Amtrak Credit Card Review

Amtrak Credit Card Review

Who Is the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard Good For?

Whether you’re planning a dream trip along the scenic California coastline or you’re a commuter in the busy Northeast Corridor, you should consider getting the premium Amtrak rewards credit card. It has some great perks, including a companion ticket, a lounge pass and a free ticket upgrade.

Bank of America has two Amtrak Guest Rewards credit cards: The Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard and the Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum MasterCard. The World card is the premium offering in the lineup, with several exclusive perks and better bonus earning categories.

With the World MasterCard, you’ll earn three points per dollar spent with Amtrak, two points per dollar on travel purchases and one point on all other purchases. The Platinum MasterCard only offers double points for Amtrak purchases and one point for everything else.

The Amtrak World card has a $79 annual fee that is not waived for the first year, but cardholders get a complimentary companion ticket annually that can more than make up for the cost. You can use the companion ticket with most full fares, including both round-trip and one-way tickets. It’s valid for economy and business class aboard standard trains and for business and first on Amtrak’s high speed Acela trains. It cannot be used for sleeper cars.

A free annual class upgrade is also included with the World card. While sleeper cars are excluded, it can still make a long trip much more comfortable.

Bank of America has two Amtrak Guest Rewards credit cards: The Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard and the Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum MasterCard.

The premium Amtrak Rewards card comes with a better sign-up bonus, too. You’ll get 20,000 points instead of the 12,000 points offered with the Platinum card. You’ll also get a one-time pass to an Amtrak lounge with the World card, including ClubAcela, Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge or first class lounges.

Unlike the Platinum card, the premium Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard allows you to earn Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) that count toward elite status. You’ll get 1,000 TQPs for every $5,000 you spend in a year. You can earn up to 4,000 TQPs with the Amtrak card per year. That’s nearly enough for Select status, which comes with class upgrades, lounge passes and more.

If you have either of the Amtrak Guest Rewards cards, you’ll get a 5 percent rebate for Amtrak redemptions. That might not sound like much, but it can add up, making your Amtrak points even more valuable.

TRANSFER PARTNER
ANNUAL FEE

$79

APR

13.24% to 23.24%, based on creditworthiness

RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE

700+

TYPE OF CARD

MasterCard

ISSUER

Bank of America

Sign-Up Bonus:

The Amtrak MasterCard comes with a 20,000-point sign-up bonus. You have to spend just $1,000 in the first three months to get the bonus.

Points Earned:

  • 3 points per dollar spent with Amtrak
  • 2 points per dollar for other travel purchases
  • 1 point per dollar for all other purchases

What Do Your Points Get You?

Amtrak’s reward program switched to a revenue-based system in 2015. That means you now earn points based on how much your ticket costs, not the distance traveled.

While in theory it’s true that award tickets are also based on the cash price, the reality is a bit more complicated. Trains departing at peak times cost more, as do award seats on those trains. The catch is that cash ticket prices are based on four fare levels, but award ticket prices are based on one.

For economy cash tickets, the Saver fare level is the cheapest, followed by Value, Flexible and Premium levels. The cost of award tickets, on the other hand, is based on the Value level cash price.

In short, you’ll get less value for your points if you buy an award ticket when there’s a Saver level ticket still available. So save your points for busy times without any Saver level availability or for last minute bookings.

Amtrak credit card sign-up bonus
The Amtrak MasterCard comes with a 20,000-point sign-up bonus

Usage Perks:

  • Annual companion ticket
  • Complimentary lounge pass
  • Free annual ticket upgrade
  • 5% points back for Amtrak redemptions
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Points don’t expire
  • Ability to earn points toward elite status

Usage Quirks:

  • Annual fee is not waived for the first year
  • Small sign-up bonus
  • No transfer partners
  • 3% balance transfer fee

How Far Do Your Points Go?

Since the cost of award tickets are based on the price of the Value fare, you’ll get the same 2.89 cents per point for any route unless the cheapest Saver level fare is available.

For example, a next-day ticket from New York to Boston costs $77 off peak. An award ticket on the same train is 2,657 points. That’s a value of 2.89 cents per point.

If you book the same trip about a week out, Saver level off-peak tickets are available for $59 with the same award redemption of 2,657 points. That still gives you a decent value of 2.22 cents per point, but it’s notably less than the nearly 3 cents you’d be getting for the last minute booking.

Additional Cardholder Benefits

  • $0 Liability Guarantee
  • ShopSafe online shopping protection
  • Free monthly FICO score
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Roadside assistance