Comparing Cruise Line Credit Cards | CruiseHabit

Comparing Cruise Line Credit Cards

Like department stores, airlines, and even gas stations, some cruise lines have their own credit cards promising perks and savings for cardholders.  We looked at a few of these offers and found there are far better deals to be had if you’re looking to save money and get benefits from using a credit card for travel.  We’ll break down the benefits, the cost, and tricks you might find helpful in using credit card perks to save money on your next cruise.

~Before we begin, CruiseHabit nor anyone affiliated with CruiseHabit is in any way offering financial or legal advice.  We’re sharing tips that we’ve personally used, but every situation is different, and you should do your own investigative work and speak with a financial professional before making any financial decisions.~

We’ll start by comparing the basics of cards offered by several popular cruise lines.  They each offer signup bonuses, which front-loads you with some perks (after initially using the card over a certain amount of time), point’s accumulation (redeemable for onboard credit, for example), and other benefits which may not be specific to the cruise line or even travel.  You’ll note we don’t talk about interest rates (except as part of promotional balance-transfer rates), because if you’re carrying a balance, you’re almost certainly paying more in interest than any of these perks are worth – no matter what interest rate you get. There are a few things you should know to avoid problems when cruising and using a credit card, and we discussed that with CreditCards.com.

After covering the cruise lines’ cards, we’ll go over another card which we, as frequent cruisers, find to be a much better deal.

Comparing Cruise Line Credit Cards

 

Royal Caribbean’s Credit Card

Points Value: Each “MyCruise” point is worth $.01, redeemable towards cruises, onboard credit, and stateroom upgrades on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, or Azamara.

Signup Bonus: After making your first transaction (within 65 days), you’ll get 10,000 “MyCruise” points, worth $100.

Points Accumulation: You’ll earn two points for every dollar you spend with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, or Azamara.  You’ll earn one point for every dollar you spend on anything else.

Other Perks:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee
  • Points are good for 60 months
  • This card is also a Visa signature card, which means you’ll get benefits such as auto rental collision damage waivers, roadside dispatch, travel and emergency assistance services and round-the-clock access to Visa Signature Concierge.

Notes: Because these points and benefits work across Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Ltd brands, you should carefully consider whether this card, or Celebrity’s card is right for you.  For more information on the Royal Caribbean credit card, check out episode 209 of the Royal Caribbean Blog podcast.

 

Celebrity Cruises’ Credit Card

Points Value: Each “MyCruise” point is worth $.01, redeemable towards cruises, onboard credit, and stateroom upgrades on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, or Azamara.

Signup Bonus: After making your first transaction (within 90 days), you’ll get 10,000 “MyCruise” points, worth $100.

Points Accumulation: You’ll earn two points for every dollar you spend with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, or Azamara.  You’ll earn one point for every dollar you spend on anything else.

Other Perks:

  • 10,000 bonus anniversary points when you make at least $10,000 in purchases annually
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 50% off second guest at specialty restaurants
  • 10% discount on Premium Beverage Packages
  • 10% discount on a Private Journeys shore excursion
  • $300 discount on a future cruise of at least 7 nights or more in a Concierge Class stateroom, after making at least $5,000 in transactions within your first 60 days
  • Annual Flights by Celebrity℠ $50 Airfare Discount - upon approval and on account anniversary
  • Points are good for 60 months
  • This card is also a Visa signature card, which means you’ll get benefits such as auto rental collision damage waivers, roadside dispatch, travel and emergency assistance services and round-the-clock access to Visa Signature Concierge.

 

Notes: This card has more cruise line-specific perks than others, which may be of value.  Those perks do come at a $69 annual fee.  Because these points and benefits work across Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Ltd brands, you should carefully consider whether this card, or Royal Caribbean’s card is right for you.

 

Carnival Cruise Line’s Credit Card

Points Value: Each “Funpoint” is worth $.01, redeemable towards cruises, onboard credit, and onboard gifts on Carnival and associated Carnival Corporation & PLC brands/World's Leading Cruise Lines (Carnival, Costa, Cunard, Princess, Holland America, P&O Cruises, P&O Australia, Seabourn, and AIDA).

Signup Bonus: After making your first transaction, you’ll get 10,000 “Funpoints”, worth $100.

Points Accumulation: You’ll earn two points for every dollar you spend with Carnival and other World's Leading Cruise Lines brands.  You’ll earn one point for every dollar you spend on anything else.

Other Perks:

  • 0% introductory APR on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening, applicable for the first 15 billing cycles that immediately follow each balance transfer
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee
  • Points are good for 60 months

Notes: Because these points and benefits work across Carnival Corporation & PLC brands, you should carefully consider whether this card, or Princess’ card is right for you.

 

Princess Cruise Line’s Credit Card

Points Value: Each point is worth $.01, redeemable towards cruises, onboard credit, and onboard gifts on Princess and associated Carnival Corporation & PLC brands/World's Leading Cruise Lines (Carnival, Costa, Cunard, Princess, Holland America, P&O Cruises, P&O Australia, Seabourn, and AIDA).

Signup Bonus: After making your first transaction, you’ll get 10,000 points, worth $100.

Points Accumulation: You’ll earn two points for every dollar you spend with Princess and other World's Leading Cruise Lines brands.  You’ll earn one point for every dollar you spend on anything else.

Other Perks:

  • 0% introductory APR on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening, applicable for the first 15 billing cycles that immediately follow each balance transfer
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee
  • Points are good for 60 months
  • This card is also a Visa signature card, which means you’ll get benefits such as auto rental collision damage waivers, roadside dispatch, travel and emergency assistance services and round-the-clock access to Visa Signature Concierge.

Notes: Because these points and benefits work across Carnival Corporation & PLC brands, you should carefully consider whether this card, or Carnival’s card is right for you, though the principle difference is that Princess’ card is a Visa Signature card, which comes with some perks over Carnival’s Mastercard.

 

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Credit Card

Points Value: Each “WorldPoint” is worth $.01, redeemable towards stateroom upgrades, travel discounts, exclusive redemption opportunities* for last minute cruises and onboard credits on Norwegian Cruise Lines, car rentals, hotel stays, cash and gift cards.

Signup Bonus: After making your first transaction (within the first 90 days), you’ll get 10,000 “WorldPoints”, worth $100.

Points Accumulation: You’ll earn three points for every dollar you spend with Norwegian Cruise Lines.  You’ll earn one point for every dollar you spend on anything else.

Other Perks:

  • No annual fee
  • Earning three points per dollar on NCL transactions is better than many other cruise line branded cards

Notes: This could be a perk, or it could be a downside to this card – it depends: Booking cruises, upgrades, and some other benefits are at a fixed point rate – not a simple $.01/point calculation.  You can book a three or four night sailing to the Bahamas for 80,000 points (this includes taxes, fees, etc), which may or may not be a good value depending on what the cash price for that particular cruise is.  You can find the WorldPoint redemption table here.  Also note that there is a 3% foreign transaction fee associated with this card, which seems silly for travel.

 

Disney Cruise Line’s Credit Card

Points Value: Each “Disney Rewards Dollar” is worth $.01, redeemable towards tickets, hotel stays, dining, and other purchases at Disney Parks & Resorts, cruises, gifts, and onboard credit on Disney Cruise Lines, airfare (as a statement credit), Disney movies, and more.

Signup Bonus: $200 statement credit after spending $500 in the first three months.

Points Accumulation: You’ll earn 2% in Disney Rewards Dollars on card purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and most Disney locations. Earn 1% on all your other card purchases.

Other Perks:

  • 0% six-month APR on select Disney vacation packages
  • Savings on select onboard DCL purchases
  • 10% off select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at select locations and 10% off select dining locations most days at the Disneyland® and Walt Disney World® Resorts
  • Disney Visa Cardmember-exclusive photo opportunities with Disney or Star Wars Characters, held in private locations at the Disneyland® and Walt Disney World® Resorts
  • Save 10% on select purchases at Disney store and shopDisney.com
  • Get access to exclusive Disney Visa Cardmember events at Disney store

Notes: There is a $49 annual fee for this card.  Clearly there are a ton of perks, but they may be more valuable if you’re looking to enjoy Disney Parks & Resorts as well. 

A Better Choice for Credit Card Travel Perks

Some cruise line credit cards have some nice perks.  If you’re a frequent enough cruiser and big enough spender (to make the annual fee worth it), Celebrity’s card for example could be a great option.  NCL’s card earns points more quickly, but aside from Disney’s card they all have one thing in common: you only earn multiple points when you’re spending money with the cruise line.

There are many other credit cards out there which offer rewards programs, and in many cases, they’ll earn you a lot more based on what you spend your money on, and you can often use those rewards for a wider variety of things.  What happens if you build up a ton of Funpoints and later decide that NCL is your cruise line of choice?

Our Choice for Best Travel Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Reserve

As mentioned above, there are many options in credit cards out there, and there are sites that already do a great job in covering them, but to us, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a slam dunk in terms of value.  Let’s start by looking at the stats in a similar fashion to how we did with the cruise line cards.

 

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Points Value: Each “Chase Ultimate Rewards Point” is worth $.015 if you redeem it for travel (cruises, hotels, rental cars, and more).  If you want to redeem your points for other things, such as statement credits, the points are worth $.01.

Signup Bonus: 50,000 “Chase Ultimate Rewards Points,” which are worth $750 if you use them for travel, or $500 for statement credits or other perks.  You get the bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months.

Points Accumulation: You’ll earn three points for every dollar you spend on travel or dining.  That means three points for every dollar you spend on any airline, ride sharing service, cruise line, hotel, or restaurant.  You’ll earn one point on all other purchases.

Other Perks:

  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs (you can find a list linked on this page)
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Special car rental privileges from National Car Rental, Avis and Silvercar when you book with your card
  • Special benefits during your stay with The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance (If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours and hotels)
  • Auto rental damage/collision waiver
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Emergency evacuation and transportation (If you or a member of your immediate family are injured or become sick during a trip far from home that results in an emergency evacuation, you can be covered for medical services and transportation up to $100,000)
  • Purchase protection (covers new purchases from damage or theft for 120 days)
  • Transfer “Chase Ultimate Rewards” points from other cards you have to the Chase Sapphire Reserve and they’ll immediately be eligible for the extra 50% valuation towards travel purchased through the Chase portal
  • Additional Visa Infinite benefits

Notes: There is a steep $450 annual fee for this card, but for almost anyone, it’s actually much lower than that – trust us.  Every year you get an automatic $300 credit once you spend $300 on travel of any kind – not just baggage fees like some other cards (looking at you AmEx) – airline tickets, cruises, even electronic tolls count!  Also keep in mind that every five years you’ll get a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, something you should have anyway if you’re traveling frequently.  The value will become clear below.

Comparing Cards with Math – Why That Chase Sapphire Reserve Annual Fee Doesn’t Matter

Let’s imagine for a moment that in the next year you plan on spending $2,500 on dining out, $4,500 on cruising, $1500 on airfare, and $2500 on miscellaneous retail – rather conservative numbers for frequent travelers.  With Royal Caribbean’s card (or Carnival’s for that matter), you’d earn $155 worth of points to spend with the cruise line.  With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’d earn $420 redeemable for travel of any kind, or $280 redeemable for statement credits.  If you earned points with any other card (such as the Chase Freedom card), you could transfer those points as well and get the higher valuation. 

Back to that annual fee though, it’s $450, but you’ll almost certainly get $300 back from the travel credits (it’s completely automatic once you spend $300 on any kind of travel), and you’ll save $100 on Global Entry (which we’ll count as $20, since you only need to pay every five years).  Your net annual fee is now down to $130, and since you earned $265 more than if you’d have used the Royal Caribbean (or Carnival) card, you’re ahead of the game.  This is all with minimal spend, and not counting the loads of extra benefits (lounge access, trip insurance, etc).  This also doesn’t factor in the bonus wort $750 in travel, compared to the $100 bonuses offered by most of the other cards.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

As we mentioned, there is no universally correct solution or credit card, and the best perks in the world don't matter if you're paying interest on a balance eery month - so don't let these companies lure you in with these promises only for you to pay them hundreds or even thousands of dollars more than you'll get from them.  It's also important to know that in some cases, using these points for travel means you may need to book differently than you're used to.  For example, to get the 1.5x valuation bonus on travel with Chase Sapphire Reserve, you'll need to book travel through Chase - which makes them your agent for that trip.  We recommend using a good agent who can provide personal service, and while we've never had a bad experience booking with Chase, we tend to use the points to book plane tickets, or single night hotel stays, which we might not otherwise use our travel agent for.  Booking a big trip?  Have your agent take care of the rental car, hotel, cruise, etc (again, we cover why this is so important here), and just take care of the airfare with points - everyone wins this way.  Also, whether you're purchasing travel protection on your own, or using it as a benefit from your credit card company, be sure to read the policy carefully and understand what it covers.  We see far too many folks ask if travel insurance covers XYZ, which is impossible to answer, as there are so many different policies.  

Ultimately, do the math for yourself, but know that for us, we've saved thousands of dollars just in the last year or two by using the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.  After doing research for this article however, we may also get Celebrity's card - not so much to use and earn points on, but just for the other perks it includes.

Have questions?  Comment below, or reach out on Twitter or Facebook.  Also check out our article with things you should know when spending money aborad!