Printing Amtrak Tickets
Printing Amtrak Tickets

Printing Out Amtrak Tickets: Do you need to do it?

Printing out Amtrak tickets is not required, but there are several reasons why you might want to do so. This article explains why you may print your tickets and provides information on how and where to do so. While going paper-free is possible, having a physical ticket can be convenient.

This article will provide various options based on my years of experience. I will cover when I choose to print and when I choose not to print.

Do you need to print out Amtrak tickets?

The short answer is no; printing out Amtrak tickets is unnecessary because Amtrak conductors can scan tickets from your phone or other electronic device. The most important thing is having a ticket ready, in whatever form, when approaching the train and having it prepared until they scan it.

When do you receive tour Amtrak tickets?

Unlike airlines, you get your tickets when you complete your reservations, or you will get your printed ticket right away from a ticket machine or at a staffed station.

How does Amtrak send you tickets?

The ticket counter at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.
The ticket counter at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

Where you make your Amtrak reservation determines whether you automatically get a paper ticket or if you get it emailed to you that you can print out.

You will leave the station with a paper ticket if you purchase it at a staffed station or from a Quick-Trak machine. They look like an airline boarding pass.

If you order them online or by phone, Amtrak emails you a PDF file you can print. Often, they will appear in the Amtrak app. You can add it to that app if it does not automatically appear.

Do Amtrak tickets have cash value?

Years ago, all transportation tickets had cash value, but in most cases, these days, things have changed for the good. These days, paper tickets do not hold cash value.

So, if you leave your tickets at home, you will usually not run out of cash. You can reprint them at the station, use the app, or email them.

When Printing Out Your Amtrak Tickets, Make Sense

The Silver Star in the Tampa, Fl Station with passengers boarding and detraining.
The Silver Star is in Tampa, FL. Station.

Printing your tickets makes sense if you feel more comfortable with a paper ticket. There are a few other reasons why printing them can make sense.

If your adventure has transfers, business class, checking luggage, or room accommodations, it may make sense to print your tickets out.

Printing things out may be easier if you plan to check bags.

When you check in your bags, agents may give you a claim check that they staple to a ticket. A paper ticket makes it easier to find. Some will automatically print tickets in this case.

Passengers with a room can use lounges, and it is easier to show the agent a paper ticket than your phone. Also, seeing room information for long-distance trains during boarding may be more manageable.

If you have business class, you may need to show your ticket to the cafe car attendant for complimentary beverages. Plus, it does make it easier for conductors to see your accommodation.

Is your phone always dying? If your phone is unreliable or you are not good at charging it, it may make sense to print them out. That way, the conductors can scan your ticket and not have to wait for your phone to charge when you get on the train.

When Printing Out Amtrak Tickets Might Be Overkill

For some trips, taking the Hiawatha from Sturtevant to Milwaukee or Chicago, for example, may not be worth printing out that ticket. Especially when taking the Hiawatha from Sturtevant Depot to the Milwaukee Airport, a 13-minute ride, printing one out could be overkill.

If you buy your ticket last minute, as in ten minutes before it comes, you may not have time to print or have one available; it is not worth worrying about.

Should I Print Tickets For Everyone On The Reservation?

Technically, no, that is up to you. If you only print one ticket out, ensure everyone else has one, at least electronically, just in case. While Amtrak tries to keep groups together, sometimes it is impossible, so if you are not together, it makes things easier if everyone has one in whatever form.

Printing Out Amtrak Tickets: How To Do It

You can print out tickets from your home or at many Amtrak stations.

Printing Out Amtrak Tickets At Home

Amtrak ticket
An example of an Amtrak Ticket

If you want to print your tickets at home, open the email from Amtrak and the attached PDF file; you can print it there. These tickets are full sheets of paper with additional travel info.

When printing from home, use white or colored paper. Dark colors may make it harder to scan tickets, so when printing, ensure the bar code is easily readable so the scanner can pick it up.

Some travelers use different colors for each section of their travels to keep themselves organized. This is an excellent idea for some travelers.

A Kev travel hack: Get a plastic folder with flaps to keep your paper in if it gets dropped and a pouch for smaller-sized tickets or transportation cards. A travel folder not only keeps you organized but makes it easier to find your tickets. I like the flaps on the top so everything does not fall out if it gets dropped. I like the clear pocket for storing boarding pass-style and transit cards for places I return to.

Printing Out Amtrak Tickets At A Station

Quik-Trak Ticket Machine
Amtrak’s New Quik-Trak Ticket Machine

A station agent can print them out if you go to a staffed station; at some stations, a lounge attendant may also be able to print them.

Many people are unaware that besides making reservations, the Quik-Trak machine can print your tickets.

To print tickets from this machine, swipe the credit/debit card you used to make the reservation or scan the barcode on your phone or paper ticket. Once you do that, the machine asks if you want to print. Follow the prompts to get your tickets in a few seconds.

Side note: If you plan to purchase tickets using the machine, be aware that they only take cards.

Tickets from stations, whether from an agent or machine, work great for travel because they are smaller, can be folded and slid into a pocket, and are more durable than printer paper.

Alternative Ways Of Printing Out Amtrak Tickets

While working on this article, I learned a few things. According to Amtrak.com, you can receive your Amtrak tickets by mail or pick them up on the train. Be aware that these methods have restrictions and may not always be available.

The following section is primarily verbatim from the Amtrak website, with some light editing. Check the current terms and conditions if you are interested in one of these options.

Amtrak Tickets By Mail

Amtrak will mail tickets to U.S. and Canadian addresses for no additional fee unless you have booked a reservation for which you have not received an eTicket.

For tickets sent by mail to most addresses within the continental U.S., you must purchase your tickets at least nine days before your departure date. For tickets sent by mail to addresses in Alaska, Hawaii, and most addresses within Canada, you must purchase your tickets at least 15 days before travel.

The Ticket by Mail service is not available to locations outside of the U.S. and Canada, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or any other U.S. territory or possession, as well as APO/AFO addresses.

Express Delivery

In certain circumstances, you may request that your tickets get delivered by express delivery for an additional fee.

Amtrak Ticket lift
Amtrak conductor “lifting” an eTicket. (Photo BY: James Taylor and courteous from Amtrak)

To be eligible for express delivery, you must make your reservations at least four days before travel for U.S. delivery and at least six days for Canadian delivery. This option is available only for continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, and Canadian addresses. Delivery to P.O. boxes is not available. Deliveries are made Monday through Friday only, and someone must sign for the delivery.

Special considerations for short-notice travel from unstaffed stations:

  • If you depart from an unstaffed station and purchase your tickets within ten days of your departure date, you must select the express delivery option. An express delivery fee applies.
  • If you are departing from an unstaffed station and you are purchasing your tickets within four days of your departure date, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245) and speak with a reservations sales agent to determine what alternative ticketing option may be available to you.

Picking Up Paid Tickets Onboard

The Amtrak Hiawatha in Sturtevant, WI
The Amtrak Hiawatha pulling into Sturtevant, WI

You can only pick up your tickets from a conductor in limited circumstances.

For example, when you pay for your tickets before travel, your departure station is closed at departure time, and no other delivery option exists.

Amtrak’s online booking system will determine your eligibility for onboard pick-up based on your itinerary. If you are eligible, you can choose to pick up your tickets onboard during the booking process. When making reservations by phone, your agent will tell you whether you are eligible for this service.

If you decide not to print out your Amtrak tickets, here’s what you can do.

You should have a smart device to access your tickets instead of printing them. There are no workarounds for this. In some cases, using your computer is possible, but it is often too bulky and could put your computer at risk of damage if dropped.

Here are a few ideas to help you go paperless; I often do more than one of these ideas to ensure I have more than one way to access my tickets, just in case I don’t have Wi-fi or cell service.

Amtrak App

Smartphones are optimal due to their size and consistent internet access, essential for using the Amtrak app. The app facilitates paperless ticket management.

Alternatives to the Amtrak app

One thing that saves time is putting your tickets in an e-wallet. You may need the app to put your tickets in an e-wallet. If your phone does not have this option, you can use several third-party apps, such as Google Wallet.

The most significant advantage is they often do not require the Internet to operate, so they load faster. Additionally, some of them give you a push notification that you swipe for fast access.

The other trick is to take screenshots of your ticket from the app or email. Then you do not have to worry about the Internet.

Printed Tickets Do Not Update, But Often Still Valid

Sometimes, we need to change a trip, and the only way to update paper tickets is to reprint them. If you make an update and your reservation number does not change often, your barcode will still be valid for your upcoming trip.

For example, if you booked a trip from Sturtevant, WI, to Omaha, NE, Amtrak will book you on 11:23 a.m. Hiawatha. Let’s say you decided to get to Chicago a little earlier; you could change your ticket to 8:23 a.m. In this case, if you make the change, your printed ticket should still be valid.

This point is especially true if changes get made while you travel. Sometimes, Amtrak needs to make last-minute changes to the schedule, so printing your ticket off the day before or the day of may be the best option to ensure you have the most up-to-date times.

Kev’s Thoughts On Printing Out Amtrak Tickets

Travel bag
My bag was packed, and my tickets and travel socks were ready!

As a Gen X, I grew up with catalogs coming in the mail, but I love technology. So, I am comfortable in both worlds, and my ticket outlook reflects my generation.

Depending on my trip, I may not print tickets, such as for a last-minute Hiawatha trip, where I am not connecting with another train.

I like printing out Amtrak tickets for long-distance trips or those with a transfer, especially if I get lounge access.

Occasionally, I will print them out at home and from the machine at the station. Even when I do that, I still have them ready on my phone.

When traveling on a long-distance train, especially in a sleeper, I like to have those tickets in my wallet so I can reference my room and car number when in the dining car.

Printing Out Amtrak Tickets, Wrap-up

The moral of this article is that there is no wrong way to do this, as long as you have a reservation bar code while traveling.

The advantage of paper tickets is you do not have to worry about battery life, screen brightness, or wifi.

I hope this article helped to answer a few questions you had, for this should not be something you should worry about.

Safe Travels!

Kev

Kevin Monteith

Kev Monteith has been traveling on Amtrak since 2012. With over a decade of experience, he has been on over 800 trains, covering over 200k miles of rail. Kev enjoys helping others achieve their travel dreams by providing support and information. Outside of travel, Kev enjoys making music as an organist and outings with family.

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