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In September 2015, Amtrak announced a partnership with Bank of America and unveiled the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard®, ending its association with Chase. Like most airline loyalty programs, the Amtrak Guest Rewards® switched how travelers earned points, based on money spent on train fare as opposed to distance traveled.
If you are a regular rail rider, this card could be one to consider, with its good sign-up bonus, its higher points per $1 spent on Amtrak and broader definition of the travel category. But if you want a card that gives you more flexibility for travel and higher points for dining, then the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may be a better fit for you. We look at both cards — the good and the bad — to see which one is best.
Where the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard® stands out in its category
Solid sign-up bonus. New cardmembers Earn 20,000 bonus points after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within 90 days of account opening. Those bonus points are almost enough for two people to book a one-way roomette from Chicago to Denver on the California Zephyr in October, considered to be one of Amtrak’s most scenic rides. The trip for two was 22,494 points at press time. You’d need to spend $94.25 to get the 2,500 miles needed to make the trip.
Good rewards. You Earn 3 Amtrak Guest Rewards points per $1 spent with Amtrak, 2 points per $1 spent on other qualifying travel purchases, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. You also receive a 5% points rebate every time you book reward travel. There are no limits on the points you earn and your points don’t expire as long as your account remains open.
Broad definition of travel. The travel category includes airlines, car rental agencies, hotels, motels, inns, resorts, steamship/cruise lines, commuter rail, passenger rail and travel agencies.
Rail perks. The card comes with benefits including an annual free companion coupon that lets you bring along a travel companion, a yearly one-class upgrade and a free station lounge pass for new cardmembers.
Help with elite status. Each time you spend $5,000 on the card during a calendar year, you earn 1,000 tier qualifying points — up to 4,000 TQPs a year — that go toward elite status on Amtrak. Select, Select Plus and Select Executive statuses give you bonus miles, free upgrades, Amtrak and United Airlines lounge access, a dedicated customer service line and discounts on rail fares.
Flexible redemption. Use your miles for rail travel and upgrades, hotels, rental cars, cruises, dining, entertainment, gift cards, shopping and carbon offsets. You can transfer points from loyalty programs such as Hertz Rent A Car and Hilton Honors into your Amtrak account. You can also transfer your Amtrak points to the Hilton Honors and Choice Privileges loyalty programs.
Train to the plane. Earn between 250 and 325 United Airlines miles on coach or business class fares per segment on Amtrak when you fly the carrier and make a connection at its Newark Liberty International Airport hub to or from these Amtrak stations: New Haven Rail Station, Conn.; Stamford Rail Station, Conn.; Philadelphia 30th Street Station; and Wilmington Rail Station, Del. Earn 500 miles for business or 750 award miles for first class on Acela Express trains between New York’s Penn Station, Union Station in Washington, D.C., and Boston’s South Station, Back Bay Station and Route 128 Station.
Read our guide on How To Use Amtrak Guest Rewards Points.
Where the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard® falls short in its category
Lower points. The card offers fewer points per $1 spent in popular categories such as dining, gas and groceries. If you spend a lot in these categories, the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard® may not be your best bet.
No more Starpoints® transfers. Previously, under Starwood’s Preferred Guest loyalty program, you could transfer your Starpoints® to Amtrak Guest Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio, but that program ended on Aug. 1, 2018.
Big spend for TQPs. You want elite status on Amtrak, but it will cost you if you go after it via TQPs. Select status starts at 5,000 points, so you’d have to spend $20,000 on the card in a year — and earn 4,000 TQPs — to get close to Select status.
Paltry perks. This card doesn’t offer any of the travel-related perks that other cards in this segment of the market do. That includes things such as priority check-in and boarding, regular lounge access, lost/delayed luggage and trip delay/cancellation insurance. You only get a free monthly FICO® Score.
Compare it with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
If you want a card with more flexibility in using points earned, along with more perks than the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard®, then the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a good option. Its $95 annual fee is higher than the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard®, but you also get more benefits to make up for it.
New cardmembers Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
You then earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. It’s a tie between the two cards for travel points (although the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard® gets a slight edge for rail travel) you can earn, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card gives you more points in the popular dining category at 2x points per $1 spent. You can transfer your Chase points 1:1 to nine airline and four hotel loyalty programs via Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This allows you to top off your miles or points in your chosen loyalty program.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card also has travel and purchase perks that the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard® just doesn’t have, including auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, travel and emergency assistance services purchase protection and extended warranty protection.
Related: Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
|Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard®||Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card|
|Regular Purchase APR||16.74% - 24.74% variable||15.99% - 22.99% Variable|
|Rewards||Earn 3 Amtrak Guest Rewards points per $1 spent with Amtrak, 2 points per $1 spent on other qualifying travel purchases, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases||2X points on travel and dining at restaurants, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide.|
|Sign-up Bonus||Earn 20,000 bonus points after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within 90 days of account opening.||Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||None||$0|
The bottom line
It’s all about deciding which benefits and perks are most important to you when choosing between the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard® and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
If you ride Amtrak regularly, especially in premium classes, then the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard® is a strong contender. It gives you higher points per $1 spent on Amtrak-related purchases, including onboard purchases. Plus it offers higher points per $1 spent on a broader definition of travel. But you don’t get those higher points in popular categories such as dining, gas and groceries.
If you’re looking for those extra travel and purchase perks that come with credit cards in the travel category, you won’t find them with the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard®. But this card does come with an annual companion coupon, one free upgrade a year and a free lounge pass as a welcome gift for new cardmembers. And it has a good mix of ways to redeem the points you earn.
But if you’re not wedded to rail travel, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card gives you much more flexibility, even with its higher annual fee. You earn more points for both travel and dining. Plus you can get more value for your points if you use the Chase Ultimate Rewards® website to redeem them for travel. You can transfer your points to airline and hotel loyalty programs and good travel and purchase protection benefits that add value to the card.