Question: Can I Book Luxury Trains in Other Countries With Points?
Our question this week asks whether you can book trains (specifically, luxury train rides) in other countries using points. We know it’s possible to book U.S. domestic train travel with Amtrak Guest Rewards. What about those luxury trains in other countries–can we use points to book those? The answer is a bit roundabout, so here we go.
Our question of the week comes from Mahesh in our Facebook group:
Is there any way to do The Ghan and The Venice Simplon Orient Express on points and miles?
For those not familiar with these trains, a quick bit of information:
- The Ghan is train service through Australia’s interior, with the oldest (and most popular) routes running North-South through the middle of the country from one coast to the other. Packages can range from 2 days to 4 days, depending on excursions you add to your trip.
- The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has several options for routing between London and Venice, but the most popular goes through Paris and then Verona or Venice en route to Vienna. Belmond (the owner) says the “most popular route between London and Venice takes two days, with one night on board.”
Can I Book These Luxury Trains Using Points?
So, considering these and other foreign trains, can we book them with points? If so, how?
Can’t Use Transfer Partners
The bad news is that you can’t book foreign trans with points using transfer partners the way we are used to with airlines. You aren’t going to transfer your American Express Membership Rewards to a booking site or loyalty like we do with many hotel and airline programs. Thus, booking trains in other countries using points uses a little bit different method.
Minimal Bank Portal Options
There are several bank portals where you can book travel using your points. Here are some examples:
- Amex Travel: book flights, hotels, cruises, and rental cars
- Capital One Travel: book flights, hotels, and rental cars
- Chase: book flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, and activities
Notice that Amex Travel and Capital One Travel don’t offer anything for trains or activities. And while Chase does offer activities, that doesn’t include trains.
You can book safaris in Africa using the Chase travel portal, but you can’t book trains using points.
Buy First, Use Your Points to Cover the Purchase
If you want to use points to book trips on foreign trains, your best bet is buying the tickets with a card that will let you erase the purchase with your points. You’ll need to use the right card and purchase directly, because even sites like Expedia don’t offer these luxury train trips. Conversely, you could book with a travel agent, and this should still code as travel.
Cards to consider:
The first group works the same: earn 2 points per $1 spent, then use points at 1¢ each to erase travel expenses:
Other cards that would earn bonus points on travel (how many is in parentheses) and cash them out at 1¢ each for statement credit, or more with Pay Yourself Back for Chase cards:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred (2X)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve (3X)
- Ink Business Preferred (3X)
- American Express Green Card (3X)
- U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve (3X)
- Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card (3X)
- You could also use the American Express Blue Cash Preferred for 3% cash back
Cards I don’t recommend:
- Citi Custom Cash – earn 5X on travel, but only on the first $500 per month; these trains will cost much more than that.
- American Express Gold Card – great for airfare or amextravel.com purchases, you would earn just 1X on these train tickets.
- The Platinum Card from American Express – same issues as the Gold card above.
If it were me:
I would use the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Here’s why: both this card and the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve will earn 3X points in the purchase. While the Altitude Reserve has a $325 annual travel credit (compared to the Sapphire Reserve’s $300 credit), you’ll wind up with nearly the same credit. Given their superior flexibility, I would rather earn Chase Ultimate Rewards on this purchase.
Another contender is using the Bank of American Premium Rewards Elite Card (review here) if you are a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, since you could earn up to 3.5X on a train ticket purchase. However, the redemption value will never pass 1.25¢ per point, which is achieved with airfare purchases through Bank of America’s travel portal.
Do the math on which card is going to earn you the most value when considering points earned times the value of those points.
RELATED: What Your Points and Miles Are Worth
I love train rides. While not as simple as using points to book hotels or flights, you can use points to pay for luxury trains or dream rides in other countries. You’ll need to do this by paying with the right card and then erasing the purchase after the fact.
If you’re interested in awesome train rides, see here: How To Book The Trans-Siberian / Trans-Mongolian Railroad.