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3 easy way to save money on Amtrak tickets

Dec. 29, 2021
5 min read
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Love it or hate it, Amtrak can offer a convenient alternative to flying, especially if you don’t want to take to the skies right now.

Amtrak operates most medium- and long-haul passenger trains in the United States, which means it can generally charge what it wants for fares. And if you’ve ever taken the train, you know some tickets can be as expensive as a commercial flight.

But if you’re a savvy train traveler, there are ways to save a significant amount of money on your ticket. Here are three easy ways to save money on your next Amtrak ride.

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Become a member of the Rail Passengers Association

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

For just $6 a month, I have access to discounted Amtrak tickets as a member of the Rail Passengers Association. It’s a program I hadn’t heard of until 2019 when I remarked to a colleague how often I rode Amtrak. I quickly discovered how beneficial the program was when I signed up and started to save money on sometimes expensive Amtrak tickets between New York City and Washington, D.C.

Members save 10% on Amtrak tickets and up to 20% off select regional railways, which doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but the savings can add up.

If you’re interested in joining the Rail Passengers Association, membership starts at just $5 monthly (or $50 annually) for a student or senior membership or $6 ($60 annually) for an individual membership. Once you’re a member, you have to add your membership number to your Amtrak account to start receiving the savings.

Book your trip weeks in advance

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Amtrak isn’t a company where you can typically find last-minute savings. In fact, during a recent Thanksgiving trip between my home in New York and Washington, I briefly considered extending my stay an extra day before checking Amtrak and discovering the cheapest ticket was over $200.

The company’s website even encourages travelers to book their tickets in advance and offers an incentive to do so. Travelers who book Saver fares in advance can save up to 20% versus the standard coach fare when booked at least seven days before your trip.

Some examples of this deal include one-way tickets from Atlanta to New Orleans for just $39 and New York to Chicago for $90.

This ongoing deal is available on several routes, including the California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Empire Builder, Lake Shore Limited, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, Auto Train, Blue Water, Pere Marquette, Wolverine, Lincoln Service, Saluki, Illini, Carl Sandburg and Illinois Zephyr.

Have an Amtrak credit card

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

While holding an Amtrak credit card doesn’t get you discounted tickets, it does come with some perks that can potentially offset a pricey train fare if you’re a frequent rider.

Amtrak offers two cobranded credit cards: the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Preferred Mastercard® and the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Mastercard®. Both cards offer decent welcome bonuses, but I want to focus on some of the benefits of the Preferred card.

The information for the Amtrak Guest Rewards Preferred card and Amtrak Guest Rewards 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.

The Amtrak Guest Rewards Preferred card earns 3 points per $1 spent on Amtrak travel (including onboard purchases), 2 points on all travel, dining, transit and rideshare purchases and 1 point everywhere else. Cardholders also receive a 20% rebate on onboard purchases, a complimentary companion coupon at account opening and each year you renew your card, a lounge pass on account opening and at each account anniversary and a one-class upgrade on account opening and each account anniversary. Cardholders also can earn 1,000 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) for every $5,000 spent per calendar year (up to four times).

Possibly the most valuable perk, however, is the one-class upgrade, which can be used to upgrade a coach seat to a business-class seat. Perhaps the best way to use it is to upgrade from Acela business class seat to Acela first class.

Amtrak frequently offers promotions on Acela, where you can get tickets on specific routes for as low as $39 one-way in business class. However, Acela first class is notoriously pricey and can cost as much as $500, depending on your route and travel date. But you can really maximize your business-class purchase by applying a one-class upgrade, which gets you lounge access, a hot meal, a car attendant and seating in a 1-2 configuration.

Train travel in the U.S. pales compared to Europe and Asia, but Acela first class can be a delightful journey if you can use the upgrade.

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

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
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  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023