Get the most Amtrak freebies via Amtrak Guest Rewards (AGR)

Strategy #1. Just get that price down.

Use AmSnagAmSnag finds all the cheap tickets, often late at night.
Joint NARP. 10% discount when you can’t find a better one, AGR points on sign up.
Joint Student Advantage. 10%-20% Amtrack discounts and other “junk” discounts
Sales. The sales are relentless, all over the place and hard to exploit.
Don’t travel so far. If you’re in DC, go to Philly instead of NYC.
Travel at night. If you can bear it.

Strategy #2. Rack up points, get free rides.

Join a signup “cabal” - Find a current member who will “refer” you to AGR. Hope someone pays the favor forward to you someday. Here is one that favors people who hang out at a particular Amtrak Forum
Ride the Train. You earn points based on dollars spent. So the incentive is to buy expensive tickets, not just tickets with high price to mileage ratios.
Points Transfers/Buy points. Get points in one program, and transfer them to AGR.
Amtrack Points cards. UPDATE. Bank of America offers 2 flavors of Credit Cards linked to AGR. One gets you a companion ticket for $80 a year plus points for spending, the other is just points for spending.  I may have to write a whole article on this to even touch on all the relevant knowledge points.
Join NARP. You get AGR points related to how much you donate.
Cashback Cards - Straight cash might be worth more than transferred points.
Points for Hotels, Car Rental and other services. These feel like junk discounts. Except the electricity sign up. That looks like a good deal if you were planning to sign up for wind energy anyhow.

STAY AWAY: State Farm Bank

State Farm Bank for many years was a fine online banking institution.  They changed their online logon procedures and I have more or less permanently lost my ability to log on.  The online form gives you three attempts before it locks out your account.  The customer service gives you two attempts to reset the password and then they refuse to deal with you any more.

My name is Matthew Dean Martin and I approve of this message: “DON’T BANK WITH STATE FARM” They’re security is so f*cked up you will never be able to access your account online.  For a bank that doesn’t have real bank branches and only has insurance sales offices, this is a serious problem.

I am a software development profession and I type passwords all f*cking day. If I can’t get though the logon system, that doesn’t mean it is secure, it means it is broken.

When I moved my money out of State Farm, it was a lot of money.  They now have $5.00 of my money and the sure as hell won’t let me look at it or tell me if I have a 1099 form.

Tips: Stop going to the post office

I’ve already stopped going to the video store, book stores, banks, and many more organizations. It’s time to stop going to the post office.

Blue boxes. If it weighs less than 1lb, you can calculate the postage online and ship it from a blue box. You’ll just need a scale and some stamps. From looking at the Rates & Fees page, it looks like you want a scale that can measure in ounce resolutions. Mail carriers don’t even pickup return mail or outgoing mail from my apartment, so you mileage might vary if you try to ship from your mail box.

Getting stamps without out going to the post office. There are about five different print-your-own postage solutions. Click-N-Ship is has no additional fees, except you will be paying for your own ink, paper and stickers. Ebay,, Endicia, Piney Bownes also do print-your-own postage. It costs $1.00 extra to have stamps shipped to you from USPS’s online store. It looks like you can get away with not using stickers if you print on plain paper and use tape.

Carrier pickup. Carrier pickup is free and you can schedule the pickup online. Obviously it works best if you will be in the same place for a chunk of time. Carrier pickup works for the 1 to 70lb range.