2013 Amtrak Credit Card Review

Posted by CreditCardGuru

You will be surprised to learn that this card does NOT earn you any extra points on Amtrak purchases…

Amtrak credit cardWith the high price of airfare and hassle of airport security, more folks are turning to Amtrak. In fact for the year 2010, they set an all-time record with 28.7 million passengers! And if you’re one of those people, you may be interested in their credit card… the Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard. But is it a good value or not? Here’s an honest review…

Card Type

Chase issues two different versions; World MasterCard and Platinum MasterCard.

When you submit your application you are first evaluated for the “World” version, which has better rates and extra benefits (Price Protection, Extended Warranty, Trip Cancellation Coverage). If you don’t qualify for the World, then you are considered for the lower-tier Platinum MasterCard.

Rates and Fees

13.24% for the World MasterCard (16.24% or 19.24% for the lower tier Platinum, but I don’t see that version offered for 2013). Neither of the Amtrak credit cards have an annual fee.

Rewards

You earn points at the following rate:

1 point per dollar on regular spending
2 points per dollar on Amtrak purchases


On Chase’s website, the Amtrak MasterCard application doesn’t provide much information about redemption, other than saying that the points can be used for train tickets/upgrades, ClubAcela passes, retail & restaurant gift cards, and other travel rewards. There’s no information as to how the points convert over.

However the reason for this is because the Amtrak credit card points are the same as those earned through Amtrak Guest Rewards – a program available to everyone and you do not need the credit card to participate in it. There are 88 different redemption options but here are their 4 most popular train ticket rewards, to give you an idea how they convert…

  • Coach Class, Northeast Zone – 3,000 points
  • Coach Class – Special Routes Reserved/Unreserved Coach – 1000 points
  • Coach Class, One Zone – 5,500 points
  • Acela Express Business Class – 8,000 points

For the partner gift cards (i.e. Applebees, Macy’s, Pottery Barn) you can get a 1 cent per point value if you redeem in $100 increments (below that your points are worth less). Out of all the reward options, the best bang for your buck appears to be the Choice Hotel points, whereas 5,000 Amtrak points = 15,000 Choice Privileges points, which are worth about 0.6 to 1.0 cent each.

Using Guest Rewards without the MasterCard?

Anyone can signup for the Amtrak Guest Rewards (non credit card version) and still earn 2x points on Amtrak purchases and take advantage of the other point earning opportunities at hotels, car rental companies, etc. So that brings us to the question… if the Amtrak MasterCard rewards are the same as the rewards given on the non-credit card rewards program, is there any reason to apply for their credit card?! Maybe not and here’s why…

  • The only extra opportunity the Amtrak credit card offers is the ability to earn 1 point per dollar wherever MasterCard is accepted, which is certainly nothing to get excited about.
  • The card does give 5% of your points back when you redeem for Amtrak travel, but getting $1.05 for every $1.00 worth of accumulated rewards is hardly significant given the low rate at which you earn.

Verdict?

The biggest advantage you get with the Amtrak Guest Rewards MasterCard is a reasonable APR. Aside from that, the extra rewards you get from using the credit card are trivial. You may be better off using the regular (non-MasterCard) version of the Amtrak Guest Rewards program along with a more generous travel rewards card.

This review has been updated for 2013.


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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

19 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. Candy January 16, 2014 at 6:33PM

    I’m trying to decide whether I should get the card. It says you get a free ticket if you purchase $500 in 3 months… That’s easy. Do you really get a free ticket? And can it be used this year on the Auto train from DC to Orlando? Do they have blackout dates?

  2. Paula Calvo January 15, 2014 at 8:52AM

    Am I to understand that I didn’t qualify for this cared

  3. Chay December 17, 2013 at 8:23PM

    It’s also possible to get extra point for shopping. I just bought a computer from Tiger Direct and got 2,000 extra points. That’s almost half of a one way trip with just one purchase. Since I’ve gotten the card I’ve taken at least one free trip a year.

  4. MOM June 30, 2013 at 9:06AM

    Have a friend that took the 4 of them to Orlando on the autotrain for free.

  5. Andrew May 12, 2013 at 3:12PM

    For train aficionados, the Chase card is the best around. Each point is worth about 4.5 cents if you book an Amtrak bedroom cross country, say Seattle to Boston ($2710/60000)

  6. matthew April 23, 2013 at 6:09AM

    The author is mistaken, you do earn extra points on Amtrak purchases when using this card.
    Also, I just bought a $101 train ticket with 4000 points (Unfortunately, the redemption cost for ne corridor tickets increased) making each point worth 2.5 cents. Significantly higher than any other rewards card I’m aware of.

    • Michael April 23, 2013 at 5:33PM

      Those are the points you earn thru the Guest Rewards program (which is seperate from the credit card). The credit card itself unfortunately doesn’t earn you any additional points. I know it’s confusing.

      • matthew July 13, 2013 at 6:14PM

        No, I have the card and I’ve been a Guest Rewards member for some time. The card itself does earn you extra points on Amtrak purchases. Buy a train ticket for $101. You earn 202 points from Amtrak Guest Rewards, immediately. You then also earn 202 points from the World Card posted at end of statement.
        I am looking at my Chase/Guest Rewards statements as I type this.

      • matthew July 13, 2013 at 6:24PM

        A funny little perk: The card gives you double points on cafe car purchases. Amtrak Guest Rewards doesn’t give you any points for cafe car purchases.

        Anyway, if you actually ride Amtrak, there is /no/ better credit card.

      • matthew October 4, 2013 at 1:31PM

        You really aren’t going to fix your misinformation about the double points on Amtrak purchases? Are you a capital one shiv?

      • Mike October 23, 2013 at 1:56PM

        I got the card despite what I read here, and I can also confirm that the 2 points per Amtrak dollar earned on the credit card are in addition to the normal Amtrak Guest Rewards points. I spent $196 on Amtrak travel on my last statement, and earned 392 points. I traveled on one of the round-trips I purchased on that statement, and just received my 400 standard Guest Rewards points (100 each way, with a double-points promotion doubling that). So purchasing Amtrak travel with the card gets you at least 4 points (2 points for the card, 2 points for the AGR program, with a 100-point minimum on that end, and at the moment double-points through AGR). You should correct your article.

        I may apply for the Sapphire card for its sign-up bonus and ability to transfer to lots of programs, but for now this no-fee card is just what I need.

  7. Mary Beth December 3, 2011 at 12:30PM

    If you like to take train trips and you use the Amtrak MasterCard for lots of purchases (groceries, gas, etc.), then the points really add up and it is a great value for train travel. For example, we just booked a 2 zone round trip for next summer, which used 60,000 points (but we got back 3,000 points). If we had paid for that trip, the cost would have been $3,500. So, in effect, each dollar spent on the Mastercard was worth over $0.06 in train travel.

  8. Erin November 14, 2011 at 12:08PM

    Just wondering if this is worth it for me. I’m a college student and I travel nearly every weekend on amtrak to go home, and I plan on using the card strictly for train tickets. Also, My main goal is to recieve to 12,000 bonus points for signing up. Is this worth it?

    Thanks!

    • CreditCardGuru November 15, 2011 at 9:37AM

      Hi Erin, if you need a no annual fee card that you will use strictly for train tix and pay in full, then yes I would say it could be worth it. Just keep in mind the extra rewards you will be earning on Amtrak purchases won’t really be better than what other travel cards would give you on those purchases (because there are several which give 2x points on travel, inc. trains).

    • KS July 29, 2013 at 10:41AM

      Yes, absolutely- I was surprised that this article didn’t mention that, for me the 12,000 mile opening bonus was about $300 worth of train tickets for free, and then you are earning points back every time you use them- I can’t even remember the last time I paid for a train ticket.

  9. Heather October 21, 2011 at 8:26AM

    I just moved to upstate NY and will be using Amtrak frequently to get to NYC, so I applied and received this card… mainly for all the reasons @kev listed above.

  10. kev July 26, 2011 at 6:27AM

    I disagree with your oversimplified assessment. First of all (minor point, but worth considering for the sake of apples to apples) the rebate on your amtrak redemption points is actually worth 5.26%, not 5%. (You are getting $1 value for only $0.95, a 5.26% premium.)

    Secondly, the redemptions are essentially giving you a northeast zone ticket for, after rebate, only 2,850 points (a $28.50 value), a one zone ticket for $52.25 equivalent points spend, and an Acela ticket for only $76 value. Market retail price of the tickets is routinely double that! So when you consider 1% back to be a “low rate at which you earn” compared to cash back cards, you are right only in simplified terms of number of points you received. However, all points are not created equal. The exchange rate between amtrak guest rewards points and ticket redemption is somewhat more favorable, very unlike a lot of restaurant gift certificate and airline mileage programs which may give you a 1:1 redemption, at best. While experts say the redemption value of a southwest rapid rewards mile is $0.0167, even that is a low when compared to the generous value of an amtrak point.

    Thirdly, you can “double dip” Amtrak travel points routinely when buying on your rewards card you get the points for the trip and the 2 points per dollar, not to mention the frequent promo deals offered only for amtrak rewards cc members.

    All these distinctions add up to a better card than you give credit for here, IMO.

    • Jamie January 10, 2012 at 7:56AM

      I was thinking the same thing as I read the write-up. For someone who spends $100-200 per month on credit, no, the card doesn’t offer much. But if you pass most of your spending through a credit account — for instance, things like daycare and school payment plans as well as gasoline, groceries, and other “necessities” — you might find yourself earning 2000-3000 points per month just from the dollar-for-dollar spending.

      That’s the same deal that you get with an airline credit card, but there are two big differences. One, airline cards all have annual fees; this card doesn’t. But far more significant is that while 3000 miles are of no value unto themselves for an airline program, 3000 AGR points is enough to buy a one-way coach fare in the Northeast. If all of your monthly spending flows through the Amtrak credit card, you could be earning six round-trip coach fares each year just for doing what you’re already doing.

      For someone who travels by train, that’s nothing to shrug off.

      • barbara January 12, 2013 at 9:28AM

        As of a few months ago, you need 4,000 points for a one-way coach fare in the Northeast.

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