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We learned a few weeks ago that Amtrak Guest Rewards was changing (devaluing) come this January, and last week we learned more of the details of what the new Amtrak Guest Rewards program was going to look like. One thing that we did NOT know was whether Chase Ultimate Rewards were going to still be able to transfer to Amtrak as they do today.
The Point Princess reported this morning that she had received a letter from Chase announcing that the credit card relationship between Amtrak and Chase was ending on September 30, 2015. I am an Amtrak card holder, though when I checked my mail this afternoon I hadn’t received anything yet.
I checked around on Flyertalk and found a post from “AGR Insider” who is an official liaison between Amtrak and social networks such as Flyertalk. In that post, he said (emphasis mine)
The partnership between Amtrak Guest Rewards® and Chase will end as of September 30, 2015. If you have the Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard® credit card from Chase, you can continue to use your card and will continue to earn Amtrak Guest Rewards points until September 30, 2015. After September 30, your account will be replaced with a Chase Freedom card and you will begin to earn points on your Chase Freedom Account. If you have an eligible Chase Card with Ultimate Rewards, you can continue to transfer points to Amtrak Guest Rewards until further notice.
Perhaps I am reading too much into semantics, but whereas the letter the Point Princess got said that the “credit card relationship” was ending on September 30th, this post from AGR Insider says just that “the partnership” is ending on September 30, 2015. For me, this pretty much answers the question of whether or not you’ll be able to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Amtrak points after September 30th – I think it’s VERY likely that will also end on September 30th per that note, so if you are planning to make any transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Amtrak, I’d do it before September 30th!!
Existing Chase Amtrak cards converting to Chase Freedom cards
So any spend on your Amtrak card through September 30th will earn Amtrak points, and after that it will earn Ultimate Rewards. There was also discussion about how that might change depending on when your statement date was, and someone called Chase and reported that the agent said that it didn’t matter when your statement date was – September 30th is the date.
Your new Chase Freedom card will have a new account number, and if you already have a Freedom, you’ll just get a 2nd one.
The new Amtrak card
We’ve already figured out that Bank of America is almost certainly the new issuer of the Amtrak Guest Rewards card (HELLO Chris L Martin!)
I was in one of the BOA branches today doing banking and a rep confirmed for me that the AGR MasterCard is in their system but not available for sign up. She had very little details available although she did say it carried a $79.00 annual fee. I asked her about a no fee card and she said that was the only one loaded into the system so far. She had no rewards earning info as of yet.
So it looks like it is likely that the new card will have an annual fee
Converting Amtrak points to Choice Hotels points
Besides the sweet spots on the Amtrak zone map (that will be going away in January 2016), one of the big values of Amtrak Guest Rewards is their ability to transfer to Choice Hotels points at a 1:3 ratio. Unfortunately, you need to either have Amtrak elite status (hard to get unless you ride a lot) OR have the Amtrak credit card and spend $250 in Amtrak travel to be able to transfer to Choice (and even then you can only transfer 25,000 points a year)
I have already transferred my 25,000 Amtrak points to Choice this year (though I lost 50,000 Choice points to a “System Issue correction”), and as it stands, it looks like I’ll need to get the new Amtrak card (when it comes out) in order to be able to continue to be able to transfer.
So what do you think? Am I reading too much into semantics, or do you agree that the Chase partnership with Amtrak is over on September 30th?