Amtrak Tightens the Screws On Points Transfers Even Further

Yesterday Gary from Free Frequent Flyer Miles dropped me a note, wondering why I hadn’t said anything about the recent change in the ability of transferring Amtrak Guest Rewards points out to other programs.

I admit, I missed the recent change.

Back in December I posted that Amtrak would only be allowing transfers out of its program for elite members and those holding their co-branded credit card.

This program has been both useful (laundering Continental miles to United in large quantities) and infuriating (changing program rules and partners with no notice whatsoever) over the years. Finally I gave up on it as perhaps the least trustworthy rewards program I’ve ever dealt with in any extensive way. Changes in rules without notice and poor customer service can only be pushed so far.

So when there was a thread on Flyertalk pointing to the change in the terms and conditions of points transfers, I assumed it was a rehash of the same — only for elites and Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card holders. I already wrote about it, and I’d written the program off, no more to see here, move along.

But they actually snuck something else in there! Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card holders are supposed to have over $200 in Amtrak purchases on the card in a calendar year in order to make transfers. (It isn’t clear to me whether > $200 purchases in one year means you can transfer in the next, or whether the > $200 has to come at the beginning of each year before you can make transfers for that year.. I imagine they can test this through the posting of bonus miles from the credit card.)

Folks who grabbed the credit card to preserve their ability to transfer, or to earn points for the purpose of making transfers, are out of luck unless they make purchases from Amtrak itself. And in many cases not just a single ticket, either.

Fair enough, this limits the usefulness of the program for many. But again it’s a change without notice, a mere months after the last change in this same benefit without meaningful notice. Another example of why this program is just bad, bad, bad.

Sure, I’ll give my Guest Rewards number when I have to ride the train. Might as well. But I don’t go out of my way to earn points with them.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It is not always necessary to accept only Amtrak points for Amtrak train trips. Continental Airlines offers Base Miles, Elite Qualification Miles and Elite Qualification Point(s) for Amtrak travel to and from Newark airport to and from connecting Continental flights, and for Amtrak Metroliner and Acela Express travel between New York’s Penn Station and certain points (no connecting flight required). Read the terms and conditions.

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