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Best Credit Cards for Amtrak and International Train Travel 2022

There’s nothing like watching the world pass you by from a train window, seeing the landscapes change, contemplating the vast scenery around you and passing the time curled up with a good book or chatting with your fellow travelers in the dining car. There’s an old-school sort of wonder to it all, whether you’re traveling around the U.S. on Amtrak — some journeys are more scenic than others — or riding the rails internationally.

Of course, the whole experience feels a lot more magical when it’s a free (or nearly free) one — or if you’re earning rewards points or cash-back that you can use to fund even more of your travels.

Below, Select details the best credit cards to use for train travel wherever you are, plus a few tips for saving money on U.S. and international train trips.

Best credit cards for train travel

Best overall

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Rewards

    Earn 5X total points on flights and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases plus, 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2025

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Who’s this for? The Chase Sapphire Reserve® stands out for offering an up to $300 annual travel credit, which can be used to cover rail trips. Not only that, cardholders earn a generous 3X points per dollar on other travel, including train tickets.

Beyond that, cardholders can earn 5X points per dollar on flights and 10X points on hotels and rental cars when they’re booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (after your first $300 in travel-related purchases), making it an ideal pick for frequent travelers. You’ll also earn 10X points per dollar through Chase Dining, 10X points on Lyft rides through Mar. 31, 2025, 3X points per dollar for all other travel and dining purchases including takeout and delivery and 1X point per dollar for any other spending.

Points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, meaning the 80,000-point welcome bonus you can earn after spending $4,000 in the first three months is worth at least $1,200 in travel. 

While you can’t use Ultimate Rewards® points to book train tickets, you can still transfer them to any of Chase’s many airline and hotel partners such as Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, IHG, Marriott and Hyatt to enhance your travels, especially if you’re flying to a particular country or locale to begin your rail adventure or need hotels to stay in — or a car rental — before or after your train trip.

There is a high $550 annual fee, but in turn, cardholders receive the $300 annual travel credit; a suite of travel and purchase protections; a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit; Priority Pass airport lounge access; extra benefits when you book a rental car with Avis, National Car Rental or Silvercar; VIP access to events and experiences; and special perks such as free daily breakfast, late checkout and room upgrades when you book a stay through The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.

Best for casual Amtrak travelers

Amtrak Guest Rewards® Mastercard®

Information about the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Mastercard® has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

  • Rewards

    2X points on travel booked with Amtrak (including purchases made onboard), 2X points on dining and 1X points for all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 12,000 bonus points after spending at least $1,000 within the first three billing cycles of account membership.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    25.24% to 27.49% (variable)

  • Balance transfer fee

    5% of the amount being transferred or $10, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Who’s this for? If you’re someone who plans the occasional rail journey with Amtrak, the new Amtrak Guest Rewards® Mastercard® issued by First National Bank of Omaha makes a great choice, as it lets you earn 2X points on travel with Amtrak (including purchases made onboard) and dining and 1X points for all additional purchases. You’ll also receive a 10% rebate on food and beverage purchases made onboard the train (as a statement credit) and a 5% points rebate when your points are redeemed for travel on Amtrak.

The card has no annual fee, no transaction fees and new cardholders can pick up 12,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first three billing cycles after opening an account, giving you a great head start toward free (or nearly free) train rides considering that Amtrak reward travel starts at just 800 points.

Best for frequent Amtrak travelers

Amtrak Guest Rewards® Preferred Mastercard®

Information about the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Preferred Mastercard® has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

  • Rewards

    3X points on travel booked with Amtrak (including purchases made onboard); 2X points on travel, dining, public transit and ride-share services; and 1X points for all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 30,000 bonus points after spending at least $1,000 within the first three billing cycles of account membership.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    25.24% to 27.49% (variable)

  • Balance transfer fee

    5% of the amount being transferred or $10, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Who’s this for? For those who travel frequently aboard Amtrak trains, the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Preferred Mastercard® offers similar benefits, but for a reasonable annual fee of $99 provides more perks. For starters, you’ll be earning 3X points for Amtrak travel (including purchases made onboard); 2X points on travel, dining, public transit and ride-share services; and 1X points for all other purchases. You’ll also score a 20% rebate on food and beverages purchased onboard, in the form of a statement credit, and a 5% points rebate whenever points are redeemed for travel on Amtrak.

As far as additional benefits, cardholders receive several special perks upon account opening as well as on their card’s anniversary date, including a round-trip companion coupon, one-class upgrades and station lounge passes. You’ll also earn 1,000 tier-qualifying points whenever you spend $5,000 in qualifying purchases with the card.

Now through Dec. 2, 2022, new card members can earn 30,000 bonus points (instead of the usual 20,000) after spending $1,000 within the first three billing cycles of account membership. If you’ve been a fan of U.S. train travel and are looking for a card that’ll help you earn points towards more trips on the rails, this could be a great addition.

Best for international train travel

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Rewards

    $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    18.99% – 25.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Who’s this for? If your primary goal is to earn bonus points on train rides abroad and you don’t want to pay a high annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card might be a good choice.

The card has no foreign transaction fees and lets you earn 2X points per dollar on general travel purchases, including train tickets. It also offers 5X points per dollar on travel booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 5X points per dollar on Lyft rides now through Mar. 31, 2025; 3X points per dollar spent with certain streaming services, as well as on dining and online grocery shopping (except Target®, Walmart® and other wholesale clubs); and 1X point per dollar on all other purchases.

With a $95 annual fee, this card packs a punch, offering additional travel benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards® Hotel Credit, collision damage waivers for car rentals, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, a 10% points boost to celebrate each card anniversary and special discounts for shopping with Instacart+DoorDash, and GoPuff, among other perks.

New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening, which is worth $750 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Best for earning cash-back rewards on travel

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

On the American Express secure site

  • Rewards

    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months. 

  • Annual fee

    $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.

  • Intro APR

    0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers from the date of account opening

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Who’s this for? If you’re interested in earning cash-back rewards for your travel purchases and having a 0% intro APR for the first 12 months on purchases and balance transfers from the date of account opening (after, 17.74% to 28.74%, see rates and fees), consider applying for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.

This card lets you earn 6% cash back for shopping at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then 1%), 6% cash back on certain U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back on transit (including trains) and U.S. gas station purchases and 1% cash back on all other purchases, making it a great card to use during your travels and when you’re using trains closer to home. Terms apply.

Three things to note about this card: While there is an $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, it’ll be $95 after that (see rates and fees); the cash back you’ll earn from using this card is offered to cardholders as Reward Dollars, which can be redeemed as statement credits; and unlike many cards on this list, you’ll have to pay foreign transaction fees of 2.7% for using this card outside the U.S.

New cardholders also have an opportunity to earn a welcome bonus of a $250 statement credit after spending $3,000 within the first six months of account membership.

Best for earning flexible travel rewards points

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Information about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

  • Rewards

    5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

    N/A for purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    0% at the regular transfer APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Who’s this for? While most travel rewards cards focus heavily on earning points for flights and hotels, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card lets you earn 2X miles for every purchase — plus, 5X miles on hotels and rental cars when you book them directly with Capital One Travel — making it easier to rack up the rewards you’ll need to book your train tickets by buying the things you need to buy anyway.

The welcome bonus is pretty decent, too — new cardholders can currently earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 within the first three months of card membership — and the card’s annual fee of $95 is quite reasonable considering you’re also getting a statement credit up to $100 to cover Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® membership and two complimentary visits per year to any Capital One Lounges (or any of the more than 100 partner lounges in its network).

You’ll also receive a range of travel-related benefits, including no foreign transaction fees, auto rental collision damage waivers for rental cars and travel accident insurance, as well as access to extra perks through Capital One Dining and Capital One Entertainment.

While you can’t transfer miles to Amtrak, you can use them to “erase” recent travel purchases, including those made with Amtrak, at a fixed value of one cent per point. You can also use the miles to cover hotels, flights, rental cars, and other parts of your trip either by booking through Capital One Travel or transferring and redeeming them through any of Capital One’s airline or hotel partners, including Accor, Aeroplan, Qantas, Etihad and Singapore Airlines, among others.

Best business card

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

  • Rewards

    Earn 3X points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases in select categories each account anniversary year (travel; shipping purchases; internet, cable and phone services; and advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines), 1X point per $1 on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Who’s this for? Similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card can be used to rack up Ultimate Rewards® points — 3X points per dollar on your first $150,000 worth of spending in business categories such as travel; shipping; cable, phone and internet services; and advertising expenses, then an unlimited 1X points per dollar for all other purchases.

You can then use those points to cover additional elements of your trip, such as flights, hotel stays or rental cars by booking travel directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal — your points will be worth 25% more that way — or by transferring and redeeming them with any of Chase’s many airline and hotel travel partners, including World of Hyatt, IHG, JetBlue and British Airways, among others.

New cardholders can currently earn a welcome bonus of 100,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 within the first three months of account opening, which translates to about $1,250 in travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. There is a modest annual fee of $95, but there are no foreign transaction fees for using it abroad. The card also offers fraud and purchase protections and additional employee cards to help you stay on top of all your business needs.

More ways to save money with Amtrak

In general, the earlier you can book your ticket, the better, especially on Amtrak, which releases its schedule 11 months in advance so you’ll have plenty of time to plan. You can also save more by making some obvious choices, such as traveling in coach instead of business or first class, or toughing it out long-distance in a regular seat rather than splurging on private Roomette or Bedroom accommodations. Otherwise, here are some more things to be aware of if you’re trying to stick to a budget-friendly ride.

Choose your fare class wisely

Amtrak offers several ticketing options depending on your route and what’s available when you’re booking (which is why buying your tickets early is so important), and each of them offers different perks and policies regarding changes and cancellations.

  • Saver: Non-refundable fares, usually the cheapest, with fees that may apply for changing or canceling your ticket
  • Value: Fares with refund options and no change fees; often second-cheapest
  • Flexible: Fully refundable fares before departure, with no fees for changes or cancellations; typically the most expensive option

Depending on your travel needs and financial situation, it might be worth splurging for a more refundable ticket if you think there might be a need to change or cancel it. On the other hand, budget-conscious travelers might be more apt to risk it all for a cheaper, non-refundable Saver fare.

Take advantage of Amtrak Guest Rewards perks

Don’t forget to sign up for Amtrak Guest Rewards, the train company’s free loyalty program, which gives you access to perks such as a 25% points bonus on business class travel and Acela business class travel, a 50% points bonus on travel in Acela first class, the ability to earn 2X points per dollar on Amtrak purchases and points-earning opportunities through its partners.

From there, if you travel on Amtrak often and earn enough tier-qualifying points, you can earn status:

  • Select: Starting at 5,000 tier-qualifying points, you’ll score all the perks of being a regular member, plus a 25% bonus on Amtrak travel, two one-class upgrades, two 10% discount coupons, exclusive offers, priority call handling and two single-visit passes to Amtrak Lounges
  • Select Plus: Starting at 10,000 tier-qualifying points, you’ll get the same perks as the previous tier, with a few differences — a 50% points bonus on Amtrak travel, four one-class upgrades and two companion coupons.
  • Select Executive: Starting at 20,000 tier-qualifying points, you’ll have the same perks as the previous tier, but with a 100% points bonus on Amtrak travel, four one-class upgrades (plus another one every time you hit the 3,000 tier-qualifying points mark) and one coupon for Auto Train Priority Vehicle Offloading.

Unfortunately, most loyalty programs no longer let you transfer points to Amtrak Guest Rewards, so your only real option is to call 1-866-313-9635 and transfer Audience Rewards ShowPoints at a 1:1 ratio in 1,000-point increments.

Otherwise, you can earn more points by shopping through the Amtrak Guest Rewards shopping portal or booking hotels and rental cars through Amtrak’s partners and, of course, booking Amtrak tickets or signing up for one of its co-branded credit cards. You can also pick up more points by shopping with a litany of retail partners including 1-800-Flowers, Teleflora, Apple, Survey Points Club, QVC, The Home Depot, eBags, NRG Home, Vinesse Wines, Audience Rewards or the Rail Passengers Association.

Find the best credit card for you by reviewing offers in our credit card marketplace or get personalized offers via CardMatch™.

Keep an eye on Amtrak’s deals and promotions

Amtrak is known for having sales, so it’s a good idea to check its deals page from time to time, which lets you search for specials by region. Amtrak recently offered a double points promo on fall travel, for instance, while other deals are related to newly launched routes, buy-one-get-one-free specials on certain segments or 30% off Acela bookings made at least 14 days in advance, among others. In general, though, you’ll typically save 20% by booking your tickets at least a week or two ahead.

Save with group or multi-ride rail passes

If you’re going to be traveling in a group —with family members, friends or co-workers — you might be able to save by booking your tickets with Amtrak’s Share Fares feature, which offers discounts ranging from 17% off for groups of three to 60% off for groups of eight when you book at least two days ahead.

Another option, if you’re going to be doing several trips back and forth to the same place within a certain timeframe, is to opt for multi-ride passes — monthly, 10-ride or 6-ride — which allow you to pay a discounted fare and commute more often between two cities.

For those who want to go big or go home with Amtrak, the USA Rail Pass allows you to ride 10 segments over the course of 30 days on many of its most scenic routes for $499 per person. Use the pass to plan a few weekend getaways from your hometown or plan an epic rail journey from coast to coast with a few stops in between — it’s up to you.

Another option, the California Rail Pass, offers access to The Golden State’s most beautiful train rides for a flat rate of $159 per adult and $79.50 per child, letting you travel anytime for 7 days within a consecutive 21-day period.

How to save more on international train travel

When booking train rides abroad, remember to be flexible. In some places, rail lines frequented by locals might be slower-paced but can save you a few bucks compared to faster trains along popular tourist routes. Try to book in advance whenever you can and consider investing in a rail pass — it’s worth checking websites such as Eurail or Rail Europe if you’ll be visiting multiple European countries, for instance — if you know you’re going to be spending a lot of time on trains during your trip.

Check for deals and discounts, especially if you’re a student, senior or traveling with children, and see if regional passes are available if you’re sticking to one country or a particular area within a country. Start by checking the tourism websites of the places you’re going to see what is recommended since every destination is different.

Bottom line

Our methodology

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.