If you're an Amtrak Guest Rewards member, you probably already know that you can transfer Ultimate Rewards to Amtrak Guest Rewards on a 1:1 basis. It's a great deal in itself, since Amtrak offers first-class sleeper car accommodation (with meals) starting at 15,000 points -- for two people!
|1:1 transfer UR to Amtrak|
Amtrak Guest Rewards also has a couple of other great redemption options. One is for Hilton, which transfers 1:2. There are certainly deals to be had if you can now redeem Ultimate Rewards for Hilton points on a 1:2 basis. The other hotel transfer option is to Choice Hotels, on a 1:3 basis. Again, this is a great deal if you like to stay at Comfort Suites, Clarion, etc., since Choice redemptions start at only 6000 points. You can literally stay at the top-rated hotel in Cork, Ireland (the brand new Clarion Cork) for only 8000 points. That's only 2,667 Ultimate Rewards Points!
|HHonors is good, but Choice Hotels is an even better transfer!|
But, if you're like me, you like to use your points for more "aspirational" properties, and that's where Choice Hotels' partnership with Preferred Hotel Group comes in.
|Choice Hotels partnership w/ Preferred Hotel Group|
The Preferred Hotel Group redemptions start at 30,000 Choice Privileges points and go up to 60,000. You need to book through the phone, and many phone agents aren't very familiar with the program. The program was devalued quite a bit at the beginning of 2013, and a new tier was added, but there are still plenty of deals to be had. I did some test bookings for a one night stay on an upcoming Saturday night, March 2.
We stayed at the Travaasa near Austin last year when it was still 30k. Now it's 40k, but still a stellar deal.
|40k Choice points|
The Travaasa offers complementary activities such as horse training, archery, and yoga. Typically, you'd have to pay $482 ($450 + tax). Or you could get the same room for 13,333 UR points. That's 3.6 cents per point! And, if you join the "I Prefer" loyalty program before booking, you'll probably get an upgrade and free breakfast, too.
Going to New York? How about a night at the top-ranked Sherry Netherland boutique hotel?
|60k Choice points|
Yes, it's 60k (or 20,000 UR points), which is pretty steep. However, you're getting a $684 ($575 + tax) hotel room. Calculated out, you're getting 3.4 cents per point!
One last example, this time in Hawaii. For 40k (or 13,333 UR points), you can book the Waikiki Parc Hotel. In March, it goes for $370 ($325+tax). That's 2.8 cents per point!
|40k Choice points|
In summary, there are some incredible redemptions available by transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak and Choice Privileges. Using Choice Hotels' partnership with Preferred Hotel Group, you can easily get 3+ cents per point when you redeem Ultimate Rewards points for luxury hotels. And, you can still get perks from the Preferred Hotel Group "I Prefer" loyalty program just for signing up.
Don't forget, to transfer points through Amtrak Guest Rewards you need at least $200 Amtrak travel spend on their annual fee-free credit card, or Amtrak elite status. And, many of the transfers discussed take a week or two, so leave yourself a bit of extra time before your trip.