Before airplanes regularly dotted the skies and automobiles congested the highways, many travelers chose to see the world by boat. At one time, consumers considered cruise vacations as reserved only for the ultra-wealthy. But with one of the best credit cards for cruises, just about anyone can take to the seas.
In fact, more than 30 million travelers will take a cruise in 2019 — a 6% increase from the previous year. And, as cruise lines add more excursion options, on-board technology, and exotic destinations, that number will only increase.
So, isn’t it about time you get in on the fun?
Best Travel Rewards Cards for Cruises
You can use several methods to turn your credit card rewards into a trip on the high seas. Whether you use a dedicated rewards portal, such as the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, or you redeem your miles as statement credits to reimburse your cruise costs, it’s easier than ever to plan your next adventure.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
18.74% - 25.74% Variable
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® allows new cardholders to earn as many as 50,000 bonus points when you charge at least $4,000 to the card in your first three months. That bonus alone is worth $750 toward your next trip. And, since the Chase Ultimate Rewards platform lets you choose how you spend your points, you can save them for your cruise fare, off-shore excursions, or any other cruise-related expense.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card you can earn 2X points on travel and restaurant charges worldwide and one point per $1 spent everywhere else. That means your travel purchases will accrue rewards faster — and can help you get to your next cruise sooner.
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
- Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
- Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
17.49% - 24.74% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card pays out an unlimited 2X miles on every purchase — and your miles never expire as long as you keep your account open and in good standing. You can redeem your miles for statement credits that reimburse all or part of your travel purchases, including cruise fare and other expenses.
at Discover Card'ssecure website
- UNLIMITED BONUS: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
- Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
- No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
- Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
- Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
- Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
The Discover it® Miles card not only pays an unlimited 1.5X miles for every dollar you spend using the card, but the bank also matches all the miles you earn during your first year for new cardholders. By making regular purchases and saving your miles — then doubling them with your matched miles — you can potentially earn enough rewards to pay for an entire trip.
- $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
- Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
- Earn 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
- Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
- Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
- Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 13.74% - 23.74% variable APR after that
0% for 12 months
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
With the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, you’ll earn an unlimited 1.25X miles for every dollar you charge to the card, and you won’t pay an annual fee. This card also provides a long introductory period with 0% interest and lets you transfer your earned miles to more than 12 travel loyalty programs to maximize their value. This is handy if you’re not coastal and need to catch a flight to take your cruise.
at Bank Of America'ssecure website
- Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points
- 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days — that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
- Use your card to book your trip how and where you want — you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
- Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
- Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
- Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles
17.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
Don’t let the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card fool you. It’s not just your average bank credit card. With this card, you can earn 1.5 points for every dollar spent using the card. If you spend at least $1,000 during your first three months with the card, Bank of America will give you a 25,000-point bonus — which is good for a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases, including cruise fares.
Best Cruise Line Co-Branded Cards
If you’re a hard-core fan of cruising and have a preferred cruise line, then you may want to consider that company’s branded credit card. These cards provide great perks, but typically only allow you to redeem your rewards for cruise-related purchases with that brand.
They’re also a bit limiting in that you usually only earn more than one point per $1 spent on purchases with that brand, whereas general travel cards provide bonus points in frequent spending categories, such as gas and dining. This can add up to many more cruise rewards faster.
7. Disney® Premier Visa® Card
The Disney® Premier Visa® Card works like a key to a special club during your Disney Cruise Line voyage. You’ll have access to exclusive discounts, experiences, and character photo opportunities on your cruise and in the parks.
- Earn 2% back in Disney Rewards Dollars for card purchases in select categories, 1% on everything else
- $200 statement credit after you spend $500 in the first 3 months
- $49 annual fee
This card will net you 2% back in Disney Rewards Dollars when used at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and most Disney locations, as well as unlimited 1% back on all other purchases.
8. Royal Caribbean Visa Signature® Card
The Royal Caribbean Visa Signature® Card makes it easy to earn onboard credits, discounts, and other perks when you sail with Royal Caribbean. With MyCruise points, you can redeem your rewards for a host of options – including upgrades and free trips.
- Earn 2X points on qualifying Royal Caribbean purchases, 1X point on everything else
- Redeem your MyCruise points for onboard credit, discounts, and vacations
- Pay no annual or foreign transaction fees
This card often provides signup bonus options for new cardholders, so make sure you find the best deal before you apply. Most offers provide onboard credits when you meet certain spending thresholds with the card.
9. Celebrity Cruises® Visa Signature® Credit Card
The Celebrity Cruises® Visa Signature® Credit Card allows you to earn MyCruise points you can redeem with Celebrity Cruises and its sister companies. You can use your points to purchase discounts, upgrades, onboard credits, and several other perks.
- Earn 2X MyCruise points for every $1 spent with Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean®, and Azamara Club Cruises®
- Earn 1X MyCruise points on all other purchases
- Pay no annual or foreign transaction fees
This card also offers a small signup bonus that pays out $100 in onboard credits after you make your first qualifying transaction on the card within 90 days after opening your account.
10. Carnival® World Mastercard®
Carnival® is one of the world’s most popular cruise lines, and the Carnival® World Mastercard® is the easiest way to earn FunPoints that get you even closer to your next adventure.
- Earn 2X FunPoints per $1 spent with Carnival and World’s Leading Cruise Lines
- Earn 1X FunPoints per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Pay no annual or foreign transaction fees
You can also earn 20,000 FunPoints — a $200 value — toward your next cruise as a reward for making your first qualifying purchase with the card. That’s a great signup perk for a card that doesn’t charge an annual fee. Redemptions start at 5,000 FunPoints for a $50 statement credit toward a Carnival Cruise Line purchase.
11. Norwegian Cruise Line® World Mastercard®
You won’t pay an annual fee with the Norwegian Cruise Line® World Mastercard®, but you’ll still earn a ton of rewards for making purchases. Start with 3X WorldPoints® on every Norwegian purchase and 1X points on all other purchases, and you can quickly accrue enough rewards for discounts and free cruises.
- Earn 3X WorldPoints® rewards points for every $1 spent on Norwegian purchases
- Earn 1X WorldPoints® points per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Pay no annual fee
New cardholders also earn a 10,000-point bonus — a $100 value — when you make your first qualifying purchase using the card within 90 days of opening the account. Redemptions begin at 2,500 points.
12. Holland America Line Rewards Visa® Card
The Holland America Line Rewards Visa® Card from Barclays offers competitive interest rates that start at 15.74%, with no annual fee and generous rewards. You can redeem your rewards for onboard credits and discounts through the popular Holland America Cruise Line.
- Earn 2X points per $1 spent on Holland America purchases, 1X point on everything else
- 5,000-point bonus after your first purchase
- Pay no annual or foreign transaction fees
The card also offers a 5,000-point bonus — worth $50 in onboard credits — after you complete your first qualifying purchase with the card. If you don’t feel like cruising, you can also use your rewards points as a statement credit toward airfare.
13. Princess Cruises® Rewards Visa® Card
The Princess Cruises® Rewards Visa® Card is one of Barclays’ most generous cruise line cards. New cardholders can earn 10,000 bonus points — good for $100 in onboard credits — after making their first purchase with the card. Since you’re not paying an annual fee, that’s free money for regular Princess travelers.
- Earn 2X points per $1 spent on all Princess purchases, 1X point on everything else
- Earn 10,000 bonus points after making your first purchase
- Pay no annual or foreign transaction fees
Besides cruise rewards, onboard credits, and special cruise amenities, you can also redeem your earned points for discounted airfare and other travel rewards — which makes this a flexible option for the on-again, off-again cruiser.
Are Cruise Credit Cards Worth It?
This depends greatly on your travel plans, spending habits, and savings goals. If you’re a regular cruise line passenger and have a preferred brand, then a co-branded cruise line card may be your best choice. These cards offer the ability to earn onboard credits, cardholder discounts, and potential upgrades.
But if you only cruise occasionally, or you’re thinking about planning your first cruise, you may find more utility from an all-purpose travel credit card.
An all-purpose travel card will let you accrue miles or points that give you complete control over how you redeem your rewards. That means you can use your rewards to pay for a cruise, get cash back to pay bills or apply them to other travel-related expenses, such as flights and hotel stays. It’s up to you.
That level of flexibility is why we often recommend cards issued by Chase, Capital One, and Discover. Through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you have a tremendous number of options when redeeming your rewards — and you can even transfer them to several partnered airline loyalty programs.
Capital One and Discover travel cards allow you to redeem your accrued rewards for statement credits, meaning your rewards can reimburse some or all of your previous travel purchases. These purchases can include cruises, flights, hotels, car rentals, ride-sharing services, and several other expenses.
Some cruise line branded credit cards allow you to redeem your rewards for discounted airfare, but most penalize you by lowering the value of the rewards when you choose that option. These cards want to build brand loyalty — and increase your spending with the cruise line — so most make it difficult to use your rewards outside of the company.
But that isn’t always a bad thing. If you take multiple cruises each year, you can take advantage of the discounts, onboard credits, and other perks these cards can provide on your voyage. But, when you’re walking on dry land, the cards aren’t quite as lucrative as other travel credit cards.
How Do I Use Chase Ultimate Rewards Points for a Cruise?
The Chase Ultimate Rewards program provides tons of travel options when redeeming your rewards points and miles — but you won’t find cruises listed among your choices.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use your rewards to book a cruise. After you’ve researched and found the best cruise for you, you can call the Ultimate Rewards booking hotline and talk directly to the cruise department. A representative can work with you to book the cruise using your rewards.
Call (855) 234-2542 to reach a specialist Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Eastern Time. Your travel specialist will book the cruise for you and allow you to choose how many rewards points you want to use toward the purchase.
Just keep in mind that booking your travel this way may make your points slightly less valuable than if you chose a different travel option. Chase places unique point values on different types of purchases.
For example, requesting cash back will net you 1¢ per point. Your points are worth between 1.25¢ and 1.5¢ each when you redeem them for travel using the online portal.
If you choose to transfer your points from Chase to a partnered loyalty program, you’ll find they’re worth between 0.3¢ and 6¢ each. The value depends on Chase’s agreement with each loyalty program.
How Do I Use Capital One Miles for a Cruise?
Capital One makes it easy to use its travel rewards credit cards to get exactly what you want when you’re vacationing or traveling for business.
Many travel credit cards impose restrictions, blackout dates, and other hurdles that cardholders must jump over to redeem their rewards. Capital One lets you pick your favorite cruise line, airline, hotel brand, rental car agency, or any other company you prefer to do business with.
This is because the issuer doesn’t allow cardholders to redeem their rewards directly for travel purchases. Instead, you use your card to make a qualifying purchase and apply your awards as statement credits that cover all, or part, of the purchases.
Some consumers shy away from this type of rewards program and instead want to find a card that allows them to make direct purchases with rewards. While that may seem more convenient, it can also be more expensive and time-consuming.
Using a rewards redemption portal requires you to shop for your desired purchase on the issuer’s website. You’ll find no wiggle room in the prices and many airlines and cruise lines only offer limited accommodations on these portals — meaning you’ll have to find another date to book your trip if your desired date sells out.
A card that provides statement credits allows you to shop on any website, with any travel agency or in-person merchant you choose. You will likely find more options this way and won’t be limited to your card issuer’s partnerships.
To redeem your rewards, you can simply log in to Capital One’s website or mobile app. After a few taps or clicks, the bank applies your miles to your balance. Within 24 hours, your card’s balance adjusts to reflect the amount covered by your rewards, making it one of the simplest redemption options available.
What Cruise Line Has the Best Rewards Program?
If you’re looking for the best rewards — in any credit card — you’ll want to first look at flexibility. Card issuers began dishing out rewards to build brand loyalty and incentivize customers to use their cards instead of cash.
But over the years, some of these cards have become too specialized. That’s where flexibility comes into play.
When you’re researching the best cruise line rewards program, you should first look at your preferred brand. After that, you should identify exactly how the card allows you to earn and redeem your rewards.
Some will limit you so that you can only redeem your rewards for onboard credits. That could come in handy if you’re always on a ship — but most of us don’t have that luxury.
The Princess Cruises® Rewards Visa® Card, for example, allows cardholders to redeem their rewards for discounted fares, upgrades, onboard credits, and even discounted airfare on any airline you choose. Still, you’ll find the point values decrease when you choose to redeem them for purchases with merchants other than the cruise line. That flexibility, though, makes the Princess card a top option.
The Celebrity Cruises® Visa Signature® Credit Card allows you to earn MyCruise points you can redeem with Celebrity Cruises and its sister brands, Royal Caribbean and Azamara. You can earn the same rewards and apply the same redemption options with the Royal Caribbean Visa Signature® card.
You should also look at any signup bonuses offered to new cardholders. All the cards listed in this review offer a signup bonus.
For example, you’ll receive enough bonus rewards for $100 in onboard credit after you make your first purchase with the Carnival® World Mastercard®.
What’s nice about this type of signup bonus is that all it requires is a one-time purchase within a specified period after opening the account. Many general-purpose travel cards require new cardholders to meet a minimum spending threshold to achieve the bonus, though the signup bonuses are often greater.
Swipe to Sail and Save
You may need your passport and boarding pass to set sail on your next cruise vacation, but you should also bring along one of the best credit cards for cruises. That’s because these cards can be your ticket to discounts, upgrades, and the type of memories that every vacationer strives to create.
But before you click the apply button for a cruise line co-branded card, make sure it provides enough year-round value to make it worth your while. You may find that a good all-purpose travel rewards credit card gets you aboard your next ship much faster.