Here it is: Continental OnePass members can transfer miles into Amtrak's Guest Rewards program on a 1 mile = 1 point basis. This is phenomenal.
Why? Let me explain.
Continental, like all legacy carriers, awards miles on the basis of straight-line distance flown. OnePass also awards bonus miles:
- To elite flyers (25% for Silver level, 100% for Gold and Platinum);
- For booking with a Continental credit card (25%, plus 2 miles for every dollar spent);
- For booking online (500 miles);
- For shopping online with partners (up to 8 points per dollar spent); and
- For participating in periodic promotions for buying or doing various things.
Because of this utterly inequitable relationship, a slight expenditure on airfare -- say, $300 for a round-trip ticket to Washington D.C. to San Francisco -- can with all bonuses tallied yield as many as 12,350 miles.
Transfer those miles, for free, into Amtrak, and you've instantly matched the earnings one would see from more than $4000 spent on train travel even if Amtrak is running a triple-point bonus promotion.
Of course, the opposite is true as well: Guest Rewards members who have attained Select or Select Plus elite status can transfer their Guest Rewards points into OnePass at a 1:1 ratio.
But why bother? The value of those points in airline terms is negligible; even the cheapest Continental award fare is going to cost you 15,000 miles.
On the other hand, here's a brief (and incomplete) list of some things for which our hypothetical Continental OnePass member could redeem his or her 12,350 shiny new Guest Rewards points:
- Four one-way Coach tickets on the Northeast Regional (3000 each)
- One one-way First Class ticket on the Acela (10,500)
- One three-zone Coach ticket, which covers a coast-to-coast three-day trip (10,500)
- One $100 gift card with Hyatt, Hertz, AMC Cinemas, Barnes & Noble, or other top chains (10,000)
- Five one-class Amtrak upgrade coupons (10,000)
As I write this, I don't know if the unique partnership that Continental Airlines forged with Amtrak will survive the Continental-United merger. I hope that it does, because I'm a fan of passenger rail.
But in case it doesn't, I've just transferred 60,000 miles from OnePass to Guest Rewards. That's enough for ten round-trip tickets in Coach from D.C. to New York, so visiting my in-laws won't cost anything. *grins*