Yes, it is often cheaper to buy train tickets online. In fact, Saver Fares—the most discounted Amtrak fares—almost always require that you purchase in advance, which is easiest to do online.
In general, prices fluctuate based on availability and demand, but tend to spike as you get closer to your departure date. We recommend that you buy Amtrak tickets at least two weeks prior to your departure.
Employ the following tips to find the best deals on train tickets:
Use an online booking platform. Sites like Wanderu allow you to easily compare routes, schedules, and prices to your top destinations at-a-glance, making it easier than ever to spot a good deal. You can also combine train and bus travel into a single route to get to more remote destinations that might not be accessible via Amtrak.
Travel during less-busy times. The busiest windows for train travel are Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, when the majority of passengers are departing or returning from weekend getaways. Weekday mornings tend to be crowded as well, with commuters in transit to work. To avoid high fares, plan to leave in the afternoon or evening during the work week, or for a weekend trip, mid-morning or early afternoon on Thursday, Friday or Sunday.
Book to nearby stations. In some bigger cities, Amtrak operates out of multiple stations. Use Wanderu to snag a deal to your next destination by checking “Include nearby locations” on your next search: You may find a cheaper fare if you board or disembark just outside of the city instead of downtown. From there you can snag a ride share, taxi, or take public transit into the city for a better price.
Follow along for special deals. If you’re interested in regular updates about low fares and deals on tickets from train companies like Amtrak, follow Wanderu on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We post regular updates that include cheap train tickets to hundreds of destinations.
You can buy a train ticket at most large train stations, which are staffed with Amtrak ticket agents. If a ticket agent is not available, many stations provide a Quik-Trak Kiosk from which you can purchase a ticket directly.
If your nearest station is not big enough to sell tickets in-person, you can purchase online at Amtrak.com or via an online booking platform like Wanderu. Alternatively, Amtrak allows you to buy tickets over the phone 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL.
The change and cancellation policy for an Amtrak ticket varies based on the type of fare. To pursue a refund, call 1-800-USA-RAIL or begin the process online at Amtrak.com. Below, find each type of fair and the policy associated with it.
Saver Fares are the cheapest type of ticket, deeply discounted from the regular rate. These fares generally require you to buy in advance.
Refunds: Saver Fares are eligible for a full refund within the first 24 hours of purchase. After 24 hours the tickets are nonrefundable, but you may receive an eVoucher for 75% of the original amount.
Change Fee: None.
Value Fares are tickets bought at the regular, undiscounted price.
Refunds: Value Fares are eligible for a full refund up to eight days out from departure. If canceled within eight days of departure, you will be charged a 25% cancellation fee on either cash back or an eVoucher.
Change Fee: None.
Business Fares are for business-class seats located in a dedicated section of the train.
Refunds: Business fares are eligible for a full refund or eVoucher up until the time of departure.
Change Fee: None.
Acela First Class fares cover the premium, first-class cabin of Acela trains.
Refunds: Acela First Class fares are eligible for a full refund or eVoucher up until the time of departure.
Change Fee: None.
Sleeper rooms and roomettes are available to book for most long-distance routes.
Refunds: Sleeper Accommodations are eligible for a full refund within the first 24 hours of purchase. If canceled up to 15 days out from departure, you will be charged a 25% cancellation fee on cash back. Within 15 days of departure, you are no longer eligible for a refund, but can receive an eVoucher for 75% of the original amount.
Change Fee: None.
Amtrak is the primary rail service in the United States, and has a few different train types:
With the ability to go up to 150 miles per hour, the Acela is the highest-speed train in the U.S. (In Europe, Eurostar and Deutsche Bahn ICE trains go up to 186 mph.)
The Acela operates routes between Boston, New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and provides a more premium experience than Amtrak’s other offerings, with conference tables, improved WiFi and fewer stops for a faster trip.
Regional trains are dispersed on routes throughout the country, such as the Northeast Regional.
These trains go up to 125 mph and tend to have more stops, some of which are in smaller towns. Regional trains are typically more affordable than the Acela.
On long-distance trains, you can choose sleeping accommodations as an “add-on” when booking on the Amtrak website. (Because sleeping accommodations are considered premium fares, they can only be booked directly through Amtrak.)
These train cars can either be one-level (known as a Viewliner) or two-level (known as a Superliner), and come in various layouts—some of which include private bathrooms and showers. The biggest size of room is a Bedroom Suite, which fits four adults, has two in-room toilets and two in-room showers.
Amtrak offers various discounts and promotions that allow passengers to save money on train travel. Below are some of the deals you can expect.
Infants — Amtrak allows infants under 24 months to ride for free, as long as they are carried on the lap of a paying adult. To use a safety carrier or car seat, you will be required to purchase an additional ticket. Additional kids under 2 years old are permitted with each adult traveler at a 50% discount.
Children — For every adult ticket purchased, customers are entitled to a 50% discount on one ticket for a child between ages 2 and 12. Note: The children’s discount does not apply to Business Class or First Class fares, sleeping accommodations, or for weekday Acela trains.
Seniors — Amtrak offers passengers age 65 or older a 10% discount on most full-price fares. When booking, simply choose “Senior” from the Discounts drop-down menu on the Amtrak site. The senior discount does not apply to Business Class or First Class fares, sleeping accommodations or on the Acela. Valid proof of age is required onboard the train.
Active Military — Amtrak offers active-duty U.S. military personnel and their families a 10% discount on eligible rail fare. For military children ages 2 to 12, that 10% can be added on top of the 50% children’s discount. When booking, simply choose “Military” from the Discounts drop-down menu on the Amtrak site. The military discount does not apply to Business Class or First Class fares, sleeping accommodations, or for weekday Acela trains. Valid military ID is required onboard the train.
Disability — Amtrak offers a 10% discount for adult passengers with disabilities, or a 50% discount on the Downeaster route from Boston to Portland, Maine. Children with a disability are eligible for an additional 10% off on top of their 50% children’s discount. Companions of passengers with a disability may also receive a 10% discount. When booking, simply choose “Disability” from the Discounts drop-down menu on the Amtrak site. Written documentation of the disability must be presented at boarding, and can include any of the following:
Transit system ID card for persons with a disability
Membership card from a disability organization
Letter from a physician
Medicare card, if under 65
Veteran's Administration ID with “Service Connected”
Disabled/Accessible parking placard issued by a state Department of Motor Vehicle (photocopy is acceptable).
National Association of Railroad Passengers Members — NARP members are eligible for 10% off fares on most Amtrak trains.
Government — Depending on the route, federal government employees are eligible for certain discounts and other benefits.
Group Travel — Groups of 20 or more passengers may be eligible for a discount on rail fare.
Whether you have an assigned seat or are free to sit anywhere can depend on your type of ticket. There are four levels of seating options on Amtrak trains: Unreserved Coach, Reserved Coach, Business Class and First Class.
Unreserved Coach — These tickets are only available on some short-distance routes, in which tickets may be sold in excess of the train’s seating capacity. That means you can sit anywhere you want, but are not guaranteed a seat. If the train is full, you may have to stand.
Reserved Coach — On a Reserved Coach train, the number of tickets sold matches the capacity of the train. That means you are guaranteed a place to sit, and can take any open seat on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Business Class — These tickets reserve you a space in a dedicated “Business Class” train car, with features that include extra legroom and free non-alcoholic drinks. In Business Class, you are free to sit in any open seat on a first-come, first-serve basis.
First Class — First Class tickets are only available on the Acela train, which runs between Boston, New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. This is the only type of Amtrak ticket for which you are assigned a dedicated seat. You are free to change your seat at any time after your reservation is complete.
Each passenger is allotted up to two personal items, two carry-on items, and up to four checked bags. Find further details below.
Personal Items — Passengers are allowed two personal items of no more than 25 pounds each, not to exceed the following dimensions: 14 x 11 x 7 inches.
Carry-On Items — Passengers are allowed two carry on items of no more than 50 pounds each, to be stowed on designated racks or in the compartment above the seat. These bags should not exceed the following dimensions: 28 x 22 x 14 inches.
Checked Bags — Passengers are allowed up to four checked bags. The first two are free of charge, and the second two cost $20 each. Bags are not to exceed 50 pounds and 75 linear inches (length + width + height).