All aboard! These are the best credit cards for cruises
Unless you travel frequently with the same cruise line, a travel rewards credit card is the way to sail
Host of the podcast Speech Bubble
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Cruises have always been a great way to explore a bunch of different countries all in one shot without having to fly to each one individually. Plus – between each port, you live like royalty.
Whether it's food, entertainment or leisure activities, those on a cruise want for nothing. But those that carry the best credit cards for cruises can score an extra little something above and beyond the regular passengers.
Check out the credit cards being offered that can make you feel like the elite of the elites before you set sail to your next port of call.
Co-branded cruise line credit cards
Royal Caribbean Visa Signature Card
If you're a constant cruiser with a favorite cruise line, a co-branded credit card might be for you.
Besides the affiliated cruise line, there isn't much difference between the features on the cards below. They all carry the same 10,000-point bonus for the first transaction, giving you a $100 onboard credit.
They also earn you two or three points per dollar spent on cruise line purchases and one point on all others.
But what pushes the Royal Caribbean Visa Signature Card to the top is the extra sign-up bonuses you earn.
Here are more details:
- 10,000 points when you make a qualifying transaction within the first 90 days of account opening ($100 of onboard credit).
- 5,000 points when you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days ($50 of onboard credit).
- 2 points per dollar on purchases from Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. 1 point on everything else.
- No annual fee.
- No foreign transaction fee.
Alternative: Carnival World Mastercard
If you don't frequent Royal Caribbean cruises, the Carnival World Mastercard is a good alternative thanks to its variety.
You get the same 10,000-point sign-up bonus, but any points you earn also apply to all other cruise brands owned by Carnival – and they have many more international options than Royal Caribbean.
Here's a closer look at what the card offers, including benefits that aren't limited to the ship that extend to shore activities:
- 10,000-point sign-up bonus after your first purchase or balance transfer ($100 credit).
- 2 points for every dollar spent on World’s Leading Cruise Line purchases, which include brands such as Carnival Cruise Line, Costa, Holland America, Aida, Cunard, Princess Cruises P&O Cruises UK and Australia, Seabourn, Fathom and more.
- 1 point per dollar spent on every other purchase.
- 10 percent off Carnival Shore Excursions booked on Carnival.com before your cruise.
- No annual fee.
- No foreign transaction fee.
- Concierge service.
Alternative: Norwegian Cruise Lines World Mastercard
This card will get you more points for cruise brand-related purchases than any other co-branded cruise credit card on this list.
It also offers a host of rewards that extend to hotel stays, car rentals and more off-ship travel perks, making it the most flexible travel card of the co-branded credit card cruise category when it comes to redeeming rewards.
If you're a Bank of America client, this card will also give you an extra bonus. Take a closer look:
- 10,000-point sign-up bonus after your first purchase in the first 90 days ($100 credit).
- 3 points per dollar spent on Norwegian purchases.
- 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Flexible rewards: stateroom upgrades, travel discounts, onboard credits, car rentals, hotel stays or gift cards, as well as exclusive redemption opportunities for last-minute cruises and other special offers.
- No annual fee.
- Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients get an additional 25-75 percent of a point for every dollar they spend.
- No foreign transaction fees.
Tip: “With the Royal Caribbean card you don’t just get the power of Visa but also sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises,” says Emrys Thakkar, founding editor of Cruise Hive. “The cruise line is growing with new Edge-class ships, so, using a credit card for both cruise lines really can be beneficial to experience the very best at sea along with earning points.
Travel rewards credit cards
Sure, you have to spend $5,000 in the first three months, but if you manage to pull it off the 70,000 in bonus miles earned will give you a whopping $700 in statement credit on travel expenses and they're not only restricted to cruises.
Even with the $89 annual fee (waived the first year), this and all the other benefits below make the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Mastercard worth looking into.
- 70,000 bonus miles when you spend $5,000 in the first 90 days (worth up to $700 in statement credits).
- Unlimited 2 miles per dollar spent on every purchase.
- Get 5 percent of your miles back every time you redeem.
- No airline, seat or hotel restrictions.
- Redeem for travel and cash back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise. (Travel statement credit redemption starts at 10,000 miles for $100).
Alternative: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is on so many "bests" lists for credit cards for good reason.
If you redeem for cruises – and any other travel – through the Chase Ultimate Rewards booking portal, you'll get 25 percent more of a bonus, which is even better than the Barclaycard Arrival Plus above.
Plus, all the points you earn can be transferred one-to-one to many popular frequent flyer and hotel loyalty program partners, including Jet Blue, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Marriott Rewards, IHG and more.
- 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months (up to $625 in travel credits).
- 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining, including cruises (1 point per dollar on all other purchases).
- Get a 25 percent bonus when you redeem for cruises, hotels, airfare and car rentals through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- $0 annual fee for the first year, $95 after that.
Tip: “My suggestion regarding a rewards card is to choose a spending rewards card that collects points that allow you to use those points on whatever cruise line you choose, rather than be stuck with only one brand,” says Barry Vaudrin, Cruising Authority talk show host and executive producer “There's more freedom in a more generic credit card.”
Cruise credit cards for families
Disney Premier Visa Card
Nothing beats Disney when it comes to outstanding family travel experiences.
If you're a huge Disney fan who not only is planning a Disney Cruise, but often buys from the Disney Store quite often, this is the card that will get you to that vacation faster – plus, it will give you a 10 percent discount at the Disney Store and at Disney locations.
For more details, see below:
- $250 in statement credit when you spend $500 in the first three months.
- 10 percent savings on select Disney and Star Wars purchases in the Disney Store and shopdisney.com, as well as purchases of $50 or more at Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts.
- 2 percent back in Disney Rewards Dollars on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and most Disney locations. 1 percent on all other purchases.
- 0 percent promo APR on Disney vacation packages for six months, including cruises.
- Private character photo experiences inside Disneyland and Disney World Resorts.
- Redeem Disney Rewards for onboard activities.
- $49 annual fee.
Alternative: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
If you want to get a generous sign-up bonus without having to spend $4,000 or $5,000, the Capital One Venture Rewards card might be what you're looking for.
Plus, two points per dollar can be earned on every purchase, not just travel and dining.
Meanwhile, from now until Jan. 31, 2020, you'll get 10 points per dollar spent on hotel rooms booked and paid through hotels.com/venture.
- 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
- Make travel purchases, including cruises, on any app or any website to earn points.
- Up to $100 credit on TSA Precheck or Global Entry.
- $0 annual fee in the first year and $95 after that.
- 24/7 concierge service.
- Transfer miles to 12 travel loyalty programs, including Aeromexico, Flying Blue (Air France and KLM) and Cathay Pacific.
Tip: Planning a Disney vacation for your family, including a cruise, can be expensive, but travel rewards credit cards can help you save. Read “Rewards card tips to cut the cost of a trip to Disney World” to learn more.
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