California Zephyr Amtrak Trip Summary & Thoughts on Amtrak Guest Rewards Devaluation (AGR 2.0)

Good afternoon everyone.  This summary post is kind of bittersweet.  On 1 hand, I enjoyed every minute of the ~33 hour journey on the California Zephyr from Denver to Emeryville (Oakland/San Francisco), but I doubt I will take Amtrak again anytime soon.  With the Amtrak Guest Rewards devaluation (AGR 2.0), premium Amtrak routes now cost 50-100% more Amtrak Points than before.  My recent trip cost exactly 25,000 Amtrak Points, but the new price would be in the 40,000-50,000 Amtrak Point range.  With the loss of Amtrak as a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, acquiring Amtrak Points is now harder than ever.

Bank of America is now the card issuer of the Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card, so I will probably apply for 1-2 Amtrak credit cards this year.  The current sign up bonus is 20,000 Amtrak Points after spending $1,000 in 3 months.  When you redeem for Amtrak travel, you will get a 5% point rebate and points do not expire if you have your credit card open (I think Amtrak has a pretty generous expiration policy, so this is not a big deal).  Since Amtrak Points are worth exactly 2.9 cents per point (CPP), the credit card sign up bonus is worth $580 in Amtrak travel.  Most roomettes I have seen are under $580 for 1 zone trips.  Unfortunately, the bedrooms cost around $1,000 or more, so you will need at least 2 credit card bonuses to acquire the necessary Amtrak Points balance.  Bank of America is also less likely to approve customers for several credit cards at one time, so the slow approach might be necessary.

BofA Amtrak Guest Rewards Credit Card Details

Without further ado, here are the 3 parts I wrote about my recent California Zephyr Amtrak trip:

I did not take any pictures or review the roomettes or bedrooms on this recent trip, but you can see pics and read about my previous experience on the Coast Starlight (Seattle to Los Angeles):

If you have any questions about Amtrak or the Amtrak credit card, please leave a comment below.

Lastly, let me leave you with this lovely image from the top bunk from my Amtrak bedroom.

Grant in Bunk

14 thoughts on “California Zephyr Amtrak Trip Summary & Thoughts on Amtrak Guest Rewards Devaluation (AGR 2.0)

    1. Grant

      I haven’t applied for any BofA CCs in 6+ months, so I don’t know. I believe it is possible to have more than 1 of the same BofA CC open, but it is getting more challenging to get more than 1 of the same card on the same day.

      Reply
  1. cbax22

    Yeah, it sounds like bedrooms are costing quite a bit more now, but I see that roomettes aren’t too bad at all. In fact I see them costing less in many cases. From here in Eugene, a trip to Chicago (2 Zones in the former Rewards plan) in a roomette was 20,000 points. Now I see, via Portland and the Empire Builder, prices of under 16,000 points. 20% cheaper than the former cost! (That cost will entail a 2-hour bus ride to the PDX connection.) I want to do the Chicago trip via the Zephyr though, but even that route connecting all the way down to Sacramento and then over, all in a roomette can be had for 24,000 points. Not absurdly more expensive than before the change like what you are talking about in a bedroom. And if you wanted to keep that EUG-CHI at 20,000 points, just use points for a coach seat down to Sac and then the roomette to Chicago for a total of about 20,000 exactly. So there are still definitely sweet spots to be had in the new AGR 2.0.. It just may take a little more looking around to find them.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      Thanks for the data points. There are definitely some sweet spots in AGR 2.0, it just depends on the route, time of year, when you book the trip, and class of service.

      Reply
  2. iahphx

    Interesting about the BoA Amtrak credit card. I’ve only redeemed for the transcon sleepers, but I do live in the Northeast and sometimes take trains in the Northeast Corridor. I also sometimes put family members on those trains. $580 in Amtrak spend for putting $1000 on a BoA credit card seems like a sweet deal if you EVER travel Amtrak. This is especially true since BoA is a relatively minor credit card player, with most us not wearing out our welcome (I have only their Alaska card and nothing else). I still have a few thousand Amtrak points left, so I’m in no rush. Have there ever been promos for additional sign-up points with BoA and Amtrak?

    Reply
  3. Michelle

    Thanks again for all the info, Grant! Looks like you had a good time on Amtrak & I’m looking forward to our trip this summer. :)

    Reply
        1. Michelle

          (Having probs posting if this has duplicates) We saw some gorgeous scenery, thought the food was as good as you could expect on a train but we slept terribly & felt the train was so dirty. Amtrak did not win us over. We loved our time in SFO though!

          Reply
          1. Grant

            The train can be very noisy, at all hours of the day/night. The food is surprisingly good, not great. I’m glad you enjoy San Francisco :)

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