What Is Amtrak Elite Status Worth? January 2017 | Real World Machine

What Is Amtrak Elite Status Worth? January 2017

Last year, Amtrak revamped its Guest Rewards program and switched to a revenue-based redemption system for points from the previous fixed-points-per-zone redemption model. Sleeper car accommodations now cost a lot more points (to the tune of 20,000+ more points in some cases), but travelers on relatively short routes may find that they can now spend less points on redemptions.


Elite Status Value

Amtrak Guest Rewards Elite Status Value
Select $383
Select Plus $1,760
Select Executive $2,834

Union Station Chicago

Union Station Chicago by mlinksva is licensed under CC0

Under the current program, Amtrak points have a fixed points-to-dollar ratio and are worth 2.9 cents each on non-Acela trains (excluding saver fares) and about 2.5 cents each on Acela trains. Real World Machine values Amtrak points at 2.6 cents each, after factoring in the higher point cost for Acela and the fact that Amtrak, unfortunately, is almost never the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B.

Amtrak Guest Rewards offers three published elite tiers: Select, Select Plus, and Select Executive. You qualify for tiers by earning Tier-Qualifying Point (“TQPs”) each year, with every dollar spent on rail fare equaling two TQPs as well as two regular AGR points. You do not accumulate TQPs on bonus point promotions unless explicitly stated in the promotion (most promotions do not qualify). You can also receive 1,000 TQPs for every $5,000 you spend on the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard ($79 annual fee), up to a maximum of 4,000 TQPs per year.

Related: How much are my Amtrak Guest Rewards points worth?

All AGR members also receive a 25% points bonus on business class travel and a 50% point bonus on Acela first class travel.

Amtrak 75

“Amtrak 75” by ravensong75 is licensed under CC BY

Assumptions

Valuations are provided for each elite status level below and assume that (1) you already have the respective elite status for point bonus purposes and (2) that you hit the minimum threshold needed to achieve the status. If necessary, values are rounded up to the nearest dollar. Valuations do not include the regular non-elite-bonus points you earn for Amtrak spending, since you would get these points regardless of your elite status.

As always, elite status valuation can often be more of an art than a science…and certain benefits may be more or less valuable to you than the average passenger.


Select = $383

This valuation is based on having Select status and spending $2,500 on rail fare during the year. You need to earn 5,000 TQPs in a year to achieve Select status.

25% Point Bonus = $33
Valuing AGR points at 2.6 cents a piece, you will earn a bonus of 1,250 points, worth $33, during your travels.

Priority Phone Number = $20
While not a huge perk, you do get priority call handling for all of your (re)booking needs when you call into customer service. This can also save you a little bit of time if you’re trying to apply a one-class upgrade or companion coupon to your booking (neither of which can be accomplished online).

Lounge Access (two single-visit passes) = $50
You get two single-visit passes to ClubAcela. See the Select Plus description below for more details about Amtrak lounges. Since it costs about $125 in AGR points to purchase five single-visit lounge passes, I’m liberally valuing two passes at $25 each.

One-Class Upgrade (two coupons) = $200
A one-class upgrade lets you upgrade from coach to business class or from business to first class (which is only possible on Acela Express trains) up to 12 hours prior to departure on a space-available basis per segment. These upgrades cannot be used to upgrade to sleeper car accommodations and are much more valuable when upgrading from business to first class on Acela Express than on coach to business class on other trains. Assuming Acela upgrades, each coupon is worth about $100 each, factoring in the 12-hour window and the possibility that first class may be sold out.

Annual Transfer Points (50,000 AGR points maximum) = $80
This benefit lets you transfer up to 50,000 points to various hotel and car rental programs. The point conversion ratios are generally fair but not lucrative. Non-elite Amtrak members can only transfer points into (and not out of) Amtrak. Since this benefit has limited value to most people and significant value to a view people, I’m going to conservatively value this benefit at $80.

Return to table.




Select Plus = $1,760

This valuation is based on having Select Plus status and spending $5,000 on rail fare during the year. You need to earn 10,000 TQPs in a year to achieve Select Plus status.

50% Point Bonus = $130
Valuing AGR points at 2.6 cents a piece, you will earn a bonus of 5,000 points, worth $130, during your travels.

Priority Phone Number = $30
This is the same as the Select benefit. Since you’re traveling more, you may get marginally more use out of this benefit.

Lounge Access (unlimited) = $550
You get unlimited access to ClubAcela, Metropolitan Lounges, and First Class Lounges, all of which are essentially scaled-down versions of airline lounges. There aren’t many lounges in the Amtrak network, but you can find them in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), Raleigh, St. Louis, St. Paul/Minneapolis, and Washington (DC).

Select Plus and Select Executive members have unlimited access while anyone traveling in first class or sleeper class also have access to the lounge. You can also get two single-visit passes with Select status, a one-time-only single-visit pass with the premier version of the co-branded credit card, or with passes purchased with AGR points. Finally, United Club members also have access to ClubAcela lounges.

Amtrak lounges tend to be much smaller than airline lounges and their snack offerings also tend to be pretty limited (e.g., bagged chips and pretzels). There is no alcohol available. On the bright side, soda is self-serve from a dispenser machine, and the views from some of the lounges (e.g., Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia) can be quite nice.

Amtrak lounge access also comes with United Club access provided you have a same-day boarding pass from any airline. A United Club membership retails for $550 a year (effectively less with the top-tier co-branded credit card). With the exception of the Alaska Airlines Board Room in Anchorage (ANC), you have the same access to the United Club and affiliated lounges as paid (non-elite) United Club members.

Overall, I am putting a $550 price tag on this benefit. It’s difficult to nail down a precise figure, since Amtrak doesn’t offer paid lounge membership; although it does cost about $125 in AGR points to purchase five single-visit lounge passes. Overall, even if Amtrak lounges are far from extraordinary, the United Club access does make them valuable if you do any flying at/through any major U.S. airports.

One-Class Upgrade (four coupons) = $400
This is the same as the Select benefit, except that you get four coupons instead of two coupons.

Companion Coupons (two) = $600
A companion coupon lets one person of your choice travel with you on one round-trip train ride (or one-way, if you are not completing a round-trip). The companion coupon is good for coach fare only (or business class on Acela); you will have to pay for the applicable difference in fare for any upgrades from coach. You have to call Amtrak to apply a companion coupon to your fare/reservation. This can be a very valuable benefit, provided you are planning on bringing someone along on a long (expensive) rail trip. I conservatively value the companion coupon at $300 each.

Rule Buster (no redemption blackouts) = $100
The Rule Buster policy lets you avoid blackout dates on your points redemption. Blackout dates tend to correspond with holiday weekends and high-demand vacation periods. This perk has some value if you want to travel during busy times (although, with the revenue-based redemption model, you’ll also be spending more points than you would during a period of lower demand, due to the higher ticket prices). If you don’t plan to redeem points during blackout dates, this benefit is basically worthless. Overall, I’m going to value Rule Buster at $100.

Annual Transfer Points (50,000 AGR points maximum) = $80
This is the same as the Select benefit.

Return to table.


Select Executive = $2,834

This valuation is based on having Select Executive status and spending $10,000 on rail fare during the year. You need to earn 20,000 TQPs in a year to achieve Select Executive status.

100% Point Bonus = $520
Valuing AGR points at 2.6 cents a piece, you will earn a bonus of 20,000 points, worth $520, during your travels.

Priority Phone Number = $40
This is the same as the Select benefit. Since you’re traveling more, you may get marginally more use out of this benefit.

Lounge Access (unlimited) = $550
This is the same as the Select Plus benefit.

One-Class Upgrade (four coupons + additional coupon per every 3,000 TQPs) = $900
This is the same as the Select Plus benefit, except you can earn an additional one-class upgrade coupon for every 3,000 TQPs earned, for a total of nine coupons if you start the year with Select Executive status and hit 20,000 TQPs for the year.

Companion Coupons (two) = $600
This is the same as the Select Plus benefit.

Rule Buster (no redemption blackouts) = $115
This is the same as the Select Plus benefit. Since you’re traveling more, you may get marginally more use out of this benefit.

Unlimited Buy / Share / Transfer Points Limit = $104
This is the same as the Select and Select Plus benefit, except that you are not capped at 50,000 transfer-out points or capped on the number of points you can buy or share (15,000 and 100,000, respectively, for both Select and Select Plus).

While it is a bit difficult to imagine why you would need to transfer out more than 50,000 points, share more than 100,000 points, or buy more than 15,000 points in a single year, this benefit does let you do all of those things if you want to drown yourself in points or play Santa. I’m valuing this as 30% more valuable than the limited version for a total value of $104. If you have/will have more Amtrak points than you could ever possibly spend on rail fare in your lifetime, this benefit will be more valuable to you.

Automatic Registration for Promotions = $5
This benefit saves you from the minimal aggravation of having to click a few times to register for various Amtrak promotions.

Return to table.



Summary
What Is Amtrak Elite Status Worth? January 2017
Article
What Is Amtrak Elite Status Worth? January 2017
Description
Learn more about Amtrak Guest Rewards elite status with a breakdown and description of elite status benefits and their values.
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Real World Machine LLC
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