If you’ve ever thought about traveling by train, let’s talk for a minute about the Amtrak student discount. On its face, it’ll save you 15% if you have a valid student ID and are between the ages of 17 and 24.
But if you’re a regular KCL reader, you know we want to do better than that — finding ways to push your savings higher than just the regular 15% off. That’s why we took a deep dive into the Amtrak student discount. Before you book a train trip on your student budget, study these tips so you can hack your way into a bigger discount.
For more smart shopping tips and savings hacks, text HACKS to 57299 or download The Krazy Coupon Lady app.
1. The Amtrak student discount gives you 15% off regular fares (if you book at least a day in advance).
You can count on getting an easy 15% off full-priced fares — in Coach or Acela Business class — with the Amtrak student discount. There are a few restrictions if you’re claiming the discount, though, which we’ll get into in a minute.
Keep in mind that you can only use the discount on full-priced fares, which means you can’t apply it to any sale fares, promotions, or discounts.
2. You’ll use their student discount portal to book online, or enter promo code V814 in the app.
Instead of applying a promo code at checkout (like you do with student discounts at other stores), with Amtrak, you’ll actually need to filter your search to only the fares and routes that are eligible for the discount.
Here are two ways to find the eligible fares:
- Go to the student discount portal where the discount should automatically apply, showing you results with the 15% off factored into the price.
- On the Amtrak app (iOS / Android), enter code V814 before you search for routes.
You can also book your tickets in person at an Amtrak station, if you prefer that route.
TIP: There isn’t a way to apply the student discount code at checkout, so if you’re browsing routes online, make sure you go through their special portal.
3. But you’ll save up to 83% when you combine the Amtrak student discount with Saver Fares.
We already mentioned that the Amtrak student discount isn’t combinable with any other Amtrak sales or promotions. But that actually doesn’t exclude their “Saver Fares” category.
Amtrak’s Saver Fares are discounted not because they’re on sale, but because you’ve booked them at least 7 days in advance of your trip. And the savings only get better the earlier you book.
For example, I researched fares for a few popular Amtrak routes and found that your savings (with the student discount) were more like 36% – 83% each way if you booked 30 days in advance instead of 7 days.
As long as time is on your side, this is one instance where you can stack your Amtrak student discount with extra savings. Itineraries get posted as early as 11 months in advance on the Amtrak website.
TIP: The day you travel also makes a difference, with weekdays being slightly cheaper than weekends.
4. You can use the Amtrak student discount on only about half of the available routes.
Amtrak does put some restrictions on their student discount, which is expected. They limit the number of eligible routes and also the number of seats on each train that are available to students. Being able to use your student discount is always subject to availability, which sometimes means you won’t be able to use it when you really want to.
While Amtrak does offer about 30 different routes to 56 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada, there are 16 routes where you can never apply your student discount:
- Blue Water (Chicago to Port Huron)
- Capitol Corridor (Auburn, California to San Jose)
- Carl Sandburg (Chicago to Quincy)
- Hiawatha Service (Milwaukee to Chicago)
- Illini (Chicago to Carbondale)
- Illinois Zephyr (Chicago to Quincy)
- Keystone (New York City to Harrisburg)
- Lincoln Service (Chicago to St. Louis)
- Missouri River Runner (St. Louis to Kansas City, Missouri)
- Pacific Surfliner (San Luis Obispo to San Diego)
- Pennsylvanian (New York City to Pittsburgh)
- Pere Marquette (Chicago to Grand Rapids)
- Saluki (Chicago to Carbondale)
- San Joaquins (San Francisco to Bakersfield)
- Wolverine (Chicago to Pontiac)
- 7000 – 8999 thruway series (buses that connect two train lines)
TIP: Keep in mind that the Amtrak student discount is not available for sleeper cars.
5. Have your student ID handy, just in case they ask.
While it may be tempting to use the Amtrak student discount when you’re not actually a student, know that they may ask you for your physical ID while on board to verify your student status. And they won’t accept a copy or a digitized version of your ID.
If you can’t show proof that you’re an active student, you may be stuck shouldering the full cost of a ticket.
6. The Amtrak student discount (15%) is better than the senior and military discounts (10%).
Surprisingly, the Amtrak student discount offers more savings than either the Amtrak senior discount or the Amtrak military discount, which both top out at 10%. But with the Amtrak military discount, an added perk is that you get to go to the head of the ticket line for first dibs on seats.
TIP: The Amtrak child discount lets children ages 2 – 12 travel for 50% off.
7. Amtrak’s baggage policy includes two personal items, two carry-ons, and two checked bags.
If you’re used to expensive baggage fees on most traditional airlines, check this out. Amtrak has a pretty reasonable baggage allowance that’s included in your fare. With your coach ticket, you’ll be allowed:
- Two personal items, up to 25 lbs. each (max dimensions 14″ x 11″x 7″ per item)
- Two carry-on items, up to 50 lbs. each (max dimensions 28″x 22″ x 14″ per item)
- Two checked bags up to 50 lbs. (up to 75″ linear inches + width/height)
Compare that to airlines like Delta, where you’d pay for $70 for two checked bags.