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How To Earn Amtrak Guest Rewards Elite Status (And Is It Worth It?)

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James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in...
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The Amtrak Guest Rewards program is Amtrak’s loyalty program for riding trains across the U.S.

While many people tend to remember programs associated with airlines, hotels, and car rental programs, Amtrak has a somewhat robust loyalty scheme with several elite tiers and ways to earn points.

In this post, we will look at the Amtrak Guest Rewards program, how to earn points, how to earn elite status, and how to spend points, allowing you to be better equipped to ride the rails across the country.

How To Earn Amtrak Guest Rewards Points

The primary way to earn Amtrak Guest Rewards points is actually to travel on Amtrak trains — and the earning structure is relatively simple to understand. When you earn Amtrak points, you earn both redeemable points (the points you can redeem towards free train travel) and Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs; the points you use to earn elite status) simultaneously.

  • For every $1 you spend on Amtrak travel, you earn 2 Amtrak Guest Rewards points
  • If you travel in business class, you’ll earn a 25% point bonus
  • If you travel in Acela first class, you’ll earn a 50% point bonus

If you travel in a sleeper car, you will not earn any point bonus aside from the 2x points per $1 spent.

Hot Tip: Don’t purchase a sleeper car cabin to earn any points — you won’t earn anything additional for traveling in a room.

According to an example provided by Amtrak:

  • A $100 Amtrak ticket would earn you 200 Amtrak Guest Rewards points, which is 200 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs)
  • A $100 business class ticket would earn 2x the TQPs + a 25% point bonus, which is 250 redeemable Amtrak points (which is the same as 250 TQPs)
  • A $100 Acela first-class ticket would earn 2x the TQPs + a 50% point bonus, which is 300 redeemable points (the same as 300 TQPs)

We’ll talk more about elite status later, but it’s worth noting that when you earn Amtrak points, you’re earning both elite qualifying points and points you can redeem toward free items simultaneously.

Bottom Line: The quickest way to earn Amtrak elite status is to purchase an Acela first class ticket — this earns the most points out of any ticket in the Amtrak system.

Amtrak Southwest Chief
Amtrak operates routes nationwide, including short-distance services, commuter rail trains, and long-distance journeys. Image Credit: Amtrak

Amtrak Guest Rewards Credit Cards

Amtrak has 2 versions of credit cards that earn points in the Amtrak Guest Rewards program: the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Preferred Mastercard® and the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Mastercard®.

The Amtrak Guest Rewards Preferred card comes with these benefits for a $99 annual fee:

  • 20,000 bonus points after making at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 billing cycles of account opening
  • 3x points on Amtrak travel
  • 2x points on all other dining, travel, transit, and rideshares
  • 1x points on all other purchases
  • 20% rebate on onboard food and beverage purchases
  • Complimentary companion coupon
  • Complimentary 1-class upgrade
  • Complimentary station lounge pass
  • Ability to earn 1,000 TQPs for every $5,000 spent
  • No points expiration
  • A 5% rebate on all redeemed Amtrak points when redeemed for Amtrak travel
  • No foreign transaction fees

The Amtrak Guest Rewards card comes with these benefits for no fee:

  • 2x points on Amtrak travel
  • 2x points on dining
  • 1x points earned on all other purchases
  • 10% rebate onboard board food and beverage purchases
  • No points expiration
  • 5% rebate on redeemed Amtrak Guest Rewards points
  • No foreign transaction fees

With either card you choose, you’re earning more Amtrak Guest Rewards points to help you redeem towards free Amtrak travel.

How To Earn Amtrak Guest Rewards Elite Status

Amtrak has 3 tiers in its elite status program: Select, Select Plus, and Select Executive, each with different benefits as you progress up the ranks.

You can earn each status level as follows:

  • Select — 5,000 TQPs ($2,500 in Amtrak spend without bonuses)
  • Select Plus — 10,000 TQPs ($5,000 in Amtrak spend without bonuses)
  • Select Executive — 20,000 TQPs ($10,000 in Amtrak spend without bonuses)
Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge NYC General Seating
Having lounge access is one of the most valuable benefits of the upper Amtrak tiers. Image Credit: James Larounis

Benefits of Each Amtrak Guest Rewards Elite Status Level

These are the benefits of earning status, according to Amtrak:

SCROLL FOR MORE
Points EarningMember

 

up to 4,999 TQPs

Select

 

5,000 TQPs

Select Plus

 

10,000 TQPs

Select Executive

 

20,000 TQPs

2 points per $1 on Amtrak travel
25% point bonus on business class travel
25% point bonus on Acela business class travel
50% point bonus on Acela first-class travel
Point-earning offers from partners
Tier status point bonus on Amtrak travel__25%50%100%

Coupons & Upgrades

MemberSelectSelect PlusSelect Executive
1-class upgrades__244, plus 1 with every 3,000 TQPs
Companion coupons____22
Auto Train priority vehicle offloading coupon______1
10% discount coupons__222

Special Access

MemberSelectSelect PlusSelect Executive
Access to Amtrak Lounges__2 single-visit passes
Priority call handling__
Exclusive offers__
Auto-registration for promotions______

Managing Points

MemberSelectSelect PlusSelect Executive
Buying pointsUp to 50,000UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Sharing pointsUp to 100,000Up to 100,000Up to 100,000Unlimited
Transferring points from your account__Up to 50,000Up to 50,000Unlimited

Bottom Line: For most people, Amtrak Select status is a great status to attain — it comes with discount coupons and upgrade vouchers. Unlike airline status, earning Amtrak status is, in most cases, not something you should spend the money on unless you live within the Northeast Corridor.

Is Amtrak Guest Rewards Elite Status Worth It?

Amtrak Silver Meteor With Attendant
The more points you accumulate, the easier it is to secure a room on a long-distance train. Image Credit: James Larounis

It’s not necessarily worth “chasing” Amtrak status, but certainly, if you’re close enough or travel Amtrak often enough, it can be helpful to keep track of your TQPs and aim to earn status. Remember that it’s much easier to earn status on the 2 coasts — within the Northeast Corridor and along the Pacific Surfliner route. Fares here are usually higher, the trips shorter, and the trains much more frequent than either long-distance services or trains in the Midwest.

The most significant benefits of Amtrak’s elite status are:

  • Tier status point bonuses, which count towards the renewal of status
    • The higher you work your way up the Amtrak ranks, the easier it is to earn status in the future
  • 1-class upgrades, which allow you to go from coach to business or business to first class (on the Acela)
    • The most valuable use of these coupons is on the Acela, upgrading from business to first class
  • Companion coupons, which allow you to take a companion for free
    • Use these coupons on especially expensive trains, such as ultra-long-distance rides
  • Lounge access or lounge access coupons
    • Depending on how much you ride Amtrak and don’t otherwise have access, you’ll find Amtrak lounges a quiet place to wait for your train

Redeeming Amtrak Guest Rewards Points

Amtrak points can be redeemed for several non-Amtrak travel-related awards, like travel, dining and entertainment, and retail gift cards, though you’ll likely get the most value when using your points on train tickets.

The most valuable way to redeem Amtrak points is for Amtrak travel itself. Unfortunately, Amtrak uses a variable revenue-based system, tied to the cash cost of the ticket, for determining how many points are required on a journey.

You can use your points on coach class, business class, first class (on Acela), Roomettes, Bedrooms, and other sleeping accommodations, as well as for the Auto Train. When you search for Amtrak tickets online, you’ll see the cash cost of your ticket.

Remember that the number of points you need will vary depending on the train you’re taking and the time of year. It will cost you more points during peak travel times because the cash fares on trains are higher. While you may get the cheapest redemption by using your points for coach class seating, consider using your points, where you can, on sleeper accommodations — these are often the most expensive seats on the train and come with the highest price tag, not to mention they are the most comfortable.

Final Thoughts

While Amtrak offers a loyalty program for train travel, it certainly isn’t as robust as airline loyalty programs, offering minimal benefits. It can be hard to earn Amtrak status — with some Amtrak journeys between even close city pairs taking many hours, Amtrak is often thought of as a secondary to air transportation, so you’ll have to be committed to train travel if you want to work your way up the elite ranks or earn enough points for a free ticket.

If you’re a regular Amtrak commuter or prefer watching the country go by as you ride the rails over longer distances, the Amtrak Guest Rewards program can provide some incentive to work towards free Amtrak trips, upgrades, status, and more.


The information regarding the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Preferred Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many Amtrak points do you need for a free trip?

The amount of Amtrak points you need for a free trip varies depending on the train, the class of service you want to sit in, and the cash price of the journey. Amtrak’s loyalty program is a revenue-based program where the amount of points needed for a trip fluctuates based on the cost of the trip.

Do Amtrak Guest Rewards points expire?

Amtrak Guest Rewards points expire after 24 months of inactivity. Traveling on an Amtrak train will renew the expiration of your points, as will spending on an Amtrak co-branded credit card.

How do I add my Amtrak Guest Rewards number?

You can add your Amtrak Guest Rewards number by calling 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245). An Amtrak agent can add your number to your itinerary so you can get credit for your journey.

How do I use Amtrak points to buy tickets?

Most Amtrak trips can be purchased online at amtrak.com. From there, you can type in your departure city, destination, and choose the train you wish to take. You’ll see the number of points required, and can book your trip from there when you enter the passenger details.

James Larounis's image

About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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