If you're thinking of an alternative to flying to your summer vacation spot, consider Amtrak. The railroad passenger company operates more than 300 trains daily to hundreds of destinations in the U.S. and Canada. There's a good chance an Amtrak station is located where you're headed.
If you're ready to climb aboard, here's everything you need to know about getting the most bang for your buck.
» Learn more: Review of the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard
Before you ride, join Amtrak Guest Rewards. Joining is free, and you'll get 500 bonus points when you take a trip within the first 90 days your account is open. You'll also earn 2 points for every dollar spent on Amtrak travel. If you prefer to travel business or first class on high-speed Acela trains, which operate in the Northeast, you'll get a 25% point bonus on the former and a 50% bonus on the latter.
Earn points through partners
You can also rack up Amtrak Guest Reward when you spend money at hotels, car rental companies and other retailers Amtrak has partnered with. A few examples:
Book a stay at one of Choice Hotel's more than 6,800 locations and you'll earn 250 Amtrak points.
Rent a car through Budget and you'll earn 50 Amtrak Guest Rewards points for every qualifying rental day.
Send your loved one some flowers using Teleflora and you'll add 750 Amtrak Guest Rewards points to your account.
Redeem points for trips
Once you have plenty of Amtrak Guest Rewards points stockpiled, get the most out of them by redeeming for Amtrak trips. Redemption rates vary by route, date and time, but you can save a ton if you combine your points with special promotions.
Parents, take note of Amtrak’s child discount, which allows infants under 2 to travel for free and additional children under 12 to travel for a 50% discount.
Travel when it's not as busy
You can often score a discount by planning your trips on less busy days. For example, Amtrak recently held a sale in which — as long as you traveled on Saturday — you could buy one ticket and get the next one free. A two-passenger Saturday ticket from New York to Boston was a mere $83.
Bring a friend or three
Amtrak wants you to bring some friends along for your summer vacation. Its Share Fare deal gets you a discount for every plus-one. Here's the breakdown:
Passenger 1: Full price.
Passenger 2: 15% off full price.
Passenger 3: 60% off full price.
Passenger 4: 70% off full price.
That's a lot of potential savings. Pick up the phone and call some people who not only appreciate the scenic appeal of Amtrak, but also love a good deal.
If you're taking Acela, book early
Acela trains, which operate between Washington, D.C., and Boston, offer large leather seats, fast Wi-Fi and luggage storage for up to four bags. While Acela travel typically costs more than other trains, you can score a discount if you simply plan your trip in advance. Book a ticket on the Acela a minimum of 7 to 21 days prior to your trip, and you'll get a 25% discount.
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 2021, 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
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best travel credit card for you Snag these hotel loyalty perks, even if you’re disloyal Earn more points and miles with these 6 strategies