Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Continental-Amtrak Partnership

I'd like to take a moment to reveal to all of you a special opportunity -- one of those truly rare moments in time where great things are possible

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.
Amtrak, on the other hand, has adopted a model like Virgin America: passengers earn one Guest Rewards point for each dollar spent.

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)
And that's off of a single $300 cross-country round-trip airfare.  If you travel internationally, that 15,000-mile flight to Singapore could be worth more than 45,000 Guest Rewards points for a cost of about $1200.

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*

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

So glad I came across your blog! We just booked a roundtrip family bedroom, LAX - SEA for 40k Onepass miles.. would have been close to $2k!

Keep on bloggin guys!