The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Thursday, June 20, 2024

7 Ways a Credit Card Can Help You Save on a Cruise

Ways A Credit Card Can Help You Save On A Cruise
Andrea Woroch

Written by: Andrea Woroch

Andrea Woroch
Andrea Woroch

Andrea Woroch is a nationally recognized consumer finance expert, writer, and TV personality who is passionate about helping families find simple ways to spend less and save more without making major sacrifices. Her practical budgeting and savings advice has helped millions of Americans initiate real financial change so they can stress less and spend more time doing the things they love. As a go-to media expert, Andrea has appeared on popular TV shows such as Today, Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, Dr. OZ, CNN, and MSNBC. Her work has been featured in the The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes, Reader’s Digest, Cosmopolitan, Money, Time, Woman’s Day, Yahoo, among other outlets. Andrea hosts a monthly money segment on KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Reviewed by: Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker
Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker has more than a decade of experience as a finance contributor and editor, and has specialized in the credit card industry since 2015. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among many others. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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Advertiser Disclosure

Cruise bookings are experiencing increased demand after a tough three-year struggle to stay afloat due to pandemic restrictions and consumer fears. In fact, a recent AAA survey found that 52% of US adults say they are just as likely or more likely to consider taking a cruise vacation than they were before the pandemic.

If you’ve been thinking about setting sail on your next getaway, researching different cruise lines and destinations are essential steps toward finding the best ship experience as well as getting the best deal. But that’s not the only way to save — even your credit card could help to offset some of your cruise costs.

Here are seven ways your credit card can help you save on a cruise.

1. Snag a Signup Bonus

Before booking your cruise, consider opening a new credit card to pay for the trip. Doing so could help you qualify for a nice signup bonus in the form of cash back, points, or miles rewards. You can then apply those bonus rewards toward your travel expenses to offset some of your cruising costs.

Signup bonuses typically require you to spend a certain amount of money within the first few months from account opening, but if you use the new card to pay for the cruise, you can easily meet the minimum and qualify for the bonus. 

2. Rack Up Extra Rewards

While general-use credit cards usually offer bigger rewards and more redemption options, using a cruise-line-specific card while onboard means earning more rewards during your trip which can offset your overall travel spend.

For example, the Carnival World Mastercard offers a 10% statement credit for shore excursions booked with the card and 2X “FunPoints” for every $1 spent on any purchases with Carnival Cruise Line or its sister brands. Your points can be redeemed for statement credits toward any Carnival purchase and onboard experiences, among other things.

Screenshot of Carnival World Mastercard landing page
The Carnival World Mastercard is worth consideration if you’re planning a cruise.

In addition to earning robust rewards through your credit card, you can earn even more back on your cruise by booking it through a cash back site like Coupon Cabin that offers special discounts on cruise bookings.

3. Enjoy Exclusive Discounts Onboard

Cruise-line-specific credit cards may have limited redemption options compared with general-use credit cards, but they do offer one thing those other cards don’t — exclusive discounts on purchases and access to entertainment aboard the ship.

If you’re planning to take a Disney cruise, the Disney Premier Visa card will get you exclusive discounts, including 10% off non-discounted photo packages, 20% off spa treatments, 10% off $50 worth of merchandise, and 10% off the Castaway Cay getaway packages in the Bahamas.

4. Finance Your Trip With 0% Interest

Planning ahead and saving up for your cruise vacation is the best way to prepare and pay for your trip, but last-minute travelers or those who haven’t had as much wiggle room in their budget in recent months may not have had the luxury to stash away any extra cash. This doesn’t mean you have to be stuck paying interest to finance your voyage. Instead, look for a card that waives interest for the first year.

Best 0% APR Offers:

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card Review

at Bank Of America’ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
  • Choose 3% cash back on gas and EV charging station, online shopping/cable/internet/phone plan/streaming, dining, travel, drug store/pharmacy or home improvement/furnishings purchases.
  • If you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase. That means you could earn 3.75%-5.25% cash back on purchases in your choice category.
  • No annual fee and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% – 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • Contactless Cards – The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (Balance Transfer Fee 3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4%)
19.24% – 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
$0
Excellent/Good

Additional Disclosure: Bank of America is a CardRates advertiser.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Review

at Bank Of America’ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don’t expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening – that can be a $250 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 travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% – 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards – The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (Balance Transfer Fee 3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4%)
19.24% – 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
$0
Excellent/Good

Additional Disclosure: Bank of America is a CardRates advertiser.

These cards will give you more time to pay off the cruise without fees piling up. Just make sure to read the fine print and pay off the trip before the promo is up.

5. Score Free Flights to and from Your Port

Although your initial cruise expenses may be low, the added cost of getting to and from your departing port can quickly escalate, especially if you have to fly. With airfare prices soaring, booking ahead is key to saving on airfare. 

While you’re at it, think about using a co-branded airline credit card for daily purchases and monthly utilities to rack up miles that can be redeemed for roundtrip flights or cover at least one leg of the trip.

6. Stay Protected With Travel Insurance

Credit cards offer many layers of protection, including travel insurance coverage so you don’t have to buy separate policies. And, since travel hiccups are unpredictable, taking advantage of these added benefits can give you peace of mind during your trip.

A man on a hammock at a beach holding a phone with the words travel insurance on it
Many cards offer travel insurance that can cover the cost of your trip, lost luggage, and other incidentals.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for instance, says cardholders qualify for trip cancellation and interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, and lost and delayed luggage insurance, among other travel protections.

7. Avoid Paying Foreign Transaction Fees

If you’re eyeing a cruise overseas, you have to think twice about the card you will bring with you on board the ship. Foreign transaction fees average about 3% of each transaction and can quickly add up. Using a card that waives this fee can help you save big on an international cruise.

For example, neither the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card nor the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card charges foreign transaction fees, making these a top pick for any trip abroad.

The Right Card Can Lessen Your Cruise Costs

While several credit card perks can help travelers reduce cruise costs, don’t overlook the importance of doing your research first. Always compare credit card programs and how they stack up to your spending habits before applying. Comparing the best credit cards for cruises can help you pinpoint the most beneficial option for your travel needs.

Advertiser Disclosure

CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation for referrals for many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across CardRates.com (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.