Amtrak Guest Rewards Program

Get "All Aboard" to Earn Points

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Amtrak Guest Rewards Program
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Roomy seats, quiet zones, electrical outlets and a safe, gentle ride overlooking some of America’s best city skylines and mountain vistas. With all of these perks, it’s no wonder so many passengers choose Amtrak for work and personal travel. Even better, the Amtrak Guest Rewards loyalty program makes it fast and easy to earn points toward hotel stays, rental cars, cruises, dining and retail. Here's what you need to know.

How to Earn Amtrak Rewards
As with frequent flier programs, you can earn points several ways. First and foremost is through Amtrak travel itself: Earn 2 points for every dollar you spend and 500 bonus points for your first trip within 90 days. Also earn 500 points when using the high-speed Acela Express train’s business class and 750 for first class (between qualifying city pairings). Or refer someone to Amtrak Guest Rewards and you’ll each receive 500 points when that friend takes a trip in the next 90 days.

Travelers can also earn points by spending with hundreds of program partners such as Hilton, Groupon, Hertz, Target and GAP, as well as through purchases using the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard from Chase. Joining the program is free, and you do not need to provide a credit card. You only have to give your membership number to the vendor when you make your purchase.

Amtrak Travel Points
You can begin traveling with as few as 1,500 points, which garner a coach-class ticket on “special” routes on trains such as the Blue Water, Cascades, Pacific Surfliner and Capitol Corridor. But most trips and upgrades begin around 5,000 points. Be aware that award travel is determined according to how many of Amtrak’s 3 geographical zones you will cross. Link your rewards program account to your regular Amtrak profile, and your rail travel points are added to your account automatically.

A basic rental car redemption starts at 6,000 points, while a 3-day cruise certificate with Carnival is 75,000 points. Amtrak’s helpful “Wish List” tool allows you to add rewards you like, then alerts you when you reach the necessary points. And, of course, the Amtrak Guest Rewards mobile app is also handy.

In addition to the standard Amtrak points, frequent travelers can also take advantage of 2 upgraded memberships, Select and Select Plus. Gain these levels after earning 5,000 or 10,000 points in a year, respectively. You’ll receive bonus discounts on Amtrak travel, unlimited lounge access, special offers, dedicated customer service and further discounts on multiple partners, such as double points on certain Hertz rentals.

Amtrak Partner Points
Unfortunately, despite the number of Amtrak partners, using your points can be a little confusing. The companies with which you earn Amtrak points may not accept point redemption, for one. For example, you cannot redeem Amtrak points for any airlines, but you can use United Airlines connections through Newark to earn points in general.

Ditto hotels and rental cars. While you can earn points via more than 16,000 major hotel properties, only certain chains offer redemption, and possibly only for Select or higher members, or for those using their Amtrak Chase MasterCard. Meanwhile, you can earn Amtrak points renting cars with Hertz, Budget and Enterprise, but apply them only to Hertz.

But here's the good news: Make some of these brands your regular choices and your point totals can be significant. You may also be able to transfer and convert Amtrak points into other loyalty programs, thereby qualifying you for their separate redemption offerings.

On the retail side, Amtrak’s extensive online shopping mall again presents dozens of major brands with which to earn some pretty solid points (for online purchases only). You might be surprised at some of the possibilities: 1-800-Petmeds gives 9 points per dollar spent; Dell Computers awards 4 points per dollar -- you could buy a laptop and earn a trip in the same keystroke!

Amtrak MasterCard Points
The Amtrak Guest Rewards Chase MasterCard may be the fastest way to earn points -- just opening and using one for the first time will give you 12,000 bonus points, enough for a free 1-zone coach-class roundtrip, or a free 1-way Acela business-class trip.

Then earn 2 points per dollar for Amtrak purchases, as well as a 5% rebate. You also get 1 point per dollar on all other purchases, and the points do not expire (regular Amtrak points expire after 36 months). “Double dip” with the card at Amtrak partners like Hilton and receive twice the points both for the card usage and the hotel booking.

Of course, as with any credit card, there are a host of rules, so read the fine print before signing on. Also be aware the interest rate on purchases begins at 15.24% APR.

One Final Point …
Amtrak allows you to buy additional points, share them with friends and family who are also Amtrak Guest Rewards members, and convert points/miles from other partners and loyalty programs.

You might be surprised where Amtrak can take you -- it serves more than 500 destinations on 300 trains a day, including New York, Chicago, Dallas and many stops in between. Got kids? Consider taking the auto train from Washington, DC, to Orlando for that Disney dream vacation. Enjoy a “roomette” as you ride the rails into Vancouver, British Columbia. 

Wherever you go, you won’t need to worry about baggage, space or computer connectivity. And Amtrak Guest Rewards points can get you there even faster.

About the Author

Laura Boswell is a Washington, DC-based journalist and essayist covering travel, sports, careers and relationships for outlets including ESPN.com, The Washington Post, AARP The Magazine and The Bob Edwards Show.