Update 3: People have been asking me which part of the deal is the most tenuous. In my opinion if this deal were to fall apart it would be the ending/weakening of the Amtrak-Choice transfer at a 1:5 basis. Once you bring your AMEX/Amtrak/Continental/Starwood points into Choice you will be in a much better position…
Update 2: There is some confusion about the length of life for the free Southwest tickets. Southwest credits are valid for 2 years. Once you get 16 credits it turns into a free systemwide RT ticket, which is valid for 1 year from the date of issue. Once it expires you have 2 more years to reinstate it online for an additional year at a cost of $50. You have up to 5 years to reinstate it over the phone, but you will need to save the award ticket number, as that gets deleted from your account 2 years after the award expires.
Update: Moshe is reporting in the comments that it seems he is getting 25,000 Amtrak points for just 20,000 Starpoints. Please post your own findings in the comments!!!
Sneak peak-Among many other possibilities: Just 40,000 Starpoints or 50,000 Continental miles/AMEX points can get you 12 free Round trip tickets on Southwest and a yearlong Southwest companion pass!
This deal is truly incredible, yet there are so many ways of exploiting it that it may get very complicated…
The deal is good if you have any of the following currencies:
-Amtrak Guest Rewards points.
-Continental Onepass miles.
Step 1: (Optional, only necessary if you have AMEX MR points)
AMEX MR Points can be transferred into Continental Onepass miles on a 1:1 basis via the AMEX website. (25,000 AMEX points=25,000 Continental miles)
Continental Onepass miles can be transferred into Amtrak Guest Rewards points on a 1:1 basis by calling the Onepass service center at 713-952-1630. (25,000 Continental miles=25,000 Amtrak points)
Starwood Starpoints can be transferred into Amtrak Guest Rewards points on a 1:1 basis by calling Starwood at 888-625-4988. There is some inconsistency with the 5,000 point bonus. Some people are getting 25,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points for 20,000 Starpoints, while others are only getting 20,000 (Officially the 5,000 points bonus is only for when you transfer Starpoints to Airline partners, not Amtrak. In practice, Starwood seems to be giving many people the 5,000 point bonus when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints over to Amtrak.)
You can transfer out a maximum of 25,000 Amtrak points per calender year. (Amtrak elites can transfer out up to 50,000 per calender year)
–Choice Privileges points can be transferred into Southwest Rapid Rewards credits on a 5,000:2 basis via the Choice website. (5,000 Choice points=2 Southwest credits. 125,000 Choice points=50 Southwest credits. 250,000 Choice points=100 Southwest credits.)
–Choice Privileges points can be transferred into Air Canada Aeroplan miles, Alaska Airline Mileage Plan miles , American Airlines AAdvantage Miles, Continental Onepass Miles, Delta Skymiles, Mexicana Frecuenta miles, Northwest Worldperks miles, United Mileage Plus miles, or USAirways Dividend miles on a 5,000:1,000 basis via the Choice website. (5,000 Choice points=1,000 miles)
–Choice Privileges points can be used for Choice hotel stays via the Choice website. You can nab a $400 hotel room in Manhattan for just 20,000 points/night.
–Choice Privileges points can be used for over 240 luxury hotels worldwide starting at just 24,000 points/night!
OK, so before going on, let’s recap a bit:
-You can now transfer Continental miles/AMEX points to 8 other airlines without losing a single mile in the process. (25,000 AMEX points=25,000 Continental miles=25,000 Amtrak points=125,000 Choice points=25,000 miles on 8 other airlines!)
-You can transfer 20,000(if you’re lucky) or 25,000(if you’re not so lucky) Starpoints into 25,000 Continental or United miles without the huge devaluation of transferring directly at a 1:2 basis.
-You can turn 25,000 Continental miles/AMEX points or 20,000-25,000 Starpoints into 6+ nights in expensive hotels.
Now for the fun part:
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards:
-16 credits is enough for a free systemwide Round Trip ticket.
(Every 16 credits you earn gets you a free Southwest drink coupon if you’re 21+)
-32 credits is enough for a free Round Trip ticket to Hawaii on ATA.
-100 credits earned from any source within a 12 month period earns you a free companion pass!
The companion pass:
-Does not cost any credits, it is a free perk.
-Is valid for 12 months after it was earned.
-Allows you to bring along another person for free whenever you fly Southwest, even if you are flying on a free mileage ticket!
-Is valid for a seat anywhere that Southwest flies.
-Must be made out in a specific person’s name. That name can be changed up to 3 times after you set the original name.
-Is not subject to any blackout dates or capacity controls-you can confirm a 2nd seat for free whenever you fly.
-Does not require you to pay for regular flying taxes, you only responsible to pay $2.50 per segment for 9/11 security fees.
So, 50,000 Continental miles/AMEX points or 40,000-50,000 Starpoints will get you 50,000 Amtrak points, which will get you 250,000 Choice points, which will get you 100 Southwest credits!
There’s just one hiccup in that logic, unless you have Amtrak elite status you can only transfer a maximum of 25,000 points out of your Amtrak account per calender year.
That’s actually not too big of a problem: it doesn’t say anywhere that you can only have one Amtrak account!
If you would rather keep life simple and not have 2 amtrak accounts you can also transfer 25,000 points out this year, and then the other 25,000 points on 01/01/08.
OK, Jackpot! 12 Round-Trip tickets and a companion pass (6 award flights for 96 credits, times two because of the companion pass) for just 50,000 Continental miles/AMEX points or 40,000-50,000 Starpoints!
One caveat: Amtrak Guest Rewards has earned a bad reputation for axing United as a transfer partner overnight without any prior warning back in 2004. Amtrak may end this transfer opportunity at any time, so:
1. Do not delay-do this ASAP!
2. Do not let points idle in an Amtrak account, transfer them to Choice points ASAP.
As far as how this values a mile, here are a couple quick guesses:
-4,000 Continental miles is enough for a $400 Manhattan hotel room. Value=.10/mile
-50,000 Continental miles is enough for a 12 Round-Trip tickets and a companion pass. Value=???? It all depends if you use those tickets for $100 flights or $1,000 flights and how often you use the companion pass!
So is it worth getting 8 free Southwest credits for enrollment? Absolutely! Is it worth using Obopay to generate Continental miles? That’s your call!
Questions, Suggestions, Errors? Please leave a comment!
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