Two new Amtrak credit card offers have quietly arrived and they are much better than I expected. The cards are issued by BofA, which is a good and the bad thing at the same time.
Good because it ain’t Chase. Bad because of Alaska. Churning Alaska Airlines bonuses is more important any which way you look at it, and how many cards you can really churn with BofA has become an issue for debates lately.
Still, these two offers are awesome. They remind me the best ever 32,000-mile bonus that my wife and I were able to take advantage of back in 2012. It has never been repeated.
Here is why. The World version of the card ($79 annual fee) gives you a 20,000-mile sign up bonus, and the Platinum version (no AF) gives you 12,000 miles. Knowing BofA, I’m quite confident that you can get both—for 32,000 miles total
But what about the annual fee? Well, I think it’s totally covered by some goodies that go with a new card.
Enjoy a complimentary Companion Coupon, One-Class Upgrade and a single-day ClubAcela pass for access to ClubAcela, Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge or First class lounges upon account opening. Plus, each year you’ll receive a Companion Coupon and One-Class Upgrade when you renew your card membership
While you might not believe that a lounge access is a tangible benefit (I’ve read less than stellar reviews about Amtrak lounges), there is no way that a companion coupon and One-Class Upgrade wouldn’t be worth $79. And it seems that a companion coupon is a real thing and does not require to buy an overpriced flexible rate ticket.
AGR Insider has confirmed that “full fare” here includes Saver & other unrestricted fares, and excludes Senior/AAA/etc. discount fares.
But AGR is going to be devalued in 2016, is it not?
Despite some overly dramatic blog headlines you might’ve seen, it’s not that easy. For some people things are getting worse, while for others they are getting better. But no matter what, you can book travel at the old levels until 1/24/16.
Here is the gist of the new 2016 AGR changes that kick in after on 1/24/16.
In general, an AGR point will be worth roughly 2.9 cents for non-Acela travel and 2.56 cents for Acela. (For example, 5,141 points will be redeemable for a WAS-NYP regional one-way $149 ticket.ticket.) However, several new restrictions will result in a lower yield for award redemptions:
- Minimum award pricing: Regardless of the cash fare, a non-Acela award ticket will cost a minimum of 800 AGR points. As a result, using AGR points for such tickets with a cash price under $24 (e.g., LNC-PHL or BWI-WAS) will result in lower yields.Acela award tickets will cost a minimum of 4,000 points. Using AGR points for Acela tickets costing less than $103 will result in lower yields.
- No redemption for Saver awards: Per AGR’s FT representative, members will not be able to redeem points for tickets at the least-expensive Saver rate. For instance, even if a $52 Saver WAS-NYP cash fare is available, points can be used only to purchase tickets at the equivalent of an $86 Value fare or higher (resulting in a yield of 1.75 cents/point at best).
- Most discount fares inapplicable: Under the 2016 program, AGR points will be redeemable for tickets based only on the Adult or Child price, and not at the equivalent of Senior, AAA, or other discounted fares.
If you are not interested in rail travel—transfer to Choice Privileges instead
UPDATE: Sorry, turned out it’s not a good option.
It’s notoriously difficult to get Choice Privileges points (Comfort Inn, etc.), and these points can have amazing values in Europe and Japan. From what it seems, Amtrak has not updated their T&C for transferring points (they still mention Chase credit card), so provided the terms remain the same, you should be able to transfer up to 25,000 miles into 75,000 Choice Privileges points annually after spending $200 on Amtrak travel. Combine that with a 32,000-point bonus from the Barclays Choice Priority card, and you might get around 110,000 points in the first year, or up to 11 nights in Europe, especially in Scandinavia where a hotel night costs an arm and a leg.
Imagine that the new cards will indeed prove to be churnable—that might bring in infinite supplies of a very valuable currency!
Other credit card news
I have updated my Best Credit Cards for Miles — Free Flights List with the following
- A new Chase Southwest 50K bonus with lower $69 fee HT to Mile Cards
- Two New BoA Amtrak cards with 20K and 12K bonuses
- A new AMEX Everyday card 25K bonus: HT to teppyvietnam (SD)
- AMEX SPG bonus is back from 30K to 25K
- The Barclaycard Lufthansa 50K offer is dead
- Cleaned all dead links and updated valid links
Want to know more about free travel hacks? Sign up for my weekly digest (top left) and don’t miss the good stuff.