Why Everyone Should Sign Up for Amtrak's Guest Rewards Program — Not Just Frequent Train Travelers

Here's what you need to know to make the most of Amtrak's Guest Rewards program.

Amtrak passengers at breakfast
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For travelers who frequently book rides on Amtrak — the largest passenger railroad service in the United States — joining Amtrak Guest Rewards is a no-brainer. But even if you're not a very frequent train traveler, there are still plenty of reasons for you to join this rather under-the-radar loyalty program.

Amtrak Guest Rewards' core purpose is to reward its most loyal passengers, and it does so handsomely. The program allows members to earn two points per dollar spent on every Amtrak trip. There’s a 25 percent bonus on points earned on business class travel and a 50 percent bonus on Acela First Class trips.

To become an Amtrak Guest Rewards member, travelers just need to sign up online or by phone at 1-800-307-5000. They will then receive a unique Amtrak Guest Rewards number to input for all their travels.

And like we said, it's free and easy. But it also goes beyond the rails. Here's what else travelers should know about the Amtrak Guest Rewards program.

Related: 13 Most Scenic Train Rides in the World

How to Use Your Amtrak Guest Rewards Number

Use your Amtrak Guest Rewards number every time you make an Amtrak reservation. If you forget to do this, you can request point credits by calling before the trip or by filling out the Missing Point Request Form online afterward.

You can also mail your ticket stub, name, and member number to Amtrak Guest Rewards. Just make sure to place your request within 90 days of traveling.

How to Use Your Amtrak Guest Rewards Points

Travelers can redeem Amtrak Guest Rewards points for Amtrak travel once they have accrued at least 800 points. They could get a coach ticket on special routes, including the Cascades (connecting Eugene, Oregon with Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, British Columbia); the Pacific Surfliner (from San Luis Obispo, California to San Diego via Los Angeles and Santa Barbara); the Capitol Corridor (from San Jose, California to Auburn with stops in Santa Clara, Berkeley, and Sacramento); and Blue Water (along the Lake Michigan shoreline, from Chicago to Port Huron). But that's not all. As Amtrak explains on its rewards website, travelers can use their points to get to more than 500 destinations around America, and they can upgrade to a higher class using points.

Most Amtrak trips — and trip upgrades — start at around 5,000 points.

Amtrak Travel Partners

Besides train trips, Amtrak points can also be redeemed for a number of other travel services. The railroad company has partnerships with Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Hilton, and Budget Car Rental, among others.

Amtrak travelers can swap in 10,000 points for $100 gift cards with Celebrity Cruises, Budget Car Rental, and Disney. Travelers can also turn 5,000 Amtrak points into 10,000 Hilton Honors Points.

Furthermore, Amtrak adds, its members can use their points for discounted bookings on more than 350,000 hotel locations worldwide. To reserve a hotel, head to its hotel search page. Then select "spend points" before searching. Amtrak notes in the fine print, "the amount of points needed for your stay will vary based on the price of the reservation, booking dates, and availability." Users can earn points with their bookings as well.

But that's not all. Rewards members can also cash in their points for gift cards to various restaurants, including Applebee's, Outback, Red Lobster, Starbucks, and more. The point-to-dollar values vary here. For example, travelers can trade in 10,000 points for a $100 Starbucks gift card, or 6,000 for a $50 card to Red Lobster.

There are plenty of entertainment partners, too. Rewards members can exchange points for gift cards to Apple, AMC Theaters, and Regal Entertainment Group.

Hang on, there's more. Rewards members can also exchange points for retail partners like 1-800 Flowers, Amazon, Bloomingdales, CVS, Gap, and many more. So if you don't have another trip coming up, but are in need of a new outfit, this could be a great option.

Related: The 5 Best Trains in the U.S. — From the Grand Canyon Railway to the Rocky Mountaineer

Elite Amtrak Membership

Members who earn 5,000 or 10,000 points within a single year are upgraded to Select and Select Plus status, respectively. Both status tiers bring members additional discounts, unlimited lounge access, and double points on some car rentals.

Travelers who earn 20,000 points reach Select Executive status, Amtrak's highest membership status. Customers who reach the highest tier are rewarded with additional points bonuses, upgrades, companion coupons, and access to all the same benefits in the lower tiers.

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