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AGR vs Amazon Prime - help me with the math!


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#1 George K

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Posted 10 October 2017 - 04:04 PM

Like everyone, I'm always looking for a way to maximize my AGR rewards, but I'm beginning to think that there might be better alternatives for earning cheap(er) travel. 

 

Here's what I do currently: I use the AGR portal to purchase whatever I can - paper towels through Jet.com, clothing through Land's End or Dockers, household supplies (lightbulbs, etc) through Target or Overstock. The point rewards on these purchases vary anywhere from 2 points (Jet.com) to as much as 14 for inkjet cartridges. Of course, using my AGR MasterCard earns another point for every buck I spend.

 

But...

 

I'm also a member of Amazon Prime which gives me a lot of benefits as well - lots of good TV, free 2-day shipping, etc. I have the Amazon Prime Visa card which, if I use it at Amazon, earns a whopping 5% for ALL prime purchases. 

 

So, I'm wondering if it would be more advantageous to use the Amazon Visa card for more purchases, and just cash it in when I want to purchase travel. Considering an AGR point is worth, what, 2.8¢, should I make the switch?

 

I'm so confused... :wacko:


4/1/1955 - NYC "Pacemaker" - NYP to CHI; 9/14 - EB - CHI to PDX , CS - PDX to EMY, CZ - EMY to CHI; 3/15 CONO - Round trip; 9/15 CL CHI to WAS, Acela WAS to BOS, LSL BOS to CHI; 11/15 CONO - Round trip; 5/16 EB - Round trip; 12/16 CONO -  Round Trip; 5/17 EB - Round trip; 10/17 CONO - Round trip

#2 jebr

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Posted 10 October 2017 - 04:17 PM

My personal strategy is to use the Amazon card at amazon.com and use a general credit card (probably will be shifting back to the AGR card) for other purchases. If a purchase results in me getting stuff at an AGR retailer, I'll grab points through that as long as I remember, but I don't make an intentional effort to shop only at AGR mall retailers. There's no reason to limit your strategy to a single card, after all.



#3 me_little_me

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Posted 11 October 2017 - 07:32 PM

My personal strategy is to use the Amazon card at amazon.com and use a general credit card (probably will be shifting back to the AGR card) for other purchases. If a purchase results in me getting stuff at an AGR retailer, I'll grab points through that as long as I remember, but I don't make an intentional effort to shop only at AGR mall retailers. There's no reason to limit your strategy to a single card, after all.

I agree. I have a Marriott card which gives me 5X on Marriott stays and 2X on all dining. So dining on Marriott and general on Amtrak card.



#4 George K

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Posted 11 October 2017 - 08:13 PM

Thanks for the replies. 

 

The only time I spend at hotels is on our twice yearly vacations, and it's usually not at a Marriott. 

 

IIRC, the AGR MC gives two points per dollar on travel expenses. So, it may be worthwhile using that card for smaller non-"big chain" places (like Hallmark Inn at Cannon Beach).

 

As far as *other* purchases go, however, I wonder if the AGR card is the best value.

 

Let's take a purchase of toilet paper, for example. I can order them from Jet.com, and spend about $17. At 2 points per $ spent, plus the 1% automatic return, that's a yield of 17 X 3, or 51 points for that purchase.

 

Buying the same item (at the same price) at Amazon will give me 5 points per dollar, or 85 points - 85¢ value.

 

How many points would 85¢ buy?


4/1/1955 - NYC "Pacemaker" - NYP to CHI; 9/14 - EB - CHI to PDX , CS - PDX to EMY, CZ - EMY to CHI; 3/15 CONO - Round trip; 9/15 CL CHI to WAS, Acela WAS to BOS, LSL BOS to CHI; 11/15 CONO - Round trip; 5/16 EB - Round trip; 12/16 CONO -  Round Trip; 5/17 EB - Round trip; 10/17 CONO - Round trip

#5 jebr

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Posted 11 October 2017 - 10:34 PM

The Points Guy values AGR points at 2.5 cents a point. A point is usually equivalent to 2.9 cents of Amtrak fare, but since Amtrak has some peak periods where you need more points to book a reservation and you can't use any discounts on the fare (NARP, senior, etc.) and the Saver rate can't be used for points it winds up being a bit less. By my quick math on a random date on the Empire Builder, if a Saver fare is available, the true points value drops to around 2.3 cents/point, and with NARP discount on a coach fare it's 2.6 cents/point. Sleeper redemptions fare better as the discounted cash rates only take money off the rail fare portion, not the accommodation portion. It may vary a bit from train to train, but a point's probably worth between 2-2.5 cents as long as you're not using them on the peak dates. I personally value AGR mall points a bit less than the credit card points because it takes additional effort to get them and they don't always post properly or the exclusions hit part of my purchase. While once the points post they're the same, it takes more work to get said points, so I value them a bit less.

 

Personally, though, I rarely intentionally purchase things specifically through an AGR Mall vendor just to get the points. Sometimes I will if the points per dollar is really high (one of the magazine companies is an example of this - I can get 1,000 or more points from a Trains subscription by buying through the mall, and it's the same $42.95 through them as it is through Trains directly) or if I have a large purchase, but usually I prioritize other elements than the points and then circle back to the points once I've determined what vendor I want to buy from. Prices are often different, and the ease of purchasing through Amazon with the two-day shipping makes that often a choice even if pricing is the same.

 

As for toilet paper? I buy it from Target because I have the RedCard for 5% off and they have auto-delivery so I get it sent on a schedule so I never run out!  ^_^



#6 NorthShore

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Posted 12 October 2017 - 12:13 AM

What if you have diaherria?

#7 sechs

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Posted 16 October 2017 - 10:48 AM

As for toilet paper? I buy it from Target because I have the RedCard for 5% off and they have auto-delivery so I get it sent on a schedule so I never run out!  ^_^

I agree that it doesn't make sense to go out your way to spend extra for a few Amtrak points.

 

I buy a lot from Amazon because it's usually cheap and convenient, but would never use the Amazon credit cards because, until recently, you ended up with Amazon gift credit, which will decrease your earnings.  Since I always have a way to get Amazon gift cards at 5% back, it's a kind of a no-brainer for me.

 

That doesn't mean that I don't buy from other places when there's a good offer.  I've recently bought from Jet.com or Boxed.com when there were coupons and AmEx offers leading to value in excess of what I might get elsewhere, and I still went through portals for additional points/cash back.



#8 neroden

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Posted 23 October 2017 - 05:21 AM

If you spend your Amtrak points, the Amtrak card has a very good points rate on Amtrak purchases, and a decent one on other "travel" purchases -- 2 points per dollar spent is still basically a 4 to 5 percent rebate.  But on miscellaneous purchases, it's around 2 to 2.5 percent (as noted earlier, it depends on when and where you spend your Amtrak points), which can be beaten with other cards.

However, now that I look at it, some of those AGR Mall rates are pretty good -- the magazine subscription point rates are wild, and I'll have to take  a look at those! Thanks jebr!

 

Anyway, if you value an AGR point at more than 2 cents (which seems about right given the saver fare issue), it looks like going through the AGR Mall on a "2 points per dollar spent" or better offer, with the AGR card providing an additional 1 point per dollar spent, is slightly better than the Amazon card through Amazon -- if, of course, the products have the same *price* including shipping in both cases.  Which they may not.  It seems very close for 2 points per dollar. On an offer of less than 2 points per dollar, Amazon would definitely be better.

 

On a 14 points per dollar or 32 points per dollar for magazine subscriptions (!!!) offer you're definitely getting more from the AGR portal.  If I ever re-up my F&SF subscription I'll remember this.


Edited by neroden, 23 October 2017 - 06:09 AM.

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