How to save money on Amtrak and earn free trips
If you are looking to save money on your next Amtrak trip, this article is for you. If you have traveled on Amtrak before you might know many of these, but there could be a few discounts you don’t know about, or if I missed one, let me know. Like any other form of travel, flexibility and booking early often the way to get good deals, but there could be ways to save even if time is not on your side.
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- Include limited time deals
- Exclusive deals for Amtrak Guest Rewards members (more about this below)
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Amtrak’s Online Deals
Amtrak’s online deals include seasonal, limited time offers, and special deals on select trains
The Amtrak website offers
- Current Deals
- Weekly Sales
- Amtrak is currently offering 25% off most long-distance coach seats when purchased 14 days in advance. Reservations are limited, and restrictions do apply
Discounts for Joining up!
Rail Passenger Association Membership
Members receive a 10% discount on Amtrak’s rail fare when purchasing tickets three or more days in advance (the discount does not apply to upgrades).
The Rail Passenger Association (PRA), formally known as the National Association of Rail Passenger Association (NARP) is a non-profit organization to promote passenger rail service around The United States, their mission includes both regional rail and Amtrak.
A yearly tax-deductible membership comes with a 10% discount on Amtrak rail fare, and the reduction applies only to the base rail fare ticket and not to upgrades such as a room or business class. Click here for more information on joining PRA. More info below on discounts.
Amtrak Guest Rewards Program
Amtraks free loyalty program to earn free rides (after redeeming points)!
Amtrak Guest Rewards (AGR) is a multi-tiered rewards program offering free Amtrak travel. Points are earned by traveling on Amtrak, deals with partners sites, purchasing products online, transferring points to or from someone else, and can be bought for yourself or as gifts for others. Points do not expire unless the account is inactive for three years or more.
AGR awards two points for every dollar spent on Amtrak travel, like airline rewards programs, points earned while traveling are tier qualifying points (TQP) leading to status levels. Status levels may include free upgrades, companion coupons, and bonus points. More on the points program.
Ways to accumulate more points
New AGR members can earn 500 bonus points by taking an Amtrak trip within 90 days of joining, and free rides start at 800 points.
Side note: AGR member can earn points for joining RPA
Amtrak Credit Card
Earn points from shopping and paying bills.
If planning a cross-country trip or riding the regional routes, the Amtrak Mastercard will help accumulate points for free adventure. Typically, Amtrak offers 20,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 with a new card (click the link below for more information).
Bonuses of the card include:
- 1 point for every dollar charged
- 3 points for every dollar spent on Amtrak and other travel related purchases
- When redeeming points for travel, there is a 5% point rebate
- Passes and coupons such as free business Class upgrade, companion coupon, and lounge pass
- Tier qualifying points are available for faster progression within the program
Discounts Just For Being You
Anytime discounts for qualified passengers but do not apply for upgrades
- Seniors receive 10% off for those 65 years or older
- Kids 2 and under are free but their name must be on an adult’s ticket, and children between 3-12 are 50% off and must travel with someone 18-years-old or older
- Active Military members and spouses receive 10% off but must have a valid military ID
- Military Kids 2-12 military kids receive half off, plus an additional 10% off (best deal out there!)
- People with a disability and companion (when booked together) receive 10% off
- Federal Employees have a discount program but must be booked through a federal employees travel management company or corporate booking tool and are not bookable on Amtrak.com.
- Group travel of 20 or more people receive a discount as well, but might not be bookable online
How to get the most out of the AGR Program
How to get the most out of The Amtrak Guest Rewards Program to receive free trips!
Before booking the first trip get involved with these programs, or if you travel with Amtrak, now is the time to get signed up. The order that you sign up can save time and effort, for without an AGR account there is no place for points to go.
Signing up to Amtrak book trips and earn points
There are two log-in’s with Amtrak, one for booking with Amtrak.com, and the other is Amtrak Guest Rewards. It is possible to link the two accounts, the AGR number is a possibility for a login option, and that becomes the only login information you need after that. This process is less complicated than it sounds and could be set up by calling 1-800-USA-Rail
From there the AGR number is given to PRA to receive membership points, and then have a place to put those credit card point needs an AGR account for the same reason.
How the discounts apply to your reservations
Coach reservations are the easiest because the percentage comes off the cost of the whole ticket, but discounts do not apply to Saver tickets.
Business class and room accommodations discounts are more challenging to understand at first, but the concept is the percentage off only applies to the rail fare that everyone pays and not to the portion of the upgrade.
For example, if you are booking a business class ticket on the Lincoln Service between Chicago and St. Louis, without anything off business class ticket is $52. That ticket breaks down to $31 rail fare and $21 for the business class upgrade, so the percentage comes off the rail fare $31 portion of the ticket. The $52 business class ticket becomes $49.
With rooms accommodations, each person pays a rail fare, so using the City of New Orleans example, without a discount for one person the roomette is $269, and for two people the room is $404 (without a discount). So in that example, each person pays $135 to be on the train, and the room cost $135 Room reservation includes all scheduled dining car meals on the train, but for the Silver Star that does not have a dining car.
The prices given were used as an example, and prices may change at any time.
Flexibility is key
When booking, consider checking a few dates around the day you want to travel, because leaving a day sooner or later could save money. Sites like AMSnag displays prices for up to30 days at a time, an excellent tool for the early stages of a trip when there is often a lot of flexibility.
Buying tickets as early as possible often help, not only for rooms but for a coach ticket as well. Amtrak usually has “saver fairs” for tickets bought 14 days in advance, but those offerings are limited.
I know a few things about this
I signed up for AGR before I took my first Amtrak trip, so I earned points the first time I had a ticket scanned. Because I took advantage for the programs not only with traveling but online purchasing and filling out surveys, I earned several free trips, one which was coast to coast in a roomette for free! I was averaging a free one-way trip every year.
NARP/PRA is a cause I support, fighting for Passenger Rail both nationally and regionally, but the discount is handy. Every year I average 100 trains rides, and the 10% off has saved me more than the cost of my membership fee.
Wrap it up
The most significant long term way to save money on Amtrak is to take advantage of AGR and build points for free trips. The second being, take advantage of a flexible schedule when possible to find the cheapest date.
Note: The information given was current at the time of publication. Read all the restrictions and fine print to make sure you get the most out the programs suggested, Travels with Kev is not affiliated with Amtrak, but providing this as a guide to you.