Norwegian Cruise Line® World Mastercard®
- 10,000 points sign-up bonus.
- 24,000 points for everyday spend.
Cruises can be great. They’re a relatively affordable way to see the world in a completely stress-free environment. These floating, all-inclusive resorts give you room, board and entertainment for a fixed price, with the opportunity to upgrade your experience with premium beverages, onshore activities and more.
If you’re ready to start cruising, you should consider getting a rewards credit card that can help pay for the ride. You might think that you should just pick up a credit card that’s co-branded with the cruise line you plan to use. While those cruise line cards have some benefits, you might do better with a general travel rewards credit card. Those cards often earn more and offer more flexibility when it comes time to use the rewards you’ve earned.
Cruising has never been more popular, and it’s easy to see why. Nearly all of your onboard expenses are covered in one flat rate, leaving you to worry about more important things, like getting a tan by the pool, catching a standup act in the lounge or grabbing a midnight snack in the dining room.
As you plan your cruise, you should get a credit card to help offset the cost. Nearly every cruise line offers its own credit card that will earn rewards that can be used to help pay for your cruise. You could use the award to upgrade your room, pay for premium drinks onboard or book an onshore excursion. If you save up enough, you could even get your entire cruise for free. However, general rewards cards can help you pay for your cruise, too. In fact, they’re often more flexible and more rewarding. They may, in fact, be a better option.
The best credit cards to earn free cruises: April 2018
Unlimited 1.5X rewards on every purchase
The Discover it Miles card is wonderful for two types of people. The first, and most obvious, is for someone looking for a single credit card that’s easy to use and that can do it all. The Discover it Miles card is a great option because it earns 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all purchases and redemptions areone cent per mile toward any purchase. Plus thereare a couple of other nice benefits, like $30 in annual Wi-Fi credits and no foreign transaction fees. As a no-fee card, all of that is essentially free.
The second type of person that the Discover it Miles card is a great option for is someone who is looking to truly maximize rewards. The Discover it is basically a no-brainer for the first year because all miles are doubled , meaning that it effectively earns 3 miles per dollar spent (1.5 when you purchase and 1.5 at the end of the year). After the first year it deserves a spot in the wallet of someone who wants to maximize rewards for purchases not included in the bonus earning categories of their other rewards credit cards.
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days
The short answer is absolutely. Depending on your travel and spending habits, this card may or not make sense for you after the first year when you start paying the annual fee, but earning 40,000 miles after meeting the minimum spend and earning 2X miles on all purchases are tremendous benefits. Not only that, but if this becomes your go-to card, miles will rack up fast, and with the 5 percent redemption bonus, that’s like earning 2.1 percent back on every purchase, every day. This card is just as good as any other cashback card currently on the market.
50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
With a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles and the ongoing earning power of two miles for every dollar spent, there’s a good case for owning the Venture card. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year and you’ll have $460 to spend on travel once you’ve made the required $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. That makes this card a solid contender for your everyday spending. However, if you’re not going to be able to spend a minimum of $3,000 a year on the card, you would be better off selecting a card that has no annual fee.
20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
If you’re looking for a no-fee rewards card that offers a solid sign-up bonus and hassle-free redemptions, than the the VentureOne card from Capital One is a great option. You’ll get 20,000 miles worth $200 for spending just $1,000 in 90 days, plus you’ll earn a generous 1.25 miles per dollar for every purchase.
Getting the card is a risk-free proposition because it won’t cost you a penny. Whatever miles you earn with the card are pure profit because there aren’t any fees. You can even use the card while traveling internationally, since there are no foreign transaction fees either.
50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for just about everybody. Whether you’re just getting started with travel rewards cards or you’re a frequent business traveler, this card offers many great benefits including a big sign-up bonus, a great earning rate on spending and a host of other travel benefits.
On top of that, and 2 bonus points are a great way to pad your Ultimate Rewards balance or to get you started. And because you always earn double points on travel and dining purchases, the mid- range annual fee of $0 first year, then $95, makes this a great card to keep beyond the first year and to also keep at the top of your wallet.
50,000 bonus points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
You can get excellent value out of ThankYou points, particularly if you transfer them to airlines and redeem for expensive premium cabin tickets. If you are a traveler that often books the cheapest economy class ticket, then there can also be strong value in redeeming points through the ThankYou program’s travel portal thanks to the 25 percent discount offered by this card.
If you are interested in domestic award travel or simple award redemptions, this card may prove to be too complex. Instead, consider cards with more domestic transfer partners. You may not get quite the same value for your points, but there will be more availability and easier redemptions.
10,000 bonus points after first purchase
The Carnival MasterCard is a no annual fee card that comes with a 10,000 points bonus after your first purchase. If you don’t mind an additional credit inquiry and you have a Carnival cruise coming up, it could make sense to get the card, make one purchase, and redeem your points for onboard credit for your upcoming cruise.
Going forward, it might make sense to use the card for Carnival purchases, but keep in mind that FunPoints expire after five years no matter what. If you’re not planning to go on additional cruises, your points will go to waste.
While the Carnival World MasterCard may seem appealing to someone who spends regularly on Carnival cruises, remember that there are many other cards out there that have the potential to earn more and won’t require high redemption amounts in order to get the best value.
10,000 bonus miles with your first purchase
Overall, the Princess Cruises credit card probably isn’t the best choice for many people. While it does offer a sign-up bonus, it isn’t that big. Plus, most purchases earn just one point per dollar spent, so it’ll be tough to rack up enough points for any meaningful redemptions. That said, it is a no annual fee card, so you won’t lose out on anything by getting it and only using it occasionally.
If you are a frequent Princess cruiser, the card becomes a better option. You’ll earn points a little faster since all Princess cruise purchases earn two points per dollar spent. Even though it is a better card for Princess cruisers, there are other cards out there that are at least as rewarding and offer more flexibility.
Compare all credit cards by RE® Value, which is an estimate of how much you will earn during first year of credit card use minus annual fees.
If you’re heading to the high seas, you should get a rewards credit card first. There are a lot of options for earning rewards while cruising and for redeeming rewards to help pay for the trip. Whether you get a card that’s co-branded with a specific cruise line or a general travel rewards card, you’ll be one step ahead of the game. There’s no reason you shouldn’t save some money on your next cruise!
With all of the rewards cards available today, it’s hard to know which one is best for cruising. Should you get a card that’s co-branded with your favorite cruise line? Or maybe a travel card that allows you to redeem points or miles for statement credits toward any travel expenses? A third option would be a card that offers transferable points and redemptions through online travel portals.
To complicate matters, choosing the best card is a personal matter. What’s works for one person may not be great for someone else. If you travel or cruise a lot, it may be worth paying an annual fee for a better card. But if you don’t, you may not recoup that cost. And if you spend a lot of money on a few specific types of purchases, you’d probably be better off looking for a card that offers a bonus for that spending. Or you could get a card that offers a good fixed earning rate for all purchases.
Whatever the case, we’ve come up a few things you should think about when you’re looking for the best cruise credit card. Let’s take a look.
The general rule of thumb among frequent travelers is that it’s usually worth paying an annual fee for a card that offers benefits and perks that you’re going to use. The bigger sign-up bonuses, better earning potential and more valuable rewards offered by many cards with annual fees can more than make up for the added cost.
For instance, Capital One offers two versions of their popular Venture Rewards card. The no-fee version of the card, the VentureOne® from Capital One®, is a solid offering, giving cardholders unlimited 1.25 miles for every dollar they spend.
However, the standard Venture® Rewards Credit Card, which has a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year, offers a fantastic earning rate of two miles for every dollar spent. That could easily be worth the added cost if you spend enough.
If you only cruise or travel every few years and don’t use credit cards very often, we still have you covered. There are a number of solid, no-fee rewards credit cards available, including the previously mentioned VentureOne and the similar Discover it® Miles Card.
In addition, most of the co-branded cruise cards are free to hold, including the Norwegian Cruise Line® World Mastercard®, the Royal Caribbean Visa Signature® Credit Card, the Princess Cruises® Rewards Visa® Card, the Holland America Line Rewards Visa® Card and the Carnival™ World MasterCard®.
Getting a big sign-up bonus is the quickest way to earn free travel. So if you’re looking for a credit card to help fund your next cruise, you should definitely look for a welcome bonus.
It’s not always as simple as going for the biggest bonus. There are often requirements that new cardholders have to meet in order to get the sign-up bonus. Some cards require you to make just one purchase, but you’ll have to meet a minimum spending threshold within a specified time period for most cards.
These minimum spends are typically easy to meet, requiring anywhere from $500 to $3,000 in purchases within three months of getting the card. If you put all of your expenses on the card for a few months, spending $1,000 per month is probably very doable.
Don’t forget that many bills can be paid for by credit card, such as phone bills, car insurance and even the garbage bill. If you’re trying to meet the minimum spend, you should pay for everything with that card. There’s no need to use cash.
Another tip for hitting your spending goal is to only get one credit card at a time. Trying to spread your spending out among several cards can make it impossible to earn the bonus. It’s better to focus on one card at a time. You can always get a second card after you get the sign-up bonus on your current card.
Some of the premium rewards cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ and the Citi Prestige® Card, will require more spending to get the welcome bonus. Both of those cards, for instance, have a $4,000 minimum spend. If you don’t think you’ll be able to reach that goal, you would probably be better off getting a card with a lower requirement.
Most of the co-branded cruise line cards require you to make just one purchase to earn the sign-up bonus. That’s great, but the bonuses are universally small. You’ll get 10,000 points with just about any card tied to a cruise line, including Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. While that might sound like a lot, it’s only worth about $100. You can do better with a lot of other cards.
The standard bonus that comes with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, for instance, is 40,000 miles.
The other way you earn free travel with rewards cards is by using them. Every dollar you spend will earn a certain number of miles or points. How much depends on which card you have and what you’re buying.
The standard earn on rewards cards is one point or mile per dollar. If you’re getting more than that, it’s a bonus. Ideally, you want a card that will earn a bonus for most or all of your spending. Cards typically offer anywhere from 2 to 5 points per dollar for spending that falls into a bonus category.
Almost every co-branded cruise card will give you just one point per dollar for almost all purchases, offering a bonus of two points per dollar just for purchases made with their respective cruise line. That’s not great. You could, for instance, earn two points per dollar for every dollar you spend, not just for cruise purchases, with the Venture card. You’re rewards balance will add up a lot quicker.
There are a number of no-fee cards that offer bonuses on all purchases too, including Discover it® Miles Card and the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card. Both will give you 1.5 points for every purchase.
Many cards offer bonuses for specific categories of purchases. The Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, for instance, offers three points per dollar for all travel purchases. So you could earn an impressive amount of points very quickly if you charge all of your cruise-related expenses to the card, including your cruise, airfare and hotel room.
All rewards cards limit what you can do with your points. Co-branded cruise cards, for example, only let you redeem points for use with the specific cruise line they’re tied to. You’ll be able to use a smaller number of points to pay for onboard purchases, such as premium beverages or dining, or save up to pay for the entire cruise. But you won’t, for example, be able to use your points to pay for transportation to the ship.
There are two other types of travel cards that will let you redeem for cruise expenses and any other travel you want. There are fixed-rate cards that allow you to redeem points at a fixed value for statement credits against travel expenses, such as the Discover it® Miles Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.
There are also cards that have flexible rewards currencies that give you the ability to redeem through an online travel portal or transfer directly to airline and hotel partners. Programs that offer that include Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou and American Express Membership Rewards.
While the fixed-rate cards offer the ultimate in flexibility because you can use points for whatever travel you want, the flexible currency cards can offer substantially more value if you’re shrewd when you redeem.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a 25 percent bonus if you redeem points for travel via the Ultimate Rewards website. The Premium Sapphire Reserve card offers even more, giving cardholders a 50 percent bonus for UR redemptions.
So every point is worth 1.25 cents with the Preferred and 1.50 cents with the Reserve. That means a 50,000-point sign-up bonus can get you up to $750 in travel via the UR website, versus just $500 if you had a fixed-rate card. And you can get just about any travel you want through the UR online travel portal, including cruises, airfare, hotels and more!
Most co-branded cruise cards don’t offer cardholders any special benefits or perks beyond the ability to earn bonus points for purchases made with the cruise line itself. There are exceptions to the rule, though. The premium Celebrity Visa Signature card, for example, comes with a variety of valuable discounts, including half off a second guest’s meals at onboard specialty restaurants, 10 percent off premium beverages and shore excursions, a $50 airfare discount and a $300 credit toward a cruise booked in a premium cabin.
Some general travel rewards cards offer special perks, too. Depending on the card, you can get free airport lounge access, elite status with hotel and rental car agencies, statement credits for travel expenses, TSA PreCheck and Global Entry fee reimbursement, free Uber rides and concierge service. Keep in mind that the cards with the best perks tend to cost more. While $450 to $500 may seem like a lot to pay in fees every year, if you use those benefits, it can be worth it.
Take, for instance, the American Express® Platinum Card®. At $550 a year, it’s one of the most expense cards available. But you get a lot for that fee, and if you’re a frequent traveler who uses those perks, it can be worth it. Let me break it down.
First, you and two guests will get complimentary access to a variety of airport lounges, including the swanky Centurion lounges and the vast network of Priority Pass Select lounges. Lounge access is typically $50 a pop, or $399 for a yearly Priority Pass membership. If you visit a lounge just four times in a year, that’s $200 in value.
Next, you’ll get $200 in Uber credits. If you Uber at home or while traveling, that’s another $200 toward the annual fee, for a total of $400. Then there’s another $200 credit for airline fees. While that can’t be used for ticket purchases, it can cover bag fees, Wi-Fi, in-flight meals and more. If you use that credit, then you’ve already paid for the annual fee and netted $50.
So everything else—which includes an impressive five points per dollar for airfare, complimentary benefits with Fine Hotels & Resorts properties, fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, Gold elite status with Starwood and Hilton hotels, special upgrades and discounts with select car rental agencies and free Boingo Wi-Fi access—is essentially free.
You’ll get a similar set of perks and value from any of the premium rewards cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, Citi Prestige® Card and U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card. So if you travel often and you think you’ll use the benefits, these cards can be a fantastic deal that can make traveling a lot more comfortable.
If you have good credit, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t have a credit card that can help offset the cost of traveling. And if you love cruising, it would be reasonable to think that getting a card branded by your favorite cruise line would be the obvious choice. But you should carefully consider how those cards rate on the two most important aspects of any rewards card: value and flexibility. How much will the card save you, and will you be able to use the rewards you earn?
While cruise line cards can be valuable—typically offering sign-up bonuses worth around $100 and the ability to earn points for every purchase—there may get more out of a general travel rewards card. Not only do most travel cards come with bigger sign-up bonuses, but you’ll also earn more on everyday purchases.
Cruise cards almost universally limit bonus earning to purchases made with the specific cruise line they’re branded by. General rewards cards will offer bonus points for all sorts of purchases. Depending on the card, you could get 2 to 5 points per dollar spent in bonus categories which can range from gas and restaurants to airfare and groceries. There are also fixed-rate cards which will give you 1.5 to 2 points per dollar for all purchases! Consider how much you spend and what you spend it on to figure out which card will net you the most rewards.
The flexibility of the rewards you earn is the other key aspect of any travel card. Again, cruise cards are fairly limited in this regard. Nearly all of them only offer redemptions with their respective cruise lines. If you have a Royal Caribbean Visa Signature® Credit Card, for example, you’ll only be able to use your points with Royal Caribbean.
General travel rewards cards offer a lot more flexibility. Depending on the card, you’ll be able to reimburse yourself with statement credits, purchase travel through the rewards program’s website or transfer points to an airline or hotel loyalty program. Why limit yourself to one cruise line when you could have a card that would allow you to redeem with a variety of cruise companies, as well as redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and more?