How an Old Chase Transfer Paid Off & An Exciting New Redemption at Over 3 Cents Per Point!

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Amtrak Rewards Redemption California Zephyr

Amtrak Rewards Redemption California Zephyr

Wow, it has been over 3 years since I transferred over 65,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak before that wonderful partnership ended. At that point I had tentative plans to use the points and I wasn’t too afraid to pull the trigger given the overall high value of Amtrak points.

Of course, unused points are worthless points and due to a scheduling issue, my planned Amtrak trip never took hold. Other than a scary account hack, my Amtrak points have been sitting there gathering dust. It was time to pull the trigger on something!

Rocky Mountain Views

In May I’ll be in Denver to ride some coasters, meet some readers (details on the meetup coming soon) and take care of some other business. While that seems like enough, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to add a train trip to that! I have long wanted to experience the California Zephyr between Denver and the San Francisco area. It is said to be a truly stunning journey.

California Zephyr somewhere between Denver and Salt Lake City.

What makes the journey even more interesting is the schedule. The 8am departure from Denver means we’ll be treated to an entire day of sightseeing as we travel through the mountains west of Denver. I have heard this stretch and timing is ideal so I guess we shall see. Either way it should be a fun experience.

Fun & Affordable

If you have never experienced long term Amtrak travel, it is surprisingly fun and nice. For the 33 hour journey from Denver to Emeryville, California we booked (2 adults) into a roomette. This small room has two seats that face each other during the day and turn into bunkbeds at night.

And the Roomette comes with a surprising number of amenities:

Amtrak Rewards Redemption California Zephyr

A Bargain In Its Own Way

While you could fly between these two areas in a couple of hours for $100 or so roundtrip, that type of travel isn’t a comparison. Amtrak is about getting out on the rails, seeing the country and experiencing how it is to travel by rail. Meet new people. Eat meals. Think about life. Enjoy.

That is why this journey is a bargain at $686. Of course, I didn’t have to pay that thanks to my decision 3+ years ago to transfer those points. Instead, I only needed to fork over 20,942 Amtrak Guest Rewards points. A shockingly good value.

Amtrak Rewards Redemption California ZephyrRiding the Rails

Back in 2014 my son and I rode from Los Angeles to Seattle and Seattle to Chicago on Amtrak in a roomette. Here is some info about our journey:

We both really enjoyed the trip and found the food to be decent. Nothing fancy, but decent. There were times when the scenery in North Dakota dragged on, but that shouldn’t be as much of an issue with this trip. 33 hours starting in the morning is about as perfect as timing gets in my opinion.

Amtrak Rewards Redemption California Zephyr
California Zephyr’s route from Denver west through Salt Lake City and into the San Francisco Bay Area.

How to Earn Enough Amtrak Guest Rewards for This Trip

While you can no longer take the easy Chase lined path towards getting Amtrak Guest Rewards, there is still an option to pick up a nice chunk. The Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard from Bank of America might be a good option for someone looking to take a train journey.

The card comes with a 20,000 point bonus after $1K spend, a companion coupon and some other goodies. Better yet, the bonus plus points earned on the $1K spend would have been just enough to pay for this exact train ticket. Note there are a few additional transfer paths and options to look at as well.

Amtrak Rewards Redemption California Zephyr


It’s always fun when you can pull an underutilized currency out of your tool belt, dust off the points and then turn them into an awesome adventure. Long term train travel is one of my favorite ways to get around and I certainly am excited to once again be riding the rails.

Have you recently redeemed Amtrak Guest Rewards points? Share your experiences in the comments!

Shawn Coomer
Since 2007 Shawn Coomer has been circling the globe with his family for pennies on the dollar. He uses that first-hand knowledge and experience to teach others how to achieve their travel dreams for the least amount of money possible.

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  1. I did the same trip west from Denver to Sacramento, then continuing north to Portland. I did this in a roomette in June 2016 at the old rate. You will have a wonderful time. No need for books or magazines as I found out. Park yourself in the dome car and enjoy. Everyone is friendly. The food was better than I expected, dare I say good. Much better than first on most airlines.

    Bring slippers to walk to/from the shower.


  2. Long day of light in May = more sightseeing into Utah before darkness. Watch for bald eagles along the Colorado River between Kremmling and Glenwood Springs. Most scenic rail trip in the lower 48.

  3. My son who lives in Boulder, CO takes that train to visit our other son in San Francisco. He loves it.

    From Pittsburgh, business class Amtrak to New York is a favorite route. The route to D.C. goes through the Laurel Highlands – where Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater is. You can’t see the house from the train, but it was built in a beautiful area.

    I just booked a rental car via Amtrak because they have a promo for bonus points until March 31. The price was better than any other site, too.

  4. I had recently moved from NYC to FL when the Chase Amtrak partnership ended, and I moved an obscene amount of points over…and there they sit. I had anticipated using the Auto Train a lot more than I actually have. I’m glad your gamble worked out – I’m still waiting for my opportunity.


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