You will be surprised to learn that this card does NOT earn you any extra points on Amtrak purchases…
With the high price of airfare and hassle of airport security, more folks are turning to Amtrak. In fact for the year 2010, they set an all-time record with 28.7 million passengers! And if you’re one of those people, you may be interested in their credit card… the Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard. But is it a good value or not? Here’s an honest review…
Chase issues two different versions; World MasterCard and Platinum MasterCard.
When you submit your application you are first evaluated for the “World” version, which has better rates and extra benefits (Price Protection, Extended Warranty, Trip Cancellation Coverage). If you don’t qualify for the World, then you are considered for the lower-tier Platinum MasterCard.
Rates and Fees
13.24% for the World MasterCard (16.24% or 19.24% for the lower tier Platinum, but I don’t see that version offered for 2013). Neither of the Amtrak credit cards have an annual fee.
You earn points at the following rate:
1 point per dollar on regular spending
2 points per dollar on Amtrak purchases
On Chase’s website, the Amtrak MasterCard application doesn’t provide much information about redemption, other than saying that the points can be used for train tickets/upgrades, ClubAcela passes, retail & restaurant gift cards, and other travel rewards. There’s no information as to how the points convert over.
However the reason for this is because the Amtrak credit card points are the same as those earned through Amtrak Guest Rewards – a program available to everyone and you do not need the credit card to participate in it. There are 88 different redemption options but here are their 4 most popular train ticket rewards, to give you an idea how they convert…
- Coach Class, Northeast Zone – 3,000 points
- Coach Class – Special Routes Reserved/Unreserved Coach – 1000 points
- Coach Class, One Zone – 5,500 points
- Acela Express Business Class – 8,000 points
For the partner gift cards (i.e. Applebees, Macy’s, Pottery Barn) you can get a 1 cent per point value if you redeem in $100 increments (below that your points are worth less). Out of all the reward options, the best bang for your buck appears to be the Choice Hotel points, whereas 5,000 Amtrak points = 15,000 Choice Privileges points, which are worth about 0.6 to 1.0 cent each.
Using Guest Rewards without the MasterCard?
Anyone can signup for the Amtrak Guest Rewards (non credit card version) and still earn 2x points on Amtrak purchases and take advantage of the other point earning opportunities at hotels, car rental companies, etc. So that brings us to the question… if the Amtrak MasterCard rewards are the same as the rewards given on the non-credit card rewards program, is there any reason to apply for their credit card?! Maybe not and here’s why…
- The only extra opportunity the Amtrak credit card offers is the ability to earn 1 point per dollar wherever MasterCard is accepted, which is certainly nothing to get excited about.
- The card does give 5% of your points back when you redeem for Amtrak travel, but getting $1.05 for every $1.00 worth of accumulated rewards is hardly significant given the low rate at which you earn.
The biggest advantage you get with the Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard is a reasonable APR. Aside from that, the extra rewards you get from using the credit card are trivial. You may be better off using the regular (non-MasterCard) version of the Amtrak Guest Rewards program along with a more generous travel rewards card.
This review has been updated for 2013.