5 Things to Know About the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard

It earns decent rewards for Amtrak regulars, but its biggest selling point may be its lucrative perks — including a companion coupon — that can deliver big savings.

Funto OmojolaNovember 17, 2020
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Amtrak operates more than 300 commuter and passenger trains each day, across 46 states in the U.S. If you’re a frequent rider, be it for daily work trips or for longer adventures, the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® can help lower your fares and keep you on the right track.

Despite its $79 annual fee, the Bank of America®-issued card can earn Amtrak regulars decent rewards and plenty of lucrative side perks (including a companion coupon) that can easily make up for that fee.

But if you’re not hopping aboard frequently, it might take you a while to rack up a pile of points — in which case a general rewards credit card might make more sense.

Here are five things to know about the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard®.

1. It earns rewards on Amtrak and other spending

The Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® isn't a cash-back card. Rather, it earns Amtrak Guest Rewards points at the following rates:

  • 3 points per $1 spent on Amtrak travel, including onboard purchases.

  • 2 points per $1 on eligible non-Amtrak travel purchases, which includes airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, and commuter and passenger rails, among others.

  • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.

If you’re a frequent Amtrak passenger, the 3X category alone could help you pile up rewards easily. And the 2X category means that even much of your non-Amtrak-related travel spending will also be rewarded at an elevated rate.

But non-travel spending nets you just 1X back. Many other travel credit cards earn bonus rewards in everyday spending categories — such as groceries, dining or gas — that could help you amass points more quickly.

2. It offers a plethora of exclusive perks and benefits

The Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® offers more than just rewards for its $79 annual fee, including the following:

One-time perk

  • A single-visit Amtrak lounge pass, worth up to $25. This grants access to ClubAcela, Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge or Amtrak First Class Lounge. It covers the holder and one guest, or the holder's spouse/domestic partner and children younger than 21.

ongoing perks

  • A 20% rebate in the form of statement credit toward Amtrak food and drink purchases.

  • A 5% points rebate when you redeem points for Amtrak travel. (Redeem 100 points for an Amtrak ticket and you can expect to get 5 points back.)

Perks that renew annually

  • A companion coupon after opening an account and each year when you renew your card — a value of up to $300 when redeemed for Amtrak travel. This alone could offset the card’s $79 annual fee. Note that this works as a buy-one-get-one-free offer, meaning you must buy one full-priced rail ticket first. (The benefit comes as two one-way coupons; you and your companion must book and travel together.) Blackout dates apply.

  • A free one-class upgrade after opening an account and each year when your account is renewed. This is worth up to $150 when redeemed for Amtrak travel. Again, blackout dates apply.

  • 1,000 Tier Qualifying Points or TQPs, when you spend $5,000 in a calendar year, up to four times per year. If you have a certain number of TQPs, you can qualify for elite status, which can get you a 25% to 100% points bonus.

3. Redemption is flexible, but point values vary

Amtrak Guest Rewards points don’t expire and can be redeemed for a variety of options, including Amtrak travel, car rentals, hotels and gift cards.

Redemption for travel, which starts at 800 points, will get you the most value for your points. (And as noted above, when you redeem for Amtrak trips this way, you’ll get a 5% point rebate.) But the redemption process can be confusing because the value of your points will differ depending on what you redeem for and the amount of your redemption.

For example, based on a NerdWallet route simulation, a trip taken on a Northeast Regional train from New York to Washington, D.C., on an upcoming weekend would cost $128 for a coach seat and $183 if you ride business. This is equal to 4,480 and 6,405 points, respectively —  a redemption value of approximately 2.85 cents per point. That's an outstanding value. (Typically, you want to aim for a value of at least 1 cent per point.)

But on an Acela train, it's a bit different. Traveling the same route on the same day also costs $183 for a business class seat, but you would need 10,843 points to cover the price. This comes out to a redemption value of about 1.68 cents per point.

That's still quite good, still some serious savings. But it all depends on which type of train you take, how much your fare is, departure and arrival times, and the like. Because there's no fixed point valuation, you'll have to do some math to know what kind of deal you're getting.

When redeemed for other options, points will also have varying valuations. A $100 Disney gift card, for example, would cost you 12,000 points — a point value of around 0.83 cent apiece. Meanwhile, redeeming your points for a car rental might give you a value of 1 cent per point.

4. There's a sign-up bonus

The Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® offers a decent sign-up bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening.

That's certainly not bad and can definitely cover some Amtrak trips. But it's worth noting that many travel credit cards with comparable or slightly higher annual fees tend to feature higher sign-up offers.

There are even no-annual-fee travel credit cards that can yield similar value.

5. Amtrak offers a separate no-annual-fee rewards card

Amtrak offers another co-branded credit card, the $0-annual-fee Amtrak Guest Rewards® Platinum Mastercard®. It, too, is issued by Bank of America®, and it also earns rewards in the form of Amtrak Guest rewards points but at the following lower rates:

  • 2 points per $1 spent on Amtrak travel, including onboard purchases.

  • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.

  • A 10% rebate in the form of statement credit toward Amtrak food and drink purchases.

The card doesn't offer as many perks and benefits as the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® does, and it features a smaller sign-up bonus of 12,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening.

Information about the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Platinum Mastercard® and the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been provided or reviewed by the issuer of these cards.

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