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Passenger Trains > Is RPA's Amtrak (Guest Rewards) point bonus worth the cost?

Date: 01/12/21 15:17
Is RPA's Amtrak (Guest Rewards) point bonus worth the cost?
Author: GenePoon

Is Amtrak’s Rail Passengers Association (Guest Rewards) point bonus worth the cost?

The Points Guy

Zach Honig
 We’re likely to see a big push to help fund and expand Amtrak over the next few years. President-elect Joe Biden has been a fan of the national rail for many decades, and even plans to ride a train to his inauguration, and incoming transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg is expected to support Amtrak investments as well.

 There’s already a lot to be excited about on the Amtrak front — the rail line’s new-and-improved Acela train is expected to launch later this year, and track and tunnel improvements will hopefully be funded soon.

 Boosting your Amtrak Guest Rewards balance presents a bit of a challenge, though. Amtrak Guest Rewards was once an instant transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, but now points are much harder to come by. Generally, the easiest option is to take advantage of a credit card welcome bonus, but a new offer that popped into my inbox seemed worth a look, as well.

  As the email subject line exclaims, “Imagine where you can go with up to 15,000 points.” Amtrak had my attention — 15,000 points could buy me several post-pandemic trips home to my family in the Philadelphia area. I was intrigued.

 My excitement quickly evaporated as I continued to read on, but, given how difficult it can be to earn Amtrak points, I decided to still dig in and do some math.

 Ultimately, the Silver Rail Society option offers the best return, at $1,000 for 7,000 points — a “cost” of 14.3 cents apiece, compared with 16.67 cents for the “PLUS” option. You’ll need to sign up by Jan. 31, 2021, in order to earn the bonus points.

 Depending on your route, date, train type and time of travel, Amtrak points can really go a long way. You can travel nonstop from New York to Boston tomorrow for just 2,414 points, for example. Cash fares are currently $68 for the same train, offering a redemption value of just over 2.8 cents per point. That’s far less than what you’ll “pay” for points as part of this promotion, though. Ultimately, the annual fee serves as a donation to the Rail Passengers Association, which aims to help expand Amtrak to create an expanded national rail network, represented by the map below. Membership also includes a 10% discount on most Amtrak fares, and discounts with a handful of other travel services and brands, including up to 25% off eligible car rentals with Avis. Rail Passengers Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so your membership fee is tax-deductible. Points will be taxed at 2.5 cents each, however — if you max out the promotion, your $2,500 fee will effectively be deductible, minus the $375 points value.

 If you aren’t interested in making a donation to the Rail Passengers Association, this option doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, even with the various discounts thrown in. Instead, you might want to consider boosting your balance with an Amtrak credit card, such as the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard, which can earn you up to 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days.

 As a final option, you could choose to purchase points — currently, 15,000 points will run you $565.50, or about 4.38 cents apiece. You’re unlikely to find a redemption that makes that option ever worth considering, however.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/12/21 23:38 by GenePoon.

Date: 01/12/21 15:56
Re: Is RPA's Amtrak (Guest Rewards) point bonus worth the cost?
Author: njmidland

I would urge anyone who is considering this deal my suggestion - don't!

I joined in December of 2019 with the promise of receiving 20,000 AGR points.  My credit card was promptly charged but by February the points weren't deposited.  When I called I was told to wait 30 days and they were "sure" my points would be deposited.  After those 30 days still no points.  I called and was told that Amtrak had temporarily canclled the program of giving points for RPA memebership - but thanks for joining!

Needless to say I will never renew nor ever fall for an RPA promotion again!  And what did I get for my money?  Constant emails and letters looking for more money!  I have not received a single thing that provides any news, information or any other benefit.

Date: 01/12/21 16:26
Re: Is RPA's Amtrak (Guest Rewards) point bonus worth the cost?
Author: joemvcnj

NARP has severe budget issues as membership is taking a hike, cancelled AGR for a while, then recently reinstated after some layoffs. The benefit does cost the NARP treasury something. 

But If members, who allegedly are consumer advocates and watchdogs, are reaping benefits from the railroad they are allegedly overseeing, it sounds like they are being compromised. I killed my membership after 39 years a couple of years ago since the Staff and Board had become too top-down, developed an attitude, are insular, rendered much of the Council members as functionless except to do what they're told, ignore most Amtrak service issues concerning maintenance, customer service, and inept management, and turn everything into a contest of getting Amtrak more money to supposedly solve all problems.

IOW, they work for Amtrak. I think the 2-part Jim Mathews' Op-Eds in PTJ entitled "Don't Get Mad, Get Active" are offensive and condescending as though they are the only outfit around that does anything. There are other organizations around, and most are virtual and on Facebook, who I think collectively are more effective at the grass roots level because they bring up issues with Congress that NARP won't touch with a 10' pole. I refuse to call them RPA as it conflicts with an 90 year old planning organization in NY, and I think their new trade name (their legal name is still NARP) is silly. They were warned of this acronym conflict, and they ignored it. 

Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 01/13/21 06:10 by joemvcnj.

Date: 01/13/21 09:18
Re: Is RPA's Amtrak (Guest Rewards) point bonus worth the cost?
Author: Woodman

I have had good success with the guest awards program.  I can say I have saved a lot of money over the log haul.  It seems like I have heard that if you don't use the points in 2 years (used to be 3) that you lose your points.  I don't know if that is all of the points or some how they prorate them.  Anyone know.  when I have paid for points they were added quickly, but then I have not purchased any for a few years now.

Date: 01/14/21 14:08
Re: Is RPA's Amtrak (Guest Rewards) point bonus worth the cost?
Author: raytc1944

If you use the Bank of America credit card with Amtrak Guest Rewards you don't have to use it for Amtrak travel.  If you use it for purchases for anything else you will not lose your points.  Since Covid I haven't traveled anywhere, but I gain AGR points anyway.

Date: 01/14/21 14:26
Re: Is RPA's Amtrak (Guest Rewards) point bonus worth the cost?
Author: NormSchultze

Or you could just get a Mastercard with 2% Cash Back and take the train, take a cruise or take a plane.   It's free money, just pay it off in full each month.

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