Cruising is one of the most popular vacation choices out there, yet remains woefully underrepresented when it comes to travel rewards. The truth is, the few cruise-oriented travel reward credit cards that exist offer very few benefits for card-holders.
That's why it's important for cruise-lovers to think outside of the box when it comes to earning enough points and miles to pay for their vacation of choice. Instead of focusing on rewards cards geared specifically to cruisers, it's a much better idea to focus on cards that offer travel credit or plain ol' cash back. A few examples:
The Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
The Barclay Arrival card was practically made for people who love to cruise. The deal is this: Spend $3,000 within three months of account opening and earn 40,000 bonus miles in addition to 2 miles/$1 spent on all purchases. The net value of the bonus (46,000 miles) is enough for a $460 travel credit that can be redeemed for hotels, airfare, and yes- cruises. A few other benefits that come with this card:
- $89 annual fee waived the first year
- No foreign transaction fees
- 10% of your miles back when you redeem them for travel
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards card is another product geared toward people who don't necessarily need airline miles or hotel loyalty points. It works like this: Spend $3,000 within the first three months of account opening and earn 40,000 bonus miles. A few other perks offered with this card:
- Earn 2 miles/$1 spent on all purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
- $59 annual fee waived the first year
- Extended warranty coverage
Much like the miles earned with the Barclay Arrival card, Capital One Venture Rewards miles can be redeemed for travel credit. The net value of the bonus (46,000 miles) is also worth $460 in travel credit that can be redeemed for all kinds of travel, including cruises.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Another card with flexible benefits is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Unlike the other cards on this list, Chase Sapphire Preferred rewards come in the form of Ultimate Rewards points which can be redeemed for travel or cash-back. Here's how it works: Sign up for the card and spend $3,000 within three months of card ownership to earn 40,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points. Some other benefits currently offered with this card:
- Earn 2 points/$1 spent on travel and dining
- Earn 1 point/$1 spent on all other purchases
- Earn an additional 5,000 points after an authorized user makes a purchases within 90 days
- $95 annual fee waived the first year
Once you earn the bonus and add an authorized user, you should have a minimum of 48,000 Ultimate Rewards points to burn. You can use these points to book a cruise in one of three ways:
- Redeem them for $480 in cash-back then book your cruise
- Book your cruise through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal
- Redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for gift cards to Carnival or Royal Caribbean (both 20,000 UR points for a $200 gift card)
Signing up for one of these cards should be enough to pay for most 7-day cruises that originate in the United States. Therefore, a family with two point-earners (who each sign up for a card) could reasonably plan on paying for their entire cruise, less port taxes and fees, with the sign-up bonus from any of these cards. All it takes it a little planning, some patience, and some organization to make the dream of a free cruise come true.
And for cruise-lovers, it doesn't get any better than that.