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Buying Points with a Gift Card

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tonijustine

Train Attendant
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May 3, 2017
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I am not a frequent traveller. I have been fortunate enough to take one LD trip annually for the last several years. This year, I am trying to find a way to take another LD trip in October. I only have 5400 miles saved up. I want to spend as little cash as possible, and I've been pricing out rates for different routes and dates. Since I can't use points and cash for the same ticket, I was considering purchasing the extra points I would need. I realize that it probably isn't the best value, but I am OK with that. I also have a gift card for Amazon and it is my understanding that I can use it to purchase an Amtrak gift card on Amazon.

Can I use an Amtrak gift card to purchase points?

Thanks in advance!
 

pennyk

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I am guessing no since Amtrak is not the actual "seller" of the points. I believe it is points.com. You may be able to go to their website and determine methods of payment.
 

Devil's Advocate

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How many more points do you need? Amazon gift cards can be traded for general purpose debit cards on the gray market.
 

the_traveler

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Whatever siding I'm sitting on!
Penny is correct. The AGR points that you purchase are not from Amtrak, but from points.com instead. Thus, you can’t use an Amtrak gift card, just like you can’t use a Best Buy or Red Lobster gift card to purchase AGR points.

Unless you have a definite reservation planned for an upcoming trip planned, it is no longer practical to “buy points to put in the bank for the future” like it used to be. AGR award trips now have the points needed based on the current bucket of the trip being sold right now. The days of zone trips (15/20/35K) are long gone. A trip that is available today for say 12,853 points may cost 14,927 points tomorrow after the bucket rises.

The additional points you need can be purchased at that time. And they sell at the SAME rate as if you bought them today. The only thing you would “lose” is any bonus being offered at the time. My own opinion is that it’s not worth paying extra now.
 

tonijustine

Train Attendant
Joined
May 3, 2017
Messages
75
Penny is correct. The AGR points that you purchase are not from Amtrak, but from points.com instead. Thus, you can’t use an Amtrak gift card, just like you can’t use a Best Buy or Red Lobster gift card to purchase AGR points.

Unless you have a definite reservation planned for an upcoming trip planned, it is no longer practical to “buy points to put in the bank for the future” like it used to be. AGR award trips now have the points needed based on the current bucket of the trip being sold right now. The days of zone trips (15/20/35K) are long gone. A trip that is available today for say 12,853 points may cost 14,927 points tomorrow after the bucket rises.

The additional points you need can be purchased at that time. And they sell at the SAME rate as if you bought them today. The only thing you would “lose” is any bonus being offered at the time. My own opinion is that it’s not worth paying extra now.
I wasn’t planning on banking them. I want to use them. If it is a third party seller, I can probably use a Visa gift card (which can also be purchased with my Amazon card).

We have a couple of big non-rail trips coming up this year and I really need my own get away. But it has to be as inexpensive as possible. So maybe that is the way to go.

Thanks!
 

bratkinson

OBS Chief
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Depending on any trip(s) the OP is thinking about, one way to pay with both points and cash is to pick an intermediate point and book points to there, and a separate reservation with cash/credit from there to the destination. For example, CHI-CLE on points, and CLE-NYP for cash/credit on the same train (don't forget the date change after midnight!)

If riding coach, be sure to tell conductor or whoever is directing people which car to board that you are going to NYP with 2 tickets. Otherwise, you may end up in the 'shorts' car which has the most passengers on and off at each stop. Or, in the case of the Lakeshore Ltd, if you don't tell them up front you're headed to NYP, they may direct you to the BOS section thinking you're off at CLE! You'd have to switch cars at ALB if the conductor scanning tickets after CLE doesn't tell you to switch cars right then.
 
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