Amtrak announced their new revenue-based program which goes into effect January 24.
And they laid out details that suggest points will be worth 2.56 apiece (Acela trains) or 2.9 cents apiece (all other service).
It seemed, then, that the best value redemptions would go away from the program but there would still be a strong average redemption value. As a result, the announcement of the new revenue-based program seemed not nearly as bad as feared.
It turns out that the value of points presented is not true at all.
The first reason is relatively minor. When you’re buying tickets you can apply discounts, like the 10% AAA discount. So on paid tickets where you could have applied 10% off, but points are based on the pre-discounted price, your points are worth about 10% less.
The second reason is huge. The lowest (“Saver”) fares will not qualify for redemption. That means the points price of a trip will frequently be based on a price that’s much higher than the lowest fare. (HT: Ryan in the comments)
I took a random day just over two weeks into the future, and the first two trains that showed up (since I can display those in a graphic easily with the ‘saver’ and ‘value’ headers).
These trains would cost $52 if you purchased an economy ticket.
But the points price would be based off of the ‘value’ fare. So you’d pay 2967 points.
Which gives you a redemption value of just $0.0175 cents per point. That’s a far cry from the 2.9 cents initially advertised.
So whether or not Amtrak remains a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers partner I’m not sure I’d care.