Can I earn rewards on train travel?

5 min read

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. A lot of regular Amtrak commuters already know how to use Amtrak Guest Rewards to earn free trips, but you might not realize that adding the right credit card to your travel plans can make your train experience even more rewarding.

Here’s what you need to know about earning points on Amtrak, transferring points to your Amtrak Guest Rewards account and using travel credit cards to maximize your rewards.

To earn on train travel, look into travel card specifics

Many of the top travel credit cards reward train travel — but you have to pay attention to the fine print. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, for example, offers 3x points on travel and dining worldwide (after earning your $300 travel credit), which is why it’s one of our favorite cards for international travelers. When you read Chase’s Rewards Category FAQ, you learn that the travel category includes passenger trains — which means that you’ll be able to earn 3x points for every dollar you spend on train travel.

The Platinum Card® from American Express, on the other hand, reserves its highest rewards for flights and hotels. Although the Platinum Card is another one of our favorite luxury travel credit cards, you’ll only earn 5x Membership Rewards® points per dollar when you purchase flights directly through the airline or through American Express Travel and when you book prepaid hotels through the American Express Travel portal. This means that the Platinum Card might not be a good card for train aficionados — but it’s an excellent card for frequent flyers.

Join a railway rewards program

You’ll get more out of your travel rewards 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®. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent on Amtrak travel, plus a 25% point bonus if you travel business class and a 50% point bonus if you book an Acela first-class ticket. You can also earn Amtrak Guest Rewards points by booking hotels, car rentals, cruises and more.

Amtrak Guest Rewards points can be redeemed for Amtrak trips, with reward travel starting at just 800 points. Your points can also be redeemed for hotels, restaurants, entertainment and shopping — which makes the Amtrak Guest Rewards program versatile enough to handle whatever experiences come your way.

Earn Amtrak points with select programs

Once you’re an Amtrak Guest Rewards member, you’re going to want to earn as many Amtrak points as possible — which means you might want to consider transferring other travel loyalty program rewards into your Amtrak Guest Rewards account. Select loyalty programs, including Choice Privileges®, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards®, Hilton Honors and more, allow you to transfer points directly to Amtrak Guest Rewards.

Is the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® worth it?

If you frequently use Amtrak, you’re going to want to consider the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard®. Your points-earning power will be accelerated, and you’ll benefit from additional perks like an annual complimentary companion coupon and an annual complimentary one-class upgrade.

Here’s a quick rundown of what the card offers:

  • 3x points on Amtrak travel (including online purchases), 2x points on other qualifying travel, 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening
  • $79 annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

You’ll also earn a 5% point rebate when you book Amtrak reward travel and a 20% rebate (in the form of a statement credit) on onboard food and beverage purchases.

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 World Mastercard is well worth considering.

Skip the annual fee

If you like the idea of earning Amtrak Guest Rewards but you don’t like the idea of paying an annual fee, you might want to apply for the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Platinum Mastercard®. This no annual fee credit card offers the following benefits and perks:

  • 2x points on Amtrak travel (including online purchases), 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 12,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Plus, you’ll get a 5% point rebate when you book Amtrak reward travel and a 10% rebate (in the form of a statement credit) on onboard food and beverage purchases.

Additional credit card options for train travel

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • 2x points on travel and dining, 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening, worth $750 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $95 annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Editor’s take: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of our favorite travel cards, especially if you’re new to travel rewards. Any points you earn on the card are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards — and 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 hotel partners IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy™ and World of Hyatt® at a 1:1 ratio.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

  • 2x miles per dollar on every purchase
  • 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of account opening
  • $95 annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Editor’s take: We love the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card because of its flexibility. Earn an unlimited 2x miles on every purchase, then use Capital One’s Purchase Eraser to redeem your miles for statement credits towards travel purchases and non-travel purchases, like Amazon. You’ll be able to use your rewards whether you’re booking a train ticket or taking a taxi to the station, and you’ll continue to earn miles on every snack or souvenir you buy along the way. Frequent flyers will also appreciate the Capital One Venture Rewards’ up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

The information about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Citi Premier℠ Card

  • 3x points on air travel, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations; 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening, redeemable for $600 in gift cards at ThankYou.com
  • $95 annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Editor’s take: As of August 23, 2020, the Citi Premier Card will seriously boost its rewards and benefits. Previously, cardholders could only earn 3x ThankYou® points on travel (including gas stations); with the new point expansion, you’ll be able to earn 3x points on flights, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and gas. Use your points to shop online at Amazon or Best Buy, or visit ThankYou.com to redeem your points for gift cards. You’ll also receive an annual $100 hotel credit that can be used on a single hotel stay of $500 or more when booked through ThankYou.com — which means that after you book your next train trip, you can use your hotel credit to save money while you sleep well.

The information about theCiti Premier Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.