Update: BlueBird has shut down many accounts of people who have used them to Manufacture Money Spent as in this article and others. While not all have been shut down and it is still possible to open accounts and do a bit of MMSing, it is dying and should not be seen as a guaranteed option.
I love Amtrak. I have only ridden once, but it was from Atlanta to Dana Point, CA in a roomette and it was 100x better than flying. I transferred 20,000 points from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account with points I had manufactured for $139. the trip would have cost about $800, so I got a pretty good value. If you haven’t tried Amtrak before and have some UR points stacked up and have some extra time, I highly recommend it. Compared to traveling by car, bus, or plane, there just is not much competition to the luxury of the train. I got a roomette for my points, which is the same price for 1 or 2 passengers, so try to bring someone along for even more value. It was incredible, having a bed and private room to sleep in for three nights, that’s incredibly expensive on a plane. On top of that, meals are included. I had great meals, cooked fresh in the kitchen, again, incomparable to plane food outside of first or business class. Eggs, bacon or sausage, juices, cereal, grits, toast, a real breakfast, later a delicious burger and salad then dessert. For dinner, salad, steak, and dessert. The value of the meals alone for one person came out to over $200. Along with the sleeper car and food, when you’re at the stations, there are lounges just for sleeper car or business class passengers, usually stocked with snacks and drinks, comfortable chairs and TV, magazines, and newspapers. While the rooms, lounges, and meals all offer great and luxurious value to this, another reason why Amtrak is my favorite way to travel is because you actually get to see places you wouldn’t otherwise. During my trip, I saw cities contrasted later by small towns that look like they came straight out of an old western movie, I saw forests, swamps, deserts, rolling hills and mountains. I also got to meet a lot of great people, but when I wanted private time to read or anything, I had my seclusion of my room to retire to.
Now the sad part. Amtrak and Chase are cutting ties. Starting September 30, 2015, Chase will no longer have a Amtrak branded credit card, instead they will be issuing Chase Freedom cards to each Amtrak card holder as a replacement, and Bank of America will be picking up the Amtrak brand. With this news, it can be expected that eventually, Amtrak will no longer be a Chase transfer partner. To me, Amtrak has become one of Chase’s most valuable transfer partners. I’m sending my parents to Boston from Florida in October in a roomette for only 15,000 points each way, $104 for both after manufacturing the points, so they can catch their flight to Paris, which I helped them snag a couple of months ago for only $300 each round trip during a sale on WOW Airlines, the same airline I took back in April to get to Iceland for a week and then onto London. The loss of Amtrak will be a huge devaluation to Chase’s Ultimate Reward points program.
If you’d like to try out Amtrak using UR Points, now is the time to transfer those points and stock them up in your Amtrak account for later use. Also, note that Amtrak is changing their redemption chart starting January 24. They’re moving from a three zone based award chart to a “revenue based” award chart and while it looks like there may be cheaper redemption’s in some spots, revenue based charts are never a good thing for those looking for spots where prices are high but the redemption is cheap. There will also be fees of 10% of the points for refunds and modifications, the guidelines vary but can be found here. This is all mainly bad news, but rewards will start at only 800 points instead of 3,000, so it will be possible to come out even better than with the zones, so it will just take some playing to figure out if you should book now or wait. The point estimator can be used to compare redemption rates. I’m about to go to Las Vegas in a sleeper from Atlanta, the cash value is about $2000, I’m getting it for 20,000 points, great redemption, but under the new program, that redemption would cost me a whopping 69,000 points! Not such a nice redemption anymore, still, 2.89 cents per point is generally a good redemption rate, even if it’s not 10 cents.
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