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Miles/points to Train Travel

Miles/points to Train Travel

Old Jun 12, 17, 12:05 am
  #1  
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Miles/points to Train Travel

Hi all

Many travellers like the experience of train travel but not the sometimes exhorbitant cost.

This has me wondering - which airline programs allow you to redeem miles or points for train travel. I am interested in any train travel paid for with miles/points from any airline program. I am thinking of classic journeys like the TGV, Eurostar, Shinkhasen and Chinese high speed rail.

Knowing which airline programs can be redeemed for which routes would be very handy because them one can adopt strategies to get the relevant miles/points for the route you are interested in travelling.

This thread might prove to be a useful wiki on the subject.

Thanks Peter
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Old Jun 12, 17, 6:56 am
  #2  
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At this link it says

http://www.freefrequentflyermiles.com/index.htm

"United usually offers free train travel on SNCF French Rail, France's high speed rail service, when you fly to France on United. Read the article to find out how to get it. I believe the train trips are code shared with United, so you probably have to buy your ticket from North America to the final train destination. But I don't know how to get the "train coupon". Ask United about all of this."

So possibly United miles could be used for these trips?
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Old Jun 12, 17, 8:21 am
  #3  
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1. Starwood Preferred Guest points can be transferred to the USA passenger rail operator Amtrak:

Take the scenic route: Transfer Starpoints to Amtrak Guest Rewards® at a 1:1 ratio and get on the next train.
http://www.starwoodhotels.com/prefer...em/travel.html

https://www.amtrakguestrewards.com/

2. American Express Membership Rewards (UK) points can be transferred to Eurostar:

http://catalogue.membershiprewards.c...rtners-es-logo

Note that each country has its own version of Membership Rewards with its own partners, earnings rate and redemption ratios. Availability of this award in the UK does not imply availability in other markets.

Last edited by mia; Jun 12, 17 at 9:34 am
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Old Jun 15, 17, 2:04 pm
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This is a very obvious answer, but Amtrak does have their own rewards program. It's revenue based (something like 2 points per dollar) but they often do all sorts of promos (double points, a 200 point bonus), you can get 500 points for referring someone (there's a Conga on Flyertalk), and they do have their own shopping portal, which I find quite lucrative.

Also, I believe some travel rewards credit cards (such as the Barclay travel rewards card) allow you to apply the points you earn towards anything that qualifies as travel, which includes trains.
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Old Jun 15, 17, 3:29 pm
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Originally Posted by DrRodneyMcKay View Post
This is a very obvious answer, but Amtrak does have their own rewards program. It's revenue based (something like 2 points per dollar) but they often do all sorts of promos (double points, a 200 point bonus), you can get 500 points for referring someone (there's a Conga on Flyertalk), and they do have their own shopping portal, which I find quite lucrative.

Also, I believe some travel rewards credit cards (such as the Barclay travel rewards card) allow you to apply the points you earn towards anything that qualifies as travel, which includes trains.
It's not an obvious answer is you had read the OP's profile. They seem to be based in Australia, where there is no Amtrak. And also note that every train system they asked about in their post was outside the USA.

The Amtrak train system in the USA isn't used much by most long-distance travelers, while train systems in other parts of the world are. One reason: The US is big, but most Amtrak trains are slow and low frequency compared to various high-speed trains in Europe or the bullet trains in Japan (while Europe and Japan are much more compact than the USA).

I've been sitting on about 8000ish Amtrak points for about a decade now (I think my last significant point increase was a transfer in from the long-gone-now Midwest Airlines), and I still haven't come up with a "non-wasting" use for them (so I do just what's necessary to keep from expiring, hoping that in another decade I might find some good use for them finally). Amtrak just doesn't seem to make any sense on most of the journeys I take (given that I'm based in SoCal, rather than along the Acela corridor). If Amtrak points worked on the Alaskan Railroad, then I'd definitely have a use -- Alaska is one of the very few places in the country where trains get you to places that no other transport can), but no, that's a completely independent system.

Last edited by sdsearch; Jun 15, 17 at 3:47 pm
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Old Jun 16, 17, 10:27 pm
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Thanks for the replies

Indeed I live in Melbourne Australia and no, we don't have Amtrak in Australia.

There are many train journeys around the world that people aspire to take, in particular the high speed kind. Obviously there is a cost to this but if one can find a frequent flyer program that converts points into train travel then this can be an opportunity to fund train travel another way.

In particular I think it would be great to find a program that can convert points/miles into bullet train travel in Japan or into a Japan rail pass. That would be an excellent use of points/miles.
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Old Jun 17, 17, 7:31 am
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Originally Posted by ffhound View Post
In particular I think it would be great to find a program that can convert points/miles into bullet train travel in Japan or into a Japan rail pass. That would be an excellent use of points/miles.
No, it wouldn't, not if it cost 100,000 points for a single train trip, and you could those same 100,000 points for a business class flight halfway around the world.

Ie, points/miles are only an "excellent use" if the value is good.

But for things they weren't designed for, the value is often quite poor.

Years ago, American Airlines let you tag on a regional German train trip for the same amount of miles as just flying to Germany. That was a good value.

But some airlines let you buy anything you want at the same poor value, and in that case I guess you could buy train trips, but it would the same relationship of miles/points to cash cost as if you bought soap or a TV with those miles/points.

So be careful what you wish for. Just the ability to redeem points/miles at an awful value for train trips, is that what you want? Or only if you can find the ability to redeem for train trips at a good value?

As I said, here in the US I have 8000ish Amrtrak points, and I haven't yet figured a value to use them for. Supposedly they could be used for up to 10 "special" train journeys, but the only places I've gone where I could have redeemed them I would have used most of them up on a cheap 20-minute train ride, and that certainly didn't make sense (so I just paid the small amount of cash, which btw was with a competing train company that was even cheaper than Amtrak). So that proves that not all methods of redeeming for train trips, even when they exist, are necessarily a good value.

But that does point you to something, just for completeness: Any points system (say, from a credit card) that lets you redeem for anything (at a cash equivalent value) lets you redeem for train tickets. I just don't know of that sort exists in Australia.
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Old Jun 17, 17, 9:53 pm
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Here in Australia we have a wide range of things we can redeem points for - flights, accommodation, car hire, "experiences", travel goods - I can even get supermarket gift cards.

A lot of Australians go to Japan to ride the high speed rail. It seems logical to me that you should have an option to redeem your points for a Japan Rail Pass. Some people have plenty of points but are cash poor so having that option, even at a bad exchange rate, is still handy.

Of course one could always buy 6 weeks worth of supermarket vouchers (6 x $100) and use the money saved to buy the rail pass that way. However it would be great if Qantas or Virgin offered a good value alternative way of redeeming points for rail passes (including Eurail).
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Old Jun 18, 17, 7:50 pm
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My apologies for not realizing you're in Australia. It didn't mention it in the post, and I can be a bit US-centric. I can't think of any points redemption opportunities specifically for Asian or European rail (although SNCF, which is the French TGV company, is always having flash sales). However, if you have a credit card that rewards travel spend, you can often redeem your points for "cash back" towards travel at a better value than the one at which you'd be getting just cash back. To use the Barclaycard as an example (which I'm familiar with, but again, in Australia your card options are probably different), you get 2x points on travel spend; you can then apply those points towards future travel and get 5% of your points back. So if I'm doing the math right, you're getting more than 2 cents per point.

SNCF does also have a rewards program of sorts: http://www.sncf.com/fr/fidelite/programme-voyageur
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Old Jun 20, 17, 2:31 am
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Originally Posted by ffhound View Post
There are many train journeys around the world that people aspire to take, in particular the high speed kind. Obviously there is a cost to this but if one can find a frequent flyer program that converts points into train travel then this can be an opportunity to fund train travel another way.
It all depends on the train system. AFAIK - if the train system, by itself, has a reward program, it is more likely that it will work with other programs.

Also - as many train systems are either government-owned or GSEs, governments may have difficulty to justify a reward program unless the program aims to compete and increase ridership. For example, Amtrak Guest Rewards from the U.S. aims to attract flyers along the Northeast Corridor.
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Old Jun 23, 17, 4:19 pm
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Originally Posted by sdsearch View Post
It's not an obvious answer is you had read the OP's profile. They seem to be based in Australia, where there is no Amtrak. And also note that every train system they asked about in their post was outside the USA.

The Amtrak train system in the USA isn't used much by most long-distance travelers, while train systems in other parts of the world are. One reason: The US is big, but most Amtrak trains are slow and low frequency compared to various high-speed trains in Europe or the bullet trains in Japan (while Europe and Japan are much more compact than the USA).

I've been sitting on about 8000ish Amtrak points for about a decade now (I think my last significant point increase was a transfer in from the long-gone-now Midwest Airlines), and I still haven't come up with a "non-wasting" use for them (so I do just what's necessary to keep from expiring, hoping that in another decade I might find some good use for them finally). Amtrak just doesn't seem to make any sense on most of the journeys I take (given that I'm based in SoCal, rather than along the Acela corridor). If Amtrak points worked on the Alaskan Railroad, then I'd definitely have a use -- Alaska is one of the very few places in the country where trains get you to places that no other transport can), but no, that's a completely independent system.
But the Alaskan Railraod is just another old fashioned touristy train that people ride on for fun, thus there is no rewards program for frequent riders of any kind (not to mention that the Alaskan Railroad's average speed is about half of Amtrak's slowest trains).
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Old Jun 23, 17, 6:02 pm
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I've found that with time and planning, you can get some got deals on European trains. I've subscribed to their alerts, Thalys, SNCF, and plan accordingly. Sometimes I can buy class 1 ticket for the same price as class 2 tickets. Recently did this on Thalys going from BRU to AMS for 29 EUR on 1st class. I second others comments on redeeming points/miles of other programs into train travel, you have to be careful as the conversion may not be in your favor.
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Old Jun 26, 17, 9:41 pm
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Originally Posted by sdsearch View Post
No, it wouldn't, not if it cost 100,000 points for a single train trip, and you could those same 100,000 points for a business class flight halfway around the world.

Ie, points/miles are only an "excellent use" if the value is good.

But for things they weren't designed for, the value is often quite poor.

Years ago, American Airlines let you tag on a regional German train trip for the same amount of miles as just flying to Germany. That was a good value.

But some airlines let you buy anything you want at the same poor value, and in that case I guess you could buy train trips, but it would the same relationship of miles/points to cash cost as if you bought soap or a TV with those miles/points.

So be careful what you wish for. Just the ability to redeem points/miles at an awful value for train trips, is that what you want? Or only if you can find the ability to redeem for train trips at a good value?

As I said, here in the US I have 8000ish Amrtrak points, and I haven't yet figured a value to use them for. Supposedly they could be used for up to 10 "special" train journeys, but the only places I've gone where I could have redeemed them I would have used most of them up on a cheap 20-minute train ride, and that certainly didn't make sense (so I just paid the small amount of cash, which btw was with a competing train company that was even cheaper than Amtrak). So that proves that not all methods of redeeming for train trips, even when they exist, are necessarily a good value.

But that does point you to something, just for completeness: Any points system (say, from a credit card) that lets you redeem for anything (at a cash equivalent value) lets you redeem for train tickets. I just don't know of that sort exists in Australia.
For 8000 points, you could definitely tour the entire California railway or almost do a one-way trip across the U.S...however, again, that would have to interest you, or be convenient, I guess. I actually use the Amtrak mall to acquire points so I can take our boys from KC to STL for quick trips, so it's handy for that.
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Old Jun 27, 17, 8:24 am
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Originally Posted by ffhound View Post
In particular I think it would be great to find a program that can convert points/miles into bullet train travel in Japan or into a Japan rail pass. That would be an excellent use of points/miles.
Do any of the Japanese airline programs have train awards?

If they have a native award (e.g. directly using their miles) for train travel, then it's possible that it's a decent use of the miles. You'd have to figure out how valuable the miles typically are for flights, what train tickets typically cost, etc.

But if it's a conversion out to a separate train program, it probably comes with a hefty loss in value. These things usually do, with a few limited (and mostly well-known around here) exceptions.
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Old Jul 13, 17, 4:12 am
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The Chinese train system isn't compatible with miles redemption. I think you may be able to buy a flight+train combination, where for example you fly into PVG/SHA and change to a train (make your own way to the train station, which would be at least 1 optimistic hour from PVG) to a smaller city in the vicinity on the same ticket. I've seen these advertised on signs, especially in SHA, but I don't think they're redeemable on miles. I've checked both MU (based in PVG/SHA) and CA (based in PEK) FFP websites, and neither offer the option of redeeming train tickets. It makes sense, since train tickets in China don't usually go on sale till 10-20 days before departure. TBH they're not all that expensive anyway, if you just want to come and buy a ticket to get a ride.
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