So, the latest weapons in my arsenal are two new cards from Bank of America. One personal, one business. On the personal application, I opted for the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard.
I actually plan on keeping the Amtrak card long-term. Some of the benefits we’ll discuss below will be great for my long term.
Depending on your local rail scene, this card may not provide much value for you. Since I live and travel in the Northeast corridor, I’m looking forward to adding more train trips to my itineraries! There’s something nostalgic about trains to me, and I just took my first trip by train last month! It wasn’t long, but Amtrak offered an easy way to get from Baltimore Washington Airport into Washington DC’s Union Station.
Applying was a pain, to be honest. I tried to combine pulls with Bank of America – we’ll get to that shortly. I shot for the Amtrak Guest Rewards Card, the Virgin Atlantic Credit Card, and the Alaska Airlines Visa Business Card. So I opened up three different Chrome Incognito browsing windows, and filled them out. I submitted them all one right after another (apparently this helps), and got…
Pending. On all three. Needless to say, I was disappointed.
Somehow, after quite a few phone calls to Bank of America, and just a bit of groveling, I was able to get the Amtrak card approved. I gave up on the Virgin Atlantic card, and I left the Alaska business card pending (which I did end up eventually approved for).
When I finally confirmed approval over the phone, I decided to push my luck just a bit further. I asked them to expedite delivery of the card. They said yes! Sure enough, two UPS packages arrived on my doorstep overnight. One envelope contained the card itself, and the other held the approval package, benefits information, and detailed terms and conditions.
Combining Pulls with Bank of America
So, combing pulls? What’s that all about?
There’s a lot of evidence that suggests Bank of America combines hard pulls on your credit report. This is important for those of us applying for multiple cards in a year. Hard pulls not only drop your actual credit score for some time, but they also make other institutions more wary of your financial situation. Think about it. You ask someone out on a date. They ask how many dates you’ve been on recently. “Oh, uhh, only one last month.” you quickly reply. Doesn’t look bad. You go out. You have a great time.
Let’s try this: you answer with, “I mean, I go out on dates all the time, three just last week! Nothing serious though, I just like having options.” Uh huh. Good luck, you probably won’t get a call on that one. A bank doesn’t want you to have too many options either. If you’ve already gotten 5 new cards in the last few months, how could you possibly need another one? They’re not going to extend you any of their precious credit. And they probably won’t waste their time on dinner and a movie with you either..
So, the evidence suggests that Bank of America will ‘combine’ hard pulls on your credit report. If you apply for more than one card from Bank of America on the same day, you should only end up with one hard pull. That’s why I applied for three cards at the same time.
Sure enough, only one hard pull showed up on my Equifax report.
20,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. I’ve seen most estimates put Guest Rewards at 2-2.5 cents apiece, so these are worth a lot more than most of their airline counterparts. Those 20,000 points are somewhere around $400-$500 worth of Amtrak travel, if you use them right.
There’s a 30,000 point offer available, but I don’t post links for any credit cards in here! If you’re thinking of applying, definitely try to find that 30,000 point offer first.
- 3 Amtrak Guest Rewards points/$ spent on Amtrak
- 2 Amtrak Guest Rewards points/$ spent on qualifying travel (this “qualifying” is not nearly as broad as some other cards)
- 1 Amtrak Guest Rewards points/$ spent on everything else
- 5% of your Amtrak points back when you book award travel with Guest Rewards
- Annual complimentary Companion Coupon (blackout dates and route restrictions apply, but it is valid on both roundtrip and one way travel)
- Annual complimentary Upgrade Coupon (restrictions apply)
- Single-Day ClubAcela pass when you open the card, this one doesn’t renew annually like the two above
- No foreign transaction fees
- MasterCard World Card benefits
- $79 annual fee (not waived during the first year)
The coupons are what make this card particularly interesting.
Annual Companion Coupon
That free companion ticket (if you use it) could be worth the annual fee alone. Simply find an eligible route, make sure it’s more than $79, and there you go! The card has already paid for itself. Now, “eligible” is where it gets tricky. For those of you in the game, you know you have to read the fine print. But this?
Travel blackouts apply: Oct. 10, 2016; Nov. 22-23, 2016; Nov. 26-28, 2016; Dec. 21-24, 2016; Dec. 26-30, 2016; Jan. 1-2, 2017; Feb. 17, 2017; Feb. 20, 2017; Apr. 13-14, 2017; Apr. 17, 2017; May 26, 2017; May 29, 2017; Sep. 1, 2017; Sep. 4, 2017; Oct. 9, 2017; Nov. 21-22, 2017; Nov. 25-27, 2017 Valid for travel on all Amtrak service except train/Thruway series 7000 – 8999.
A little much… Still, I see some great use for it, maybe a long train trip over the summer months.
Annual Complimentary Upgrade Coupon
The list of exclusions for the Upgrade Coupon is even longer than the Companion Coupon above. I hope to use it, but I honestly don’t think this will be very helpful for me. The chances that I’ll be taking an Amtrak by myself is pretty slim, before you even look at the excluded routes. In addition to all the blackout dates above, the list of restricted routes is much longer: Adirondack, Auto Train, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Empire Builder, Keystone Service, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle and train/Thruway series 7000 – 8999. Kind of a long list. Again, the points and the Companion Pass are what this card is all about for me.
I’m still experimenting with this card. So far, the overall return is nice. Amtrak points are worth more than most airlines or hotels. Similar to the SPG card, therefore, the return on everyday spend is great, as long as you can use the points. Unfortunately, the “eligible travel” category for double points is slim, so it isn’t always riding shotgun in my wallet. So far, I haven’t earned double points on public transit or on “tourist attractions and exhibits.” If the only thing I’m earning double on is airfare, sorry Amtrak, you’re still not beating that Platinum card.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to a few more train trips in my future, courtesy of the Amtrak card in my wallet. I’ll be sure to write up a bit more on that Alaska Airlines business card, too!