Tipping on Amtrak Trains
Tipping on Amtrak Trains

Tipping On Amtrak Trains: What You Need To Know

Tipping on Amtrak is not mandatory, but it is a considerate way to show appreciation to the staff who enhance your travel experience. Typically, passengers give tips to attendants but not to conductors and engineers unless you have a helpful conductor.

Amtrak Car attendant and passenger in a Amtrak accessible room.
Superliner Amtrak Accessible room (Photo courtesy of Amtrak)

Remember that many of the staff members are away from friends and family for days at a time and do a lot of work while you are relaxing.

Grab your favorite beverage or snack, and let’s walk you through the thought of tipping on Amtrak. Thanks for checking out this article for tips and advice based on years of Amtrak travel.

A Travels with Kev podcast on Tipping on Amtrak

This episode is an overview of this article.

Is tipping on Amtrak Trains Necessary?

The technical answer is no.

Amtrak Superliner roomette seat
Amtrak Superliner roomette seat

Before we go too far, you should know that Amtrak does not set a protocol for tipping or offer a tip option like on cruises. Passengers developed the protocol over the years, and this article is about collecting their thoughts. As always, some may disagree on either side of the tropic.

A reasonable look

Unlike many USA service industry workers, Amtrak employees do not depend on tips for their income. Tipping on Amtrak is a great way to thank you and show that you appreciate their efforts. I often do it as a default, but there are times I intentionally do not; learn why, further down in the post,

If you are financially unable to tip, a sincere thank you and letting Amtrak know what a great job that employee did is appreciated. The link is at the bottom of the page. Don’t feel bad if that is your case. A treat from the cafe car could be an excellent and affordable gesture.

If you are tipping on Amtrak, who should get it?

When and whom to tip is up to you.

However, consider tipping coach and sleeping car attendants, Acela First Class attendants, and food service (cafe and dining car) staff.

Who does not get tipped?

Typically, the conductors and engineers do not get tipped.

Tipping On Amtrak: When To Do It

Acela in 30th street station
My first Acela pulling into the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, PA

Acela

Many people give tips at the end or along your journey. Depending on your required services, a tip of $5 or more is appropriate.

Sleeping and coach car attendants

Usually, I tip when the attendant comes around to alert me of my stop or during one of the sweeps they do as we approach the final station. You can also do it as you step off the train.

The typical tipping range for car attendants is $5-20 a day based on the level of service and your budget.

Some people like to tip their attendants at the beginning of their adventure; I am not one of those. Some think doing this makes tipping a bribe, and I can see that. However, that is probably not the intention of those people, but for some, maybe it is.

For me, staff should earn a tip and not automatically receive one, so I give it at the end. If you like to tip beforehand, there is no judgment here, for we do what we think is best.

Dining car employees

Amtrak Viewliner dining car seating.
Amtrak Viewliner dining car seating.

For example, at bars and restaurants, you can tip at the end of the transaction if you pay with a card or cash.

On occasion, if I have the same dinner attendant for the day, I have tipped at that day’s last meal. But that all depends on how much cash I have. Often, the standard food service rates of 15% – 25% are typical. Below are the prices charged to coach passengers so that you can use those as a base or what you feel is appropriate.

Sleeper reservations include meals, but there are meal prices for each meal for coach passengers.

  • $20 for Breakfast
  • $25 Lunch
  • $45 Dinner
  • $20 Kid’s Meals

Cafe car attendants

Regarding cafe car attendees, you have the same cafe for the whole trip, so you could tip as you go or on your last visit.

Station Staff

Some stations have red caps or agents to help you get to or from the train. You are free to tip them a few dollars per bag.

Something to consider about Amtrak staff

As you travel, some staff stays with you the whole trip and some change out. Conductors and engineers change out as you go, and the FRA sets how long these employees can work. Often, these people switch out at longer smoke breaks.

Who stays with you for your whole trip?

Boarding the Silver Star in New York
Boarding the Silver Star in New York

Coach class, sleeping car attendants, and food staff stay with you for the whole train route. The exception is the staff of the Texas Eagle. If you are on 421/422, you will have a staff change in San Antonio, TX.

How long are staff away from home?

Amtrak employees are often away from home and family for four to six days or more. If you are on a regional train, that is different; they might be gone overnight or home at night.

For instance, the crews of the California Zephyr have their base in Chicago. They accompany passengers to Emeryville, CA, stay overnight, and then operate the returning train to Chicago the next day. So most onboard staff are away from home for about a week!

What do attendants do on the train?

These employees work behind the scenes to make the trip comfortable for you and your fellow passengers.

For example, sleeping car attendants help you along your journey. They make your beds and put them away, assist with getting you off the train, help with meal reservations, give you the information you may need along your journey, and more. They also run and grab meals for some passengers and clean the car.

Coach attendants help keep their cars clean and assist passengers. Food service staff prep food and serve it on a moving train, which is more challenging than you think!

When tipping on Amtrak is not recommended.

Not everyone will agree with me on this point, which is fine. You know what is best for you; like all my articles, these are guides, and you can take from them what you want.

For the record, I tend to follow the motto, assume positive intent, and, when in doubt, try to improve someone’s day. But a few times over my travels, I received inadequate service, so I would not tip.

When I haven’t tipped on Amtrak

Amtrak Bedroom at night
An Amtrak Superliner Bedroom made up for bedtime.

Over my many Amtrak trips, I only had a few poor attendants who refused to tip. For example, once I hit the call button, the car attendant came to my room, looked at me, and walked away, so I ended up putting my bed down. The other time, the attendant ignored me for most of my journey. I reported them to Amtrak both times.

I let Amtrak know if they did well or poorly, but I let things go if they had middle-of-the-road service. On the other hand, if I get excellent service, I let Amtrka know, too. The link to do that is at the end of the article.

If you choose not to tip, keep this in mind.

Sometimes, we need to check ourselves; I do this with myself to ensure my expectations are realistic and my mood does not get in the way of my experiences.

Do not expect the car attendant to be a personal attendant; you will be disappointed if you do! Remember, they have a whole car to maintain. Also, if you had a different expectation of the train or things did not go your way, don’t take that out on your attendant. Train travel is not like the movies; neither is flying.

The car attendant did not make your train late nor cause mechanical problems. It does take time for one person to make up twenty rooms in a full Superliner sleeper car.

Tipping On Amtrak Trains, How You Do It!

Tipping Station, Coach, and Sleeping Attendants

On of Amtrak's Red Caps at Chicago Union Station
One of Amtrak’s Red Caps at Chicago Union Station

If you want to tip, cash works best! You can always ask if they have electronic payments if you run out or forget. Packaged treats and gift cards are also lovely gestures. There are no ATMs on the train, nor can you get cash back, so bring tip money.

Tipping Cafe And Dining Car Attendants.

You can tip these hard workers with cash, but there is another way.

You can leave a tip like at restaurants if you pay with a credit or debit card. With sleeper cars, your meals are part of your reservations, so if you want to tip and forget cash, you can buy an adult beverage to take back to your room or lounge car and leave your meal tip on that charge slip.

Wrapping-up About Tipping On Amtrak Trains

It is your choice to tip or not.

Tipping is a fantastic way to thank someone who improved your Amtrak adventure. While most attendants do not expect it, it is a pleasant gift.

Don’t worry if you can’t afford to tip, but then let Amtrak know what excellent service you had.

If you want to tell Amtrak about the excellent service, there is a way. Use the yellow button below. I spoke with someone in Amtrak management, who told me the comments go to the managers, who share them with the employees.


Safe Travels!

Kev

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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.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. TheFullIt

    This is a thorough and thoughtful article based on experience with Amtrak and tipping. I’ll be reading more with Kev.

  2. Thomas Gallegly

    I have over 186,000 miles of rest, relaxation & rejuvenation on Amtrak. Coast to coast. Border to border. Your article is right on.

    1. Kev

      Awesome! Amtrak is a great way to travel and see the country! Thanks for the comment.

  3. Kevin

    Thanks for the information, Kev… from a fellow Kev. I will be taking an Amtrak Sleepette on a one night journey from NYC to Libby, MT. I may choose to eat at least a couple meals in my sleeper car. I know that during covid, it was fairly standard to have food delivered to your car. How about now? If I am able to do that, how much should I tip for each meal delivered to my sleepette?

    1. Kev

      Hi Kev! Haha

      You can still have your meals in your rooms. You could either tip a few dollars right away or tip them extra in the end.

      If they got swamped when they got a meal. I might give the attendant a little extra right away to acknowledge their hard work.

      There is no right or wrong, and it depends on your budget. Maybe $10 a day above what you would tip for bringing your meals, and you could even give that each day. I would base the amount on the service you receive.

      It would also be nice to get their name and send Amtrak a note of praise; there is a link in the article.

      I hope this helps, and safe travels!
      Kev

  4. Susan Roemer

    Kev,
    Thank you for your informative look at tipping. Basically it follows national trends in tipping while traveling. Appreciated the photos, too.

  5. Jay

    This post was spotty on! I’ve traveled many, many miles in Amtrak roomettes, bedrooms, family bedrooms as well as coach. Like any other service oriented business, I’ve experienced anywhere from terrible to excellent service. My tipping “technique” is this. When I get on the train I ask the attendant where they are getting off. Most of the time I’m on the Cardinal and in most (if not all) cases the attendant is going to the end of the line (Chicago or NYC) just like me. This gives me time to evaluate the service. Poor service equals a “thanks so much” and excellent service receives $10 to $20. If it’s a poor experience, I’ll save the tip and add it it to the return trip home. So if the service West was poor and I didn’t tip the $10 – $20 and I have a better experience going back home, I’ll simply double up the tip and reward the attendant who did a great job. I should point out that my max tip is $20 each way so part of that tip will go to the food service folks if I eat in the dinging car and not stay in my room.

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