New Amtrak Credit Cards – The Latest Updates and My Initial Take

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Amtrak Credit Cards

Amtrak Credit Cards

Amtrak Guest Rewards points are my most cherished niche rewards currency.  Hopping on a train is my favorite travel method, and I easily obtain 2.9 cents per point with a bit of flexibility.  I’ve historically had excellent Amtrak experiences in long haul sleeper cars and on Acela.  (Ian just recently enjoyed a roomette on the Coast Starlight route with his boys.)  I was naturally intrigued when my wife and I each received snail mail featuring the Amtrak Guest Rewards logo today.  Here, I’ll unpack the new Amtrak credit cards, including card highlights, what’s new, and my initial take on the changes.

Update 9 Sep 2022:  In a statement to The Points Guy following this article, a First National Bank of Omaha spokesperson confirmed the 5% points redemption rebate for Amtrak credit cardholders will continue.

New Amtrak Credit Cards

Late last year, Bank of America removed their Amtrak cards for new applications.  The Amtrak cards moving to a different bank was seemingly inevitable.  My wife and I each still currently hold Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum Mastercard accounts, and today’s snail mail clarified the future of Amtrak credit cards.  And a Diamond lounge member who holds the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard shared details of that card’s refresh.

First off, the Amtrak credit cards are moving from Bank of America to First National Bank of Omaha in October 2022.  BOA Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum Mastercard holders will be product changed to the Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard from FNBO.  BOA Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard holders will be product changed to the Amtrak Guest Rewards Preferred Mastercard from FNBO.  Cardholders will begin receiving new cards in the near future for use starting 23 October 2022 at 12 pm CT.

I’ll now step through the highlights of each card.

Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard

  • 2x points on all Amtrak travel purchases, including onboard purchases
  • 2x points on dining purchases
  • 1x point everywhere else
  • Receive a 10% rebate on Amtrak onboard food and beverage purchases
  • Points never expire and no limit on how many points one can earn as long as the account is open
  • No annual fee

Amtrak Guest Rewards Preferred Mastercard

  • 3x points on all Amtrak travel purchases, including onboard purchases
  • 2x points on dining, travel, transit, and rideshare purchases
  • 1x point everywhere else
  • Receive a 20% rebate on Amtrak onboard food and beverage purchases
  • Points never expire and no limit on how many points one can earn as long as the account is open
  • $99 annual fee (increased from $79)

Amtrak Credit Cards

What’s New

Each card’s bonus categories have been slightly tweaked.  No annual fee cardholders will earn 2x on dining purchases.  In addition to the carried-over 2x travel category, those with the annual fee card will earn 2x on dining, transit, and rideshare purchases.  Each card features new rebates (10% and 20%, respectively) for Amtrak onboard food and beverage purchases.

A seemingly glaring omission in the terms and conditions of the new cards is the 5% points rebate on award bookings.  Each BOA card previously offered this feature, but the new cards’ terms and conditions don’t address this benefit.

My Initial Take

Small Wins

First off, for existing cardholders, I’m happy we are being product changed to the respective card versions with FNBO.  Those in power could’ve easily chosen to product change us to some relatively useless BOA card in their existing portfolio.  No annual fee and modest annual fee card versions survive.  It could’ve been worse.

Secondly, I’m pleasantly surprised at the relationship I’ve backed into with FNBO.  I’ve been unable pick up a new card with them for years (indeed, ever since the La Quinta Returns card).  Perhaps establishing a healthy spend pattern with my new FNBO Amtrak card will positively influence future endeavors.  Or maybe not.  I’ll remain hopeful, regardless.  Many of you may similarly enjoy getting a foot in the door with FNBO.

But Elsewhere…

I will sorely miss the 5% points rebate on Amtrak bookings, if it’s truly gone.  This rebate effectively made Amtrak points worth over 3 cents per point for us.  The devaluation is slight but can’t be ignored.

Beyond the points rebate, fans of the annual fee card can rest easy knowing that certain perks remain.  Cardholders will continue to receive an anniversary lounge pass, round trip companion coupon, and one-class upgrade coupon.  Those same cardholders can continue earning TQP’s on big spend (1k TQP’s per $5k spend).  Interestingly, the terms and conditions of the new Amtrak Premier don’t list a cap for TQP earning on big spend.  Previously with BOA’s World Mastercard, the annual card limit was $20k spend for 4k TQP’s.

The new bonus earning categories are a small improvement but don’t significantly move the needle, in my view.  Many of us already have options to earn similar rewards rates or better on dining, transit, and rideshare.  I’ll keep using our Chase Sapphire Reserve and Cardless Manchester United and Boston Celtics products (grandfathered earn rates) for those categories, instead.  Many of you will have other options that earn similar.

The rebates for onboard food and beverage purchases are useless to me.  I only travel on award tickets in sleeper cars or in Acela First, where those items are generally included, anyway.  I won’t be running up many charges onboard, if at all.  Perhaps I’m not alone here.

Finally, annual fee cardholders can’t ignore that the card will cost $20 more each year.  That’s “only” $99, but those individuals will want to determine how they’re truly benefitting from a card fairly similar to the $79 version.  As always, asking for a retention offer or downgrading to the no fee card are viable options to consider.

Amtrak Credit Cards

Conclusion

I’ll be interested to see the welcome offers which appear for the new FNBO Amtrak cards.  FNBO doesn’t exactly wow us these days, so lucrative welcome offers would help draw attention.  As long as Amtrak point values remain relatively consistent, I can absorb most of the changes, especially since I focus on the no fee card, anyway.  Regardless, I’m thankful that the transition of Amtrak cards is one step closer to completion.  What’s your opinion of the new Amtrak credit cards?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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14 COMMENTS

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for this write-up. I either missed or never received the snail mail news from FNBO. I did receive the new cards yesterday, logged on to the account, and was aghast that there’s NOTHING there on the FNBO account for this card explaining any of the earnings structure. (under FAQ, nothing there either) I called them up, and an otherwise friendly rep. didn’t seem to get the problem — telling me simply that I’ll see the earnings on my monthly statement. (NOT my question)

    One question: About the new earnings structure, years ago I downgraded to the BA no annual fee version. What was the earnings structure on that? Wasn’t it 2 pts for every dollar spent? (Or am I remembering a grandfathered version — I had the original card for decades) I’m also remembering BA/Amtrak each year about this time would put on generous spending promotions….. This year….. nothing.

    • ps, noticed most of the comments here were assessing the card by whether they liked AMTRAK or not. Ok, I’ll ride it where expedient…. where good rates and routes still exist. (eg anywhere in Virginia). But oh my, spare me all the romantic “I love Amtrak travel” becuz it’s so nice circular homilies… We once fell for that hokum, even (mindlessly) booked the “Christmas train” from Denver to San Fran… worst possible time of year to take amtrak for “sight seeing” because at that time of the year, most of your travel is at NIGHT. (doh! — ever seen a web site that sells Amtrak cards dare mention that issue?) Even in the summer, long haul Amtrak trains across north ‘merika are so often wildly delayed by track conflicts with BN — that too so often leaving best sights ‘blacked out” by nightfall. (all that b4 covid) Even worse, Amtrak shares passenger info with ICE — and when I stepped off at Reno, my cabin was raided and my dear wife (of 30 years) detained becuz some a-hole in ICE (or amtrak) figured she was an illegal…. (complete screw-up) Bad memories, yes.

    • No fee BOA version was only 2x Amtrak, 1x everywhere else, as I recall. I’m confident it wasn’t 2x everywhere, except for maybe a targeted, temporary spend offer.

    • Isaac,
      Driving PCH is superior in my opinion, but Amtrak views are definitely impressive and my second favorite option!

  2. Benjy, have you heard anything about Amtrak program changes beyond the bank that will be underwriting the credit card. Specifically I’m interested in whether this change in Banks will lead to changes in travel partners and transfers? In my mind that’s always been the weakest area regarding Amtrak rewards.

    • Lloyd,
      Unfortunately, I haven’t heard anything else substantive. Many were hoping for a return to Chase for the exact reason your mentioned. But in my view, the Amtrak cards going to a less popular bank may a good outcome for point values. If Amtrak points were easier to accumulate via transferrable bank point currency, I think a devaluation would be even more imminent. Just my gut feeling.

      • Sadly Amtrak Guest Rewards has become inward looking and small. They have removed all branded hotel and car partners like Hilton and offers us only a point.com hotel and car consolidator. As for the new bank? They are best known for down market brands partnerships like Sun Country Airlines and Best Western. This is a bank downgrade in terms or internet, apps and branches. I understand having fewer points opportunities may be good for keeping the points value but the program should engage customers and be no less valuable to me than any major airlines program.

  3. I actually like the food on Amtrak but I use the train on the east coast as equivalent to a commuter service. There is nothing aspirational about the food or service but if you’re looking for a drink and snack at the end of the day it’s actually well executed. Genuinely curious as to why you redeem for acela first class tickets. Mark up from standard ticket is usually 2x and it is not that much more functional. On 3-4 hr trip I really don’t see the point/need of meal service on the train. I’m happy to effectively get a discount on my Amtrak ticket price through the card and rewards program but cannot fathom why anyone that doesn’t travel amtrak regularly would allocate flexible reward points to a trip on amtrak. It’s a commuter rail. That’s their DNA.

    • Miamiorbust,
      My wife and I have healthy Amtrak point balances, so I’m happy to splurge on Acela First and long haul sleepers. Those two experiences are far from plain commuter rail, in my view. But different strokes for different folks.

    • N.,
      Back when I had the World Mastercard, I received it in the mail. But that was years ago. Hopefully, someone else with more timely info can chime in.

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