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Amtrak can be a great option for travelers looking for convenient alternatives to flying. This national rail operator connects more than 500 destinations in the U.S. and Canada, offering everything from commuter routes to long-haul sleeper trains.
It has become more difficult to earn Amtrak Guest Rewards points in the past few years because programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards® have ended partnerships with Amtrak. However, for frequent train travelers and for families, this loyalty program can offer plenty of value, thanks to free trips for as few as 800 points and a 50% discount on paid fares and redemptions for kids ages 2 to 12 when traveling with an adult.
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Earning Amtrak points when you ride Amtrak
The Amtrak loyalty program is free to join. When you book your next Amtrak trip, simply provide your member number and you’ll start earning 2 points per $1 spent on Amtrak purchases. Purchases for business class travel will earn you a point bonus of 25%, and purchases for first class travel in the speedy Acela trains will garner a 50% point bonus.
The points get credited to your account after you complete your trip. If you take an Amtrak trip within 90 days of joining the program, you’ll get 500 bonus points.
Earning Amtrak points with a credit card
Amtrak offers two branded credit cards, the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard and the Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum Mastercard. Both cards can help you earn points for train rides and everyday purchases.
With the $79-annual-fee Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard, you’ll earn 3 points per $1 spent on Amtrak, 2 points per $1 on other qualifying travel purchases, and 1 point per $1 on everything else. The current sign-up bonus will add another 20,000 bonus points to your account if you spend more than $1,000 within the first 90 days of your account opening.
The card also comes with the opportunity to get a 5% points rebate when you redeem your points for Amtrak travel. If you spend at least $5,000 in purchases during the calendar year and renew your card, you can earn 1,000 Tier Qualifying Points toward elite status. There’s no limit to how many points you can earn, and the points don’t expire as long as your account is open.
The card also comes with a complimentary Companion Coupon and a One-Class Upgrade upon account opening and each year when you renew your card. When you open your account, you’ll also receive a one-time lounge access pass.
If you’re looking to avoid an annual fee, look into the Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum credit card instead. It has a simple earning structure. It earns 2 points per $1 spent on Amtrak purchases, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. The sign-up bonus is 12,000 points when you spend $1,000 on the card within the first 90 days of opening the account. Cardholders will still get the 5% points rebate when they book award Amtrak trips.
» Learn more: Review of the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard
» Learn more: NerdWallet’s best credit cards for transit spending
Earning Amtrak points through travel partners
Hotels: Earn Amtrak Guest Rewards points when you stay at Choice Hotels or Wyndham Resorts. Booking through RocketMiles or the Amtrak Hotels & Cars portal will also earn you points. See how much you can earn here.
Car rentals: Amtrak has partnerships that allow you to earn 50 points per day you rent a car from Budget, Hertz and Enterprise.
Air travel: When you fly United, take Amtrak to connect to or from Newark Liberty International Airport and either Philadelphia, Wilmington, Stamford or New Haven and earn Amtrak Guest Rewards points on the whole trip, including the flight.
Shopping: Like many travel loyalty programs, Amtrak has its own online shopping portal where members can earn extra points for making purchases at popular retailers like Target, Walmart, Home Depot and many others.
Buying additional Amtrak points
To supplement your points earnings, you can also buy points in increments of 500. The smallest bundle of 500 points will cost you $18.85. You can also buy points for family and friends. You may buy or receive up to 30,000 points in a calendar year. The exception is Select Executive members, who do not have a limit to the number of points they can purchase.
Amtrak also offers several promotions throughout the year that allow members to earn bonus points on points purchases.
Transferring points to Amtrak Guest Rewards
It's not generally the best value to do so, but if you’re just a few points short of a free Amtrak trip, you could transfer points from the rewards programs below:
The exchange rate varies by program, and some programs require transfers to be completed by phone.
Sharing Amtrak points with family and friends
Pooling points means faster rewards. Amtrak Guest Rewards lets you transfer up to 100,000 points per account in a calendar year with your family or friends.
Good redemption options
Using your points for Amtrak rides will generally deliver the best value. Redemption rates vary based on the time and route, so keep an eye out for “Saver Fares,” the lowest-cost option, or promotions like Double Days. Families can take advantage of the child discount, which allows one child per adult ticket to travel for half the number of points.
Amtrak Guest Rewards members might want to stock up points for premium experiences, like taking the family (and the family car) to Florida on the Auto Train or booking a bedroom for a sleeper train across the country. Splurging to take a fast Acela train is another option.
A unique redemption opportunity is to use points to buy multi-ride passes or lounge access.
Bad redemption options
Staying away from gift cards and other partner redemption options is generally a good idea with Amtrak Guest Rewards if you want to maximize the value of your points. For example, a $100 Disney gift card will cost you 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points while a $242 business-class ticket from Washington, D.C., to New York will only cost you 8,349 points.
Amtrak Guest Rewards tiers and benefits
To get even more out of your Amtrak Guest Rewards membership, you have to earn a certain number of Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) throughout a calendar year to qualify for elite status.
Select (5,000 TQPs)
Select Plus (10,000 TQPs)
Select Executive (20,000 TQPs)
Tier status point bonus on Amtrak travel
4, plus one with every 3,000 Tier Qualifying Points
Access to ClubAcela and Metropolitan Lounge
2 Single-Visit Passes
Access to United Club locations
How to earn Amtrak Guest Rewards elite status
You can only earn Amtrak Guest Rewards elite status by earning TQPs. You get 2 TQPs for each $1 spent on Amtrak travel, plus a 25% point bonus on business-class travel and a 50% points bonus on Acela first-class travel.
With the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard, you can earn 1,000 TQPs for every $5,000 you spend on your card during the year, up to 4,000 TQPs annually.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card