Tipping on Amtrak Trains
Tipping on Amtrak Trains

Tipping On Amtrak Trains: What You Need To Know

Are you wondering about tipping on Amtrak trains? Maybe you heard you need to but don’t know who gets one or how much to give them.

Alpine Texas
Amtrak Superliner Sleeper car on the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited stopped in Alpine. Texas.

If those questions crossed your mind, this article guides you through this part of your Amtrak adventure.

Tipping is often a hot topic on social media. You may find bitterness, misunderstanding, and bad advice in some forums and groups. Yay, internet!

Thanks for checking out this article for tips and advice based on years of Amtrak travel.

Grab your favorite beverage or snack, and let’s walk you through the thought of tipping on Amtrak.

Listen to the Travels with Kev Tipping on Amtrak Podcast

This episode is an overview of this article.

Is Tipping on Amtrak Trains Necessary?

The technical answer is no.

Amtrak Viewliner Roomette
Amtrak Viewliner Roomette

Before we go too far, you should know tipping does not have a set protocol among Amtrak passengers.

Some passengers feel it is unnecessary, while others can’t think of a better gesture. I often tip, but not always; further down, you will discover my when, where, and why.

Unlike many US service industry workers, Amtrak employees do not depend on tips for their income. But tipping on Amtrak is a great way to thank you and show that you appreciate their efforts.

If you are financially unable to tip, a sincere thank you and letting Amtrak know what a great job they did is appreciated. At the bottom of the article is a link to contact Amtrak to praise the Amtrak employee.

While tips are not essential, if you require extra attention, tipping is a grand gesture to say thanks for the extra running around and help.

Remember that attendants are there for the whole car, not personal servants. Be patient and understanding with their time.

Who Would You Tip Along Your Journey?

When and who you should tip is up to you, but these employees tend to receive tips and when to tip them.

Amtrak’s Acela First Class Attendants

If you have a ticket for first class on Acela, an attendant will bring you your complimentary food and beverages. These people work hard to give you a good experience and help you.

Lawrence is an Amtrak sleeping car attendant on the Texas Eagle.

Car attendants (Coach or Sleeper)

Some people like to tip their attendants at the beginning of their adventure. I am not one of those.

I believe a tip should be earned and not automatically given. I get why some people think that doing this is bribing an attendant. I can see that, although I don’t believe that is everyone’s intention.

Looking at what other passengers say, they feel that tipping at the beginning is bribing the attendant for better service. I tend to agree.

Tipping On Amtrak: When To Do It

Acela

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 & 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.

Foodservice employees

Viewliner Dining Car
An inside view of a Viewliner Amtrak dining car

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; in that case, I have tipped at that day’s last meal. But that all depends on how much cash I have. You do have the same cafe for the whole trip.

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

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.

Information to consider about Amtrak staff

Who stays with you for your whole trip?

Conductors and engineers change throughout the trip. The FRA sets the amount of time these employees can work. When the “smoke” or “fresh air breaks along the route, crew changes occur.

NYP Loading
Passengers are preparing to board the Lake Shore Limited at New York Penn Station.

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.

For example, the California Zephyr crews are based out of Chicago and travel with you to Emeryville, CA, spend the night, and work the next day’s train as they return to Chicago. So they are gone from home for about a week!

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.

When Tipping On Amtrak Is Not Recommended.

Hallway of an Amtrak Baggage Dorm car
Hallway of an Amtrak Baggage Dorm car

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.

With this section, remember to keep your expectations in check.

If you expect the car attendant to be a personal attendant, you will be disappointed because they have a whole car to maintain.

It does take time for one person to make up twenty rooms in a full Superliner sleeper car.

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.

If they do well or poorly, I let Amtrak know. I tend to let things go in the 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.

Tipping On Amtrak Trains, How You Do It!

Tipping Station, Coach, and Sleeping Attendants

If you want to tip these, 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

Viewliner Dining Car
An inside view of a Viewliner Amtrak dining car

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.


Safe Travels!

Kev

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Kev

Kev has been traveling with Amtrak since 2012, celebrating over ten years of travel! Over those years, he has been on over 700 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.

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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