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Trains are one of the most affordable and environmentally-friendly ways of getting from one place to another. Trains can also be one of the most comfortable and enjoyable methods of traveling, whether you’re getting work done on your laptop, watching the scenery or talking with your fellow passengers in the dining car.
If you haven’t experienced the fun of train travel before, now is the time to see whether there’s an Amtrak station in your area. And if you decide you like trains enough to incorporate them into your next vacation, you’re going to want to know how to earn rewards on train travel.
Here’s what you need to know about earning rewards on train travel, along with some of the best credit cards to consider for your next trip.
Use the right rewards credit card
Many of the top travel credit cards and top cash back credit cards reward train travel — but you’ll have to pay attention to the rewards categories offered (to make sure train travel is included) and any associated fine print.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers 3X points on general travel purchases, which includes passenger trains, as outlined on Chase’s Rewards Category FAQ page. That means that you’ll be able to earn points for every dollar you spend on train travel. However, you’ll have to earn the card’s $300 annual travel credit before you’re able to earn any rewards on travel purchases.
If you’re doing more than train travel, this is one of the best credit cards for international travelers. The card also offers 10X points on Lyft purchases (through March 2025), 10X points on Chase Dining purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 10X points on hotels and car rentals through Ultimate Rewards, 5X points on air travel through Ultimate Rewards, 3X points on restaurant purchases and 1X points on all other purchases. You’ll also get benefits like extensive travel insurance, Priority Pass lounge access and more. However, a $550 annual fee applies.
Then there’s the Citi Custom Cash® Card, which is worth considering if you’re looking for a flexible cash back card. This card comes with no annual fee and offers 5 percent cash back on your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (on up to $500 each billing cycle, then 1 percent back). Eligible spending categories you can earn 5 percent back on include select transit (including train travel), select travel, restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment.
However, the catch with the Citi Custom Cash is that you’ll need to track your spending in each category since you’ll only earn 5 percent back in your top eligible category. Additionally, the 5 percent back category is limited to $500 each billing cycle, after which you’ll earn 1 percent back.
Other rewards credit cards are more straightforward. For example, the Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card, which also comes with no annual fee, offers an unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit (including passenger railway travel), popular streaming services and phone plan purchases. You’ll also earn 1X points on all other purchases.
Join Amtrak Guest Rewards
You’ll get more out of your train travel if you join a railway rewards program. If you do most of your train travel in the United States, this means signing up for Amtrak Guest Rewards. As a member, you’ll earn 2X points per dollar spent on Amtrak travel, plus a 25 percent points bonus on business class travel and a 50 percent points bonus on Acela first class travel. You can also earn Amtrak Guest Rewards points with partner hotels, car rental agencies, cruise lines, retailers and more.
Amtrak Guest Rewards points can then be redeemed for Amtrak travel, with reward travel starting at just 800 points. Your points can also be redeemed for hotels, car rentals, restaurants, entertainment and shopping — which makes the Amtrak Guest Rewards program versatile enough to handle whatever experiences come your way.
If you’re a frequent Amtrak traveler, you’ll want to earn as many Amtrak Guest Rewards points as possible — which means you might want to consider transferring rewards from other loyalty programs to your Amtrak Guest Rewards account. Select loyalty programs — including Audience Rewards — allow you to transfer points directly to Amtrak Guest Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. Note that you may want to check Amtrak’s list of transfer partners occasionally as the list often changes.
Best credit cards for earning rewards on train travel
Amtrak Guest Rewards Preferred Mastercard: Best for Amtrak loyalists
If you frequently use Amtrak, you’re going to want to consider the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Preferred Mastercard®*. Your points-earning power will be accelerated thanks to this card’s 3X points on Amtrak travel (including onboard purchases); 2X points on dining, travel, transit and rideshares; and 1X points on all other purchases. For a welcome offer, you can earn 20,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first three billing cycles of account opening.
The Amtrak Guest Rewards Preferred card comes with a $99 annual fee, but you’ll get plenty of benefits in return. For instance, you’ll get a round-trip companion coupon, a station lounge pass and a one-class upgrade, all of which are offered upon account opening and each account anniversary. You’ll also earn a 20 percent rebate (in the form of a statement credit) on onboard food and beverage purchases, a 5 percent points rebate when you redeem your rewards for Amtrak travel, no foreign transaction fees and more.
However, if you only buy Amtrak tickets a few times a year, this might not be the best card for you — but if you’re a regular Amtrak traveler, the Amtrak Guest Rewards Preferred Mastercard is well worth considering.
Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard: Best for casual Amtrak travelers
If you like the idea of earning Amtrak Guest Rewards points but you don’t like the idea of paying an annual fee, you might want to consider the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Mastercard®*. This card offers 2X points on Amtrak travel (including onboard purchases), 2X points on dining and 1X points on all other purchases. It also comes with a welcome offer of 12,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 within the first three billing cycles of account opening.
Plus, this card comes with other benefits like no foreign transaction fees, a 5 percent points rebate when you redeem your points for Amtrak travel and a 10 percent rebate (in the form of a statement credit) on onboard food and beverage purchases.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best for flexible travel rewards
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the best travel cards around, especially if you’re new to travel rewards. It comes with a welcome offer of 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. You’ll also earn 5X points on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 31, 2025); 3X points on dining, select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs); 2X points on other travel (including train travel); and 1X points on all other purchases.
Note that the Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with a $95 annual fee. However, you’ll get notable benefits like no foreign transaction fees, up to $50 in statement credits each account anniversary year for hotels purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance and a trip delay reimbursement. Plus, any points you earn with the card are worth 25 percent more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Although you can’t book Amtrak tickets through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can use Chase Ultimate Rewards to book the hotel that awaits you at the end of your journey. You can also transfer points to Chase hotel partners like IHG One Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for flat-rate travel rewards
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a great option to consider if you’re looking for a flat-rate travel rewards card. It comes with a $95 annual fee, and it offers an unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, along with 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. You can then redeem your miles for statement credits toward eligible travel purchases made within the last 90 days, miles transfers to airline and hotel partners or gift cards or merchandise at a lower value.
As for a welcome offer, you can earn 75,000 miles after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening (equal to $750 in travel). Frequent flyers will also appreciate the up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, no foreign transaction fees and two free Capital One lounge visits per year.
Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card: Best for cash back
If you’d rather earn cash back rewards and not pay an annual fee, the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card is worth considering. With this card, you’ll earn 3 percent cash back on eligible category purchases of your choice (choose from gas & EV charging stations, online shopping (including Cable, Streaming, Internet, and Phone services), dining, travel, drugstores or home improvement). You’ll also earn 2 percent cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1 percent on all other purchases. Note that 3 percent and 2 percent categories are limited to $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter, after which you’ll earn 1 percent back. The travel category is broad, meaning you can earn 3 percent back on a wide variety of travel purchases, including train travel. Also, you can change your 3 percent category once per month as your spending needs change.
You’ll also get the chance to earn a welcome offer of $200 online cash rewards after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening. And if you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25 percent to 75 percent more rewards in each category depending on your membership level. That means your 3 percent category could instead earn 3.75 percent to 5.25 percent.
The information about the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card was last updated on August 22, 2023.
The bottom line
A lot of regular Amtrak commuters already know how to use Amtrak Guest Rewards to earn free trips, but using the right credit card — like one of the cards mentioned above — can make your next train experience even more rewarding.
For more travel tips & tricks, check out Bankrate’s travel toolkit.
*All information about the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Preferred Mastercard® and Amtrak Guest Rewards® Mastercard® has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.