Tipping on Amtrak is unnecessary, but it is a nice gesture to thank those who help you adventure better. Typically, passengers tip the different attendants but not the conductors and engineers.
Something to remember is many of the staff 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.
Before we go too far, you should know there is no protocol on tipping set by Amtrak, nor do they offer a tip option like on cruises. Passengers developed the protocol for tipping over the years, and this article is about collecting those 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. Link 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 who you should tip is up to you, but these employees tend to receive tips and when to tip them.
- Car attendants
- Acela Frist Class attendant
- Cafe car
- Dining car
Who does not get tipped
Typically, the conductors and engineers do not get tipped.
Tipping On Amtrak: When To Do It
Many people give tips at the end or along your journey. A tip of $5 or more is appropriate, depending on your required services.
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, a tip should be earned and not automatically given, so I do it at the end. If you are the type that likes to tip ahead of time, there is no judgment here, for we do what we think is best.
Dining car employees
Like 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 attended 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 you can use those as a base or what you feel is appropriate.
Meals are included in sleeper reservations, 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.
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?
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 example, the California Zephyr crews are based out of Chicago. They travel with you to Emeryville, CA, spend the night in Emeryville, and work the next day’s train as they return to Chicago. So they 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 the best they can 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 help 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 the guides, and 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
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. Both times, I did report them to Amtrak.
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 make sure 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
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, with the yellow button below. I had a conversation with someone in Amtrak management, and they told me the comments go to the managers who share them with the employees.