So you want to ride the rails on a budget without becoming a train hopping hobo? Here are some ways to score free Amtrak tickets using a bit of creativity and travel hacking techniques.
How to Travel on Amtrak for Free
1. The Bank of America Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum MasterCard is one of the most common ways to get free train tickets. There are two versions of the card. One gives you 20,000 Amtrak Guest Reward points as a sign up bonus. That’s a lot of free train travel. Amtrak Guest reward points are typically worth about 2-3 cents each. So that’s $500 worth of tickets.
2. Another way to get free travel using the Amtrak Guest Rewards World credit card is with the annual companion voucher which lets you bring a friend, a relative or your significant other along for free!
3. The third way the Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard gives you free travel is by providing points for each dollar spent. Qualifying travel earns 2 points per dollar and if you book an Amtrak ticket with the card you earn 3 points per dollar. Pretty soon you’ll have enough points for those free tickets!
4. If you don’t need yet another credit card, you can simply sign up for Amtrak Guest Rewards program and accumulate points for all travel you take on Amtrak. You’ll get 500 points as a sign up bonus and you’ll earn 2 points for every dollar you spend on Amtrak. You’ll also earn extra incentive points if you travel business or first class. Find out more here.
5. Have you accumulated credit card points such as American Express Member Rewards that you don’t know how to use? Of course you can use the points to book hotels and airfare but did you know you can use your credit card points to buy Amtrak vouchers too? For example with Amex you can swap 10K points for $100 Amtrak gift certificates. That’s a great 1:1 ratio. The one caveat is you will have to use the certificate to pay in person at an Amtrak counter, but you can make the reservation in advance on the phone.
6. Trade your airline miles for Amtrak points. Perhaps you have been collecting frequent flyer miles and don’t have a use for them. You can trade them for Amtrak points toward free trips. Here are a few examples:
- Exchange 10K Icelandair Saga miles to 3000 Amtrak Rewards
- Trade 20K Hawaiian Airlines miles for 4000 Amtrak Rewards
- 50K Frontier Airlines miles for 11K Amtrak Rewards points
Check out this post: Credit Cards: Points vs Cash Back
7. Book travel with a travel agent who awards Amtrak points like Travelstore.com. This agent can book cruises, package vacations and other trips, and awards two or more points per dollar spent on your travel. That means if you pay $2000 for a cruise you will get 40000 Amtrak points which are worth about $115 in train tickets.
8. Get a rail pass. While not exactly free, the cost savings of a pass can offer great value if you are taking the train a lot in a short time period. For example, a California rail pass is $159 for 7 days of travel within a 21 day period. That could save you a lot of money considering a one way ticket from San Diego to San Luis Obispo is normally $60. You’d only have to go round trip before the next part of the voyage starts paying for itself. Find more information on rail passes here.
9. Another way to save money on train travel is by qualifying for discount fares. Seniors, military and students receive great discounts on train tickets. Kids under 12 are 50% off and under 2 years old are free. Check here for more info.
10. Traveling with a school group or large tour? Groups are entitled to discounted fares and typically one of the chaperone tickets is free. Check here for more details about group travel discounts on Amtrak.
11. Trade in hotel loyalty program points for Amtrak rewards. Here are some recent examples:
- 10K Hilton Honors Points for 1500 Amtrak Guest Rewards points
- 5K SPG Starpoints for 5000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points
- 6K Wyndham Rewards points for 1200 Amtrak Guest Rewards
- 32K Choice Privileges points for 5000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points
12. Finally you can subscribe to Amtrak’s deals and discounts to get emails about special sales where kids ride free, two for one deals and more. Amtrak often has great deals which include deep discounts on certain routes and excellent companion fares. Subscribe for the latest deals.
This is the latest information but as I am sure you know, deals can quickly change. For more details about each of these particular programs, please check the websites and be sure to read the fine print.
Enjoy your train travels and I hope you find some excellent bargains!
If you don’t like dragging your bags, you can have them shipped directly to your hotel with Luggage Forward. Check it out, it might be less expensive than you think!
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