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How does a non-regular Amtrak traveler maximize the AGR card(s)

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My family and I try to take one big trip a year and we try to use points/miles to pay for at least one of the big expenses for that. So, my husband and son have decided that they want to take a train trip. That sounds good to me, but I did have to talk them out of doing the New Orleans to LA southern route. Right now we're considering taking the Crescent into NYC for xmas 2019 (what can I say, I'm a bit of an overplanner).

 

I'd like to book the train portion of this trip on points. There are a few reasons, but the main one is that, while we live near a station, it's hard to justify the time and expense of a regular train trip unless you're talking about New Orleans. And don't get me wrong, it'd be awesome to hop a train to NOLA for a weekend. All that's to say that I'm not going to be racking up points for regular travel. And that I don't mind blowing my whole points collection on a single trip whereas I kind of would like to save hotel and airline points/bonuses for future trips.

 

So, now I'm trying to figure out the best strategy. First question is about the companion pass. I understand that a sleeper car ticket has a per person component and also an accommodation arrangement. I'm looking to put two adults and a 6 year old into a bedroom. Could I use the companion pass to offset some of the per person point cost of the ticket for my husband? Also, if I'm able to sign up for both cards and get sign up bonuses for both then I'll be somewhat close to what I need for the tickets. Do you have a favorite exchange program? I see that the spg program is the best exchange, but I do tend to value those points a bit more than Amtrak. I see that the Choice hotels have a horrible exchange rate, but that's not a brand of hotel I'm likely to stay at so I could also get that card and earn the points specifically to transfer. Any other tricks I should know?

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The biggest trick to getting points from the card is to charge everything with it. Anytime I go to the store or mall, I put in on the card. That includes luxuries like food and gas! I have been known to even put a newspaper on the Card.

 

The big thing is make sure you pay your balance in full every month. Paying interest defeats the purpose. (You do not earn points on interest.)

 

I may spend more or less than you, but I usually earn 1,000-2,000 AGR points per month just by using the card!

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The companion coupon cannot be used with an AGR redemption and/or sleeper fare.

 

 

Coupon Restrictions:

  • Coupon valid for one (1) free companion rail fare with the purchase of one (1) regular (full) adult rail fare. Free companion and paying passenger must reserve at the same time and travel together at all times.
  • Valid for travel as one (1) one-way or one (1) roundtrip on one reservation per coupon. For roundtrip usage, both directions of travel must be reserved at the same time.
  • Travel blackouts apply: Jan. 2, 2018; Feb. 16, 2018; Feb. 19, 2018; Mar. 30, 2018; Apr. 2, 2018; May 25, 2018; Aug. 31, 2018; Sep. 3, 2018; Nov. 20-21, 2018; Nov. 24-26, 2018; Dec. 21-23, 2018; Dec. 26-30, 2018; Jan. 2, 2019; Feb. 15, 2019, Feb 18, 2019
  • Valid for travel on all Amtrak service except train/Thruway series 7000 – 8999.
  • Free companion offer is not combinable with any discount, coupon, or Amtrak Guest Rewards® redemption travel.
  • The eCoupon# is unique to your coupon and valid for one use only. Buying or selling this coupon is prohibited and will invalidate the coupon. Coupon may be transferred to a family member or friend.
  • Offer valid for Coach class travel only. Upgrade to Business class or First class (excluding sleeping car accommodations) is available upon full payment of applicable accommodation charges.
  • Other restrictions may apply.

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The biggest trick to getting points from the card is to charge everything with it. Anytime I go to the store or mall, I put in on the card. That includes luxuries like food and gas! I have been known to even put a newspaper on the Card.

 

The big thing is make sure you pay your balance in full every month. Paying interest defeats the purpose. (You do not earn points on interest.)

 

I may spend more or less than you, but I usually earn 1,000-2,000 AGR points per month just by using the card!

That's pretty much what I do now anyway. It'll just be a matter of switching from the Chase UR family of cards to the BOA card(s).

 

 

The companion coupon cannot be used with an AGR redemption and/or sleeper fare.

 

 

Coupon Restrictions:

  • Coupon valid for one (1) free companion rail fare with the purchase of one (1) regular (full) adult rail fare. Free companion and paying passenger must reserve at the same time and travel together at all times.
  • Valid for travel as one (1) one-way or one (1) roundtrip on one reservation per coupon. For roundtrip usage, both directions of travel must be reserved at the same time.
  • Travel blackouts apply: Jan. 2, 2018; Feb. 16, 2018; Feb. 19, 2018; Mar. 30, 2018; Apr. 2, 2018; May 25, 2018; Aug. 31, 2018; Sep. 3, 2018; Nov. 20-21, 2018; Nov. 24-26, 2018; Dec. 21-23, 2018; Dec. 26-30, 2018; Jan. 2, 2019; Feb. 15, 2019, Feb 18, 2019
  • Valid for travel on all Amtrak service except train/Thruway series 7000 – 8999.
  • Free companion offer is not combinable with any discount, coupon, or Amtrak Guest Rewards® redemption travel.
  • The eCoupon# is unique to your coupon and valid for one use only. Buying or selling this coupon is prohibited and will invalidate the coupon. Coupon may be transferred to a family member or friend.
  • Offer valid for Coach class travel only. Upgrade to Business class or First class (excluding sleeping car accommodations) is available upon full payment of applicable accommodation charges.
  • Other restrictions may apply.

 

Well, that's disappointing, but that companion pass would still be pretty cool for a quick trip down to the coast.

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If you need to buy any large appliances or furniture, do it through the shopping section of AGR. Over the years, I have bought a refrigerator and a clothes dryer

earning AGR points. I have also got more than 4 points per $ on shoes and boots on several sites.

If you need to rent a car, reserve through the AGR site. Usually there is a company that is giving 300 points per day instead of the standard 50.

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Spending $20K on the fee-card will get you 4K TQP points. That's the max 'freebie' points you get for spending. But every dollar spent on the CC gets 1 AGR point. Amtrak tix on the card get an additional 2 points per dollar, posted as a separate entry in your AGR transaction 'history'. And, of course, actually riding an Amtrak train gets you yet another 2 points per dollar, and those are TQPs as well! Throw in the 25% business class 'freebie' (which is also TQPs). So, for a $100 spent on a BC seat, you get 300 points from the card (making you 300 points closer to the 'freebie' 1000 TQPs per $5K spent), and 250 TQPs when you ride the train on those tix. Don't forget 'double days' bonus (non-TQPs) from mid September to the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Of course, reaching AGR 'select' status gets yet another 25% in points (non-TQP), 'select plus' gets an extra 50% (non-TQP) points, etc. I also just got back from the first of 3 round trips to 'cash in' on the 1-2-3 Free bonus program currently in effect until 2/28. Being retired has its advantages.

 

So, what I do for my vacation each year is spend a lot of points! I generally come up with some kind of 'circle tour' the USA, this year will be SPG-NYP-NOL-LAX-PDX-CHI-SPG with roomette except SPG-NYP. As I had 'spent' some points last summer, I had to buy some to get enough to make it to PDX. Then I paid for PDX-CHI-SPG...which will get me more points. OH...and by the way, when you 'spend' (book) using points, you get a 5% points REBATE! That's the good news.

 

On the bad news side, they've made cancelling/revising reservations 'more expensive' as of a couple weeks ago. Last June, I booked a SPG-WAS-CHI-MKE trip with points and had to move it out a week about 9 days prior to the original travel date. Not only was the 10% points penalty applied, (no penalty for cash tix, then), but since it was less than 2 weeks prior to travel and had a roomette, another 10% penalty was assessed! That REALLY hurt! And, of course, the lower price bucket I 'bought' the trip with was gone, so I had to pay 10-15% more points than the original trip! So, it effectively 'cost' me 30-35% hit in points to rebook! I don't understand the logic of penalizing AGR points users more than cash users. "Welcome to AGR 2.0" I guess. I thought about revising my PDX-SPG portion of my vacation to return a day later. But even with cash, they're now socking it to us for 10%. So much for getting a $200 savings for a day later (I discovered 2 weeks ago) as most of that would be eaten up by the penalty!

Edited by bratkinson

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Spending $20K on the fee-card will get you 4K TQP points. That's the max 'freebie' points you get for spending. But every dollar spent on the CC gets 1 AGR point. Amtrak tix on the card get an additional 2 points per dollar, posted as a separate entry in your AGR transaction 'history'. And, of course, actually riding an Amtrak train gets you yet another 2 points per dollar, and those are TQPs as well! Throw in the 25% business class 'freebie' (which is also TQPs). So, for a $100 spent on a BC seat, you get 300 points from the card (making you 300 points closer to the 'freebie' 1000 TQPs per $5K spent), and 250 TQPs when you ride the train on those tix. Don't forget 'double days' bonus (non-TQPs) from mid September to the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Of course, reaching AGR 'select' status gets yet another 25% in points (non-TQP), 'select plus' gets an extra 50% (non-TQP) points, etc. I also just got back from the first of 3 round trips to 'cash in' on the 1-2-3 Free bonus program currently in effect until 2/28. Being retired has its advantages.

 

 

 

 

The 4,000 TQP" points (per year) earned by credit card spending are not points usable for redemption...they only to help you to attain or raise your tier status (Select, Select Plus, etc.). Regular credit card points are not TQP, only to use for redemption.

 

To clarify, "an additional 2 points per dollar" amounts to a total of 3 points per dollar. Besides Amtrak tickets, on-board purchases (food, beverage, etc.) also earn three points per dollar from the BofA card. I also earn 2 points per dollar on my monthly commuting pass. Other "travel" spending...car rentals, hotels and cruises also earn 2 points per dollar.

 

Last year, the credit card spending (including Amtrak tickets) put me into Select status. That was a 6,000 mile trip half paid, half AGR redemption. While on that trip, there was a Double TQP promotion which applied to the paid segments which pushed me further to Plus status.

 

The credit card, not rail travel, is the points earner for me. On my long distance trips In recent years, half or more of the cost has been by redeeming points on Amtrak rather than spending and earning points for the trips.

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The 4,000 TQP" points (per year) earned by credit card spending are not points usable for redemption...they only to help you to attain or raise your tier status (Select, Select Plus, etc.).

 

That's good to know before being disappointed. Thanks for the clarification; I had misunderstood.

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The 4,000 TQP" points (per year) earned by credit card spending are not points usable for redemption...they only to help you to attain or raise your tier status (Select, Select Plus, etc.).

That's good to know before being disappointed. Thanks for the clarification; I had misunderstood.

 

Put me in the 'me too' category.

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