When you think of luxurious travel ‘Amtrak’ is probably not the first image that pops into your head. Believe it or not, you can actually travel in first class on Amtrak and it is arguably better service than you’d get while flying. I will leave that up to you to decide.
Let’s dive right into the credit card offers from Bank of America.
• The first offer is for 12,000 Amtrak points and the card has no annual fee. Just spend $1,000 within 90 days (Only $11 a day)
• The second offer is for 20,000 Amtrak points and the card has a $79 annual fee. You only need to spend $1,000 within 90 days (Only $11 a day)
Okay, let’s assume you are interested in the 12,000 point card. What can you do with those points? Amtrak points are easy to put a value to, take a look at this simple calculation. Starting January 2016, one Amtrak point will be worth 2.9 cents. So that means 12,000 points are worth $348 in Amtrak tickets. It is that simple, signing up for the basic credit card offer will get you nearly $350 in Amtrak tickets. Okay, let’s look at the cost of an example Amtrak trip and compare that verse a similar flight.
Let’s say you live in Eugene, OR, you can take the ‘Cascades’ train to Portland for only $28 one-way. Using the points estimator you will find that you only need 966 points to cover the cost of that ticket. Yep, you can take a 100+ mile trip for only 966 points. Another way to look at it is you can do 6 round-trips from Eugene to Portland for signing up for the no-annual-fee credit card. What a deal!
Now, how does this stack up to flying? The same flight from Eugene to Portland would be roughly $90 and take only 45 minutes. But keep in mind you have to get to the airport 90 minutes before your flight leaves. The train ride will take about 2:40 and you only need to get to the station about 20 minutes before departure. There is no security to go through!
-By train, 3 hours from arriving at the station to getting to your destination
-By air, 2 hours and 15 minutes from arriving at the airport to landing in Portland
— A few other perks to keep in mind while riding the Cascades train: you have wifi access, food is served, a large seat and tray table, baggage policies are relaxed, you can bring your bicycle, and you can get up and walk around! That I like!
Let’s explore another point redemption option.
Let’s say you want to leave Sacramento for Los Angeles. There is no doubt plenty of $80 flights that will shuttle you between the two cities, so what are the perks of taking a train? When taking a train ride this long, 14 hours, the perks are that you can get work done and catch some zzz’s while traveling for a much fewer points than flying. It will only cost you 2,300 points from one-way Sacramento to Los Angeles in basic coach. That means you could take this one-way trip 5 times for signing up with the no-annual-fee card.
On the train you don’t have to worry about water bottles through security, your shampoo being to large, rubbing elbows with your seat-mate, expensive airport food, etc.
The best way to take this long trip, especially if you are traveling with a friend or spouse, is to get the roomette. It has to chairs that convert into a bed as well as a top bunk. You also have a full door to your room, so it is private. In addition to the room you also have access to 110v electrical outlets and all your meals are covered for the entire ride. The roomette from Sacramento to LA will cost you about 9,500 points one-way, but this is the cost for two adults. Not a bad deal considering the comfort, the views, and the free meals!
Remember, riding on a train is as much about the journey as it is about the destination, soak in the views!