The best credit cards to use for train travel

Aug 19, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Both in an effort to reduce our collective carbon footprints and simply eliminate some of the hassles that can come with air travel on shorter trips, taking the train can often make a ton of sense.

And while the best credit card for air travel gets a lot of ink around here, choosing the best credit card for booking a train trip is equally relevant. On the list of best cards for train travel, you’ll find some usual suspects that are often top dogs in the world of travel rewards, but the train sphere has some unique players, too.

Want more credit card news and advice? Sign up for TPG’s daily newsletter!

One obvious unique player in the world of co-branded train credit cards is the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® — and it just got a massive upgrade.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, Amtrak is now offering a whopping 50,000 points after making at least $2,500 in purchases within the first 90 days. You’ll need to spend more to trigger the bonus, but this new offer can get you well over $1,250 in travel (according to TPG’s valuations).

Beyond the incredible sign-up bonus, you’ll also enjoy lucrative perks when you open your account and when you renew your card every anniversary, including an annual companion coupon (worth up to $300 in Amtrak travel) and an annual upgrade coupon (worth up to $150 in Amtrak travel). You’ll receive all of these great Amtrak perks for a (more than) reasonable $79 annual fee.

While 50,000 points might not sound especially impressive with so many cards offering 100k or more, Amtrak’s bonus can take you pretty far. We value the U.S. rail provider’s points through Amtrak’s Guest Rewards program at 2.5 cents apiece.

There’s also the no-annual-fee Amtrak Guest Rewards® Platinum Mastercard®, offering 12,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening. This card earns 2x on Amtrak travel, 1x on all other purchases and a 10% on-board rebate.

The information for the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard and Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Of course, an Amtrak Guest Rewards card isn’t the only game in town when it comes to earning points for train travel. Here is how it compares to some other great options for travelers exploring the world by rail:

Best cards for train travel

Card Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Chase Sapphire Preferred Card American Express® Green Card
Annual fee $79 $95 $95 $150
(See Rates & Fees)
Earning rates 3x points on Amtrak travel, 2x on other travel and 1x on everything else 2x miles on everyday spending 5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out; 3x points on select streaming services; 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs); 2x points on all other travel purchases; 1x points on all other purchases 3x points on travel and dining, 1x on everything else
Sign-up bonus 50,000 points after making at least $2,500 in purchases within the first 90 days (through Sept. 30, 2021) 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. 100,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening 30,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months
TPG points value* 2.5 cents 1.7 cents 2 cents 2 cents
Benefits One free station lounge pass per year; annual companion, upgrade coupons; and 5% rebate when booking Amtrak travel with points Transfer miles to airline partners; up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Transfer points to 10 airline/3 hotel partners; travel insurance and purchase protection Transfer points to Amex Membership Rewards partners, $100 statement credit annual toward CLEAR

*Bonus valuation based on TPG valuations and not provided by the issuer.

The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bottom line

If you regularly travel on Amtrak, one of its cobranded cards in your wallet is a smart choice.

The 3x points earned on Amtrak travel and 2x points on a very generous definition of travel, along with the train-related perks that come with the card, make the World Mastercard a smart choice for riding the rails. While other cards can match the 3x earning, Amtrak points are worth more than many other types of points. This means that earning 3 points off those points per dollar will have a greater return than earning 3x on the American Express® Green Card. (Based on current TPG valuations).

That said, to realize that increased value, you’ll need to redeem the points on Amtrak travel (although you can also redeem them for hotels, car rentals, cruises, dining, entertainment and gift cards). If you are worried about lengthy delays or cancellations, factoring in various card’s built-in trip protections when booking your train ticket may also be wise.

So, for frequent Amtrak travelers, it makes sense to have and use the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® , especially when booking train trips. However, using an all-around top travel card with more flexible rewards is likely a good call for those who aren’t frequent Amtrak riders.

Featured photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, please click here.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.