Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® review: Save hundreds of dollars on train tickets

Man on train after using his Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard®Image: Man on train after using his Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard®

In a Nutshell

If you enjoy riding the train, the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® could help you save hundreds of dollars on train tickets.
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You might call the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® the Little Engine That Could of credit cards.

Whether you’re riding the train across the country or commuting to work, the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® could help you save hundreds of dollars on your next railroad trips.

The card features a sign-up bonus that could help you score free train tickets, along with promotions to make your ride more comfortable. It can add up to train perks that easily outweigh the $79 annual fee.

Just repeat the Little Engine’s motto: “I think I can, I think I can.”

What we like Heads up
  • Sign-up bonus
  • Companion coupon
  • One-class upgrade
  • One-time station lounge pass
  • $79 annual fee
  • When was the last time you took a train ride?

  1. The rundown: Everything we like about the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard®
  2. Heads up: What you should consider before applying for the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard®
  3. Do the math: How to get the most out of the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard®
  4. Bottom line: Is the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® right for you?

The rundown: Everything we like about the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard®

Earn free train rides

The Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® features a sign-up bonus of 20,000 bonus points after you spend at least $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days after opening your account.

When it comes to regular spending, you’ll earn …

  • 3 points per $1 you spend with Amtrak, including train tickets and purchases you make on board
  • 2 points per $1 on other qualifying travel purchases
  • 1 point for every other $1 you spend on eligible purchases

And when you redeem those points for Amtrak train tickets, Amtrak will refund 5% of your points.

Bring a friend

When you open your account, and each year after your account anniversary, you’ll receive a coupon for one free companion ticket, which kicks in when purchasing a regular adult Amtrak ticket on a trip of your choice.

Travel comfortably

Tired of cramming into tiny airline seats?

Amtrak trains can offer more leg (and elbow) room, even when you’re riding in coach. To sweeten the deal, Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® offers one class upgrade when you open your account and one each year after your account anniversary, letting you upgrade your seat once a year by one class. New cardholders will also receive a one-time complimentary pass to participating station lounges, where Amtrak offers amenities like Wi-Fi, TV, and nonalcoholic drinks and snacks.

Heads up: What you should consider before applying for the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard®

The Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® only really makes sense for people who actually ride the train.

Annual fee

The card comes with a $79 annual fee. Compared to some other travel cards, that’s not bad, as long as you put the rewards to good use.

Don’t let your points go to waste

The Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® credit card might be great for someone like my former college roommate. Instead of flying to school, he took the train all the way from Chicago to Washington, D.C. I’ve never met anyone who loved riding trains as much as he does.

It sounds fun, but when push comes to shove, many of us fly or drive, derailing the main advantage of the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® — getting free train tickets.

Slower than flying

You could spend a lot of time on the railroad just passing the time away when getting the most out of this card.

If you’re planning to use points you earn from the card on a vacation, you should keep in mind it takes about three days to ride the train across the country from New York to Los Angeles, plus another three days to get back to New York.

When you spend six days of your vacation just on travel, you better enjoy the ride.

Do the math: How to get the most out of the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard®

The way we’ve calculated redemption possibilities, Amtrak points can be worth up to 3 cents apiece. Here’s how we figure it.

We divided the price you would pay in dollars for an Amtrak ticket by the number of points required to redeem, which gives us the value per point for that ticket.

So the cost of a ticket, say from New York to L.A. ($236) divided by the total points needed to redeem for that same ticket (8,733 minus the 5% points refund that Amtrak offers for ticket redemptions, so 8,296.35). That gives us about 0.029, or a value of 2.9 cents per point.

Break-even point

If you spend $231.40 per month on the card, you’ll recoup your annual fee.

How did we figure that out? If you divide the annual fee ($79) by the value you can expect for your Amtrak points (0.02845), you’ll see you need to spend $2,776.80 each year to earn $79 worth of rewards. We divided that number by 12 to get the monthly spend.

But you might not sign up for this card if you didn’t intend to take advantage of the sign-up bonus and other travel benefits.

So let’s take a look at how much those features can be worth.

Sign-up bonus

We calculate the sign-up bonus as being worth about $569 when redeemed for Amtrak travel.

You can do the math yourself: Simply multiply the 20,000 bonus points by the point value (0.02845).

Companion coupon

A friend’s round-trip ticket would normally cost the same as yours for a trip across the country (about $600). But if you redeem your annual companion coupon, it’s free.

Take note that to take advantage of the companion coupon, you’ll have to make sure to book your friend’s full round-trip at the same time you book your own.

Station lounge pass

You can take advantage of your one-time station lounge pass while you wait for your train, taking some time to relax before boarding.

The complimentary one-time station lounge pass, which lets you bring a guest or a partner and any children under 21, is worth about $35 for a day pass, depending on ticketing and the specific lounge and station.

Amtrak will allow you to redeem points for station lounge passes as well.

One-class upgrade

Comfort is the way to go. You can upgrade your ticket to a more comfortable seat by redeeming your annual one-class upgrade.

Amtrak also allows you to redeem points for upgrades.

So how much is the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® worth?

The value of this card will vary depending on how often you’ll be riding trains, but you could save more than $1,000 thanks to perks and rewards in the first year of card membership.

A single cross-country trip could not only earn you enough rewards to cover your annual fee, but you’d also get more value out of rewards and perks than what you’re required to spend to earn the sign-up bonus! You can’t say that about too many credit cards.


Bottom line: Is the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® right for you?

These days, we tend to fly or drive when we take a vacation.

But if you see the train ride as part of the journey and don’t mind taking the slow, scenic route, you might want to consider the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard®. It can also be a great option for commuters who ride the train to work every day.

You’ll not only save money by earning free rewards rides — you might also be more comfortable than on a plane or behind the wheel.


About the author: Tim Devaney is a personal finance writer and credit card expert at Credit Karma. He’s a longtime journalist who prides himself on being a good storyteller who can explain complex information in an easily digestible wa… Read more.