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If you want to travel but don’t want to fly, take the bus or rent an RV, there’s another option: Amtrak.
Amtrak is loved by some and disdained by others. Trains in the U.S. don’t compare to the high-speed trains you see in Asia or the budget trains in Europe, but Amtrak can still offer a decent alternative to flying.
Amtrak operates the majority of the medium- and long-haul passenger trains in the U.S offers its own loyalty program, Guest Rewards. The program rewards frequent customers with perks like free rides. But how can you earn elite status with Amtrak?
Here’s everything you need to know about Amtrak Guest Rewards elite status.
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How to earn elite status with Amtrak
Amtrak Guest Rewards offers three tiers of elite status: Select, Select Plus and Select Executive. Having Amtrak status includes benefits like bonus points, upgrades, and even access to United Club locations. Qualification is based on your yearly total of Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs).
Members earn 2 points per dollar spent, plus a 25 percent bonus for business-class tickets and a 50 percent bonus on Acela first-class tickets. Amtrak Guest Rewards© World Mastercard® cardholders can earn up to 4,000 TQPs a year — 1,000 for every $5,000 spent on their card.
Select is the lowest tier in the Amtrak Guest Rewards program. It’s obtained by earning 5,000 TQPs in a calendar year. Select members will earn a 25 percent tier status point bonus on Amtrak travel, two one-class upgrades, two single-visit passes to Club Acela and Metropolitan Lounge.
Select Plus is the next tier in the Amtrak Guest Rewards program, which you’ll obtain after earning 10,000 TQPs. There are some similarities with the first two tiers, such as the tier status point bonus (50 percent for Select Plus), one-class upgrades (4) and access to Club Acela and Metropolitan Lounge.
But there are a few notable differences. For starters, Select Plus members will earn two companion coupons and receive United Club access when flying with the airline or another Star Alliance carrier.
Finally, the top tier level of the Amtrak Guest Rewards program is Select Executive. This level is earned after earning 20,000 TQPs. As a Select Executive, you’ll earn a 100 percent tier status point bonus on Amtrak travel, four one-class upgrades (plus one more with every additional 3,000 TQPs), two companion coupons, one Auto Train priority vehicle offloading coupon and ClubAcela, Metropolitan Lounge and United Club access.
Earn elite status with credit cards
If you find yourself frequently traveling on Amtrak, you might want to consider applying for one of its two co-branded credit cards issued by Bank of America.
The Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® is currently offering an elevated welcome bonus of 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening. The no-annual-fee Amtrak Guest Rewards® Platinum Mastercard® is offering 20,000 bonus points plus a $100 statement credit after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening. We value Amtrak points at 2.5 cents each, making each bonus worth $500.
The information for the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard and Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
How to hack Amtrak elite status
Amtrak frequently offers promotions to help members earn more points. One of the most popular is the Double Days promotion, where you can earn 2x Guest Rewards points on all of your rides.
You will first need to register for Double Days. Once registered, you will have to purchase a train ticket for travel from now through Oct. 31, 2020, and complete travel during those dates. There’s no limit to how many bonus points you can earn with the promotion other than being limited to four qualifying one-way segments per day. During this promotion, you can also earn up to 5x points through Amtrak partners like Budget, Choice Hotels, Teleflora and Vinesse Wines.
Related: Earn double points on Amtrak travel this summer and fall
Is Amtrak elite status worth it?
TPG values Amtrak points at a whopping 2.5 cents each, among the highest of our valuations. With Amtrak Guest Rewards points, you can use your points to book scenic transcontinental journeys in sleeper cabins or take advantage of high-speed Acela train routes on the East Coast.
Related: Why I’m (temporarily) switching my loyalty to Amtrak
Amtrak has made several customer-friendly changes in recent months due to the coronavirus outbreak, such as extending elite status.
Amtrak also requires face coverings, and is making it clearer how full a train will be, with a passenger volume number next to each train on the search results page. If you’re an Amtrak loyalist, chasing elite status might be the way to go.
Does Amtrak match elite status?
Amtrak does not normally allow status matches but will occasionally send out targeted offers allowing members to earn status after completing a certain number of trips.
Does Amtrak offer status challenges?
See above. You can’t buy elite status with Amtrak. If you want status, you’ll have to earn TQPs to earn Select status.
Amtrak can still offer a convenient alternative to flying, especially if you don’t want to be in crowded spaces during the pandemic. Earning elite status with Amtrak isn’t terribly difficult, especially if you find yourself taking the train often. Amtrak status can be incredibly valuable, especially if you fly United often for the Club access or you want to get upgraded on an Amtrak train.
Featured photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy
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And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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