get this card again?

  4. Pingback: Bank of America Launches New Amtrak Credit Cards - Miles Methods

  5. Can the companion certificate be used when using points to buy the primary ticket?

    Are there blackout dates for the companion ticket?

    Thanks.

  6. I see that Amtrack points can be transfered to Hilton Hhonors on Hilton’s website, but I was wondering if I get one of the 2 new cards, can I still transfer to Hilton and NOT need to meet the $20,000 spending on the card or be Amtrak Elite status.

    Does anyone have more info about this?

    Thanks!