The 15+ Best Credit Cards for Booking Cruises [2019]

Costa Pacifica

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Cruises can be a wonderful way to travel. They are a great way to see a lot of places on 1 trip, and they can be a good value since most of your food and entertainment is included. They are also great when traveling with family or a large group.

We’ve already gone over the best way to book your cruise with points and miles, but what’s the best option when you just want to pay for your cruise with a credit card?

When you’re getting ready to book a cruise, there are a few things you should think about — do you want to earn transferrable points, do you prefer cash-back, or would you prefer to earn cruise line perks like onboard credit or discounts?

We’ve picked some of the best options in each of these categories so you can make an informed decision about which credit card is right for you. Once you’re ready, don’t forget to book through a website that offers great prices plus bonuses or perks.

Cards That Earn Bonus Points on Travel

You may notice that some credit cards earn bonus points on the general category of “travel.” The good news is that the travel category includes cruises!

Here are some great credit cards that offer bonus points on all types of travel (including cruises)!

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card — 3x Points

The Ink Business Preferred is one of our favorite business credit cards for so many reasons.

In addition to great benefits like cell phone protection and trip interruption and cancellation insurance, the Ink Business Preferred card earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards Points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points can be used for travel in the Chase Travel Portal or you can transfer them to one of Chase’s many airline or hotel partners.

With the Ink Business Preferred card, you’ll earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on a cruise (up to $150,000 per year). Don’t forget you’ll also earn 3x points on flights to get you to your departure port, a hotel room for the night before your cruise, or even your taxi ride to the cruise port.

According to our points and miles valuations, Ultimate Rewards points are worth about 1.95 cents each which means your return would be about 5.85 cents per dollar spent!

Hot Tip: Sound good? Check out the other great benefits of the Ink Business Preferred card.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card — 3x Points

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is a powerhouse among travel rewards credit cards. The list of benefits it offers is long and includes a $300 yearly travel credit, a Priority Pass membership, and a free credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

Plus, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. With this card, your Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed through the Chase Travel Portal. You can get even more value by transferring them to airline or hotel partners like World of Hyatt or United Airlines.

When you pay for your cruise with your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you’ll earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. Based on our valuations, that gives you a return of 5.85 cents per dollar.

Hot Tip: Want to know more about this card? Check out the full list of benefits offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — 2x Points

If you want to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but aren’t sure if the Chase Sapphire Reserve card’s annual fee is worth it, check out the card’s little brother, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

This card’s annual fee is easier on the budget, but still comes with lots of great benefits. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you’ll earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel, including cruises.

That’ll give you a return of 3.9 cents per dollar, which is a solid value.

Bottom Line: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a great place to start if you are just getting into points and miles. It offers solid benefits for a reasonable annual fee and is the card we recommend for beginners.

Citi Premier℠ Card — 3x Points

The Citi Premier card offers lots of luxury travel benefits and some great points earning categories.

With this card, you’ll earn 3 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on all of your travel purchases — including cruises! These points are worth 1.25 cents apiece when purchasing airfare via the Citi Travel Portal, or they can be transferred to one of Citi’s airline partners (which will usually get you more value).

We value Citi ThankYou points at about 1.6 cents each, giving you a return of 4.8 cents per dollar.

Hot Tip: For more information, check out all of the benefits offered by the Citi Premier card.

Capital One® Venture® Credit Card — 2x Points

The Venture card is a solid option that will appeal to a lot of different types of travelers. It offers a great welcome bonus, has a low annual fee, and comes with some great travel benefits including:

  • $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck credit
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Airline transfer partners
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Lost luggage insurance

While this card might be overlooked by diehard points and miles enthusiasts, it offers some solid benefits and a flexible way to use points.

With the Venture card, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, including cruises!

You can redeem your Venture miles (while they are called miles, they act as points) through the Capital One travel portal for 1 cent per mile. Or you can use your miles to erase previous travel purchases — this method also gives you 1 cent per mile in value.

Hot Tip: Not sure how this card stacks up to a more traditional travel rewards credit card? Take a look at our head to head comparison of the Venture card vs. the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Discover it® Miles Card — 1.5-3x Miles

The Discover Miles card might not be the first one you think of when you are looking at great travel rewards credit cards, but it can offer some great value and might be a good choice if you are in search of a card with no annual fee.

While this card doesn’t feature all of the bells and whistles offered by some other cards, it does have 1 nice perk — all of the miles you earn the first year will be doubled! Normally, the Discover Miles card earns 1.5 miles per dollar, but since all of your miles will be doubled after 1 year, you’ll essentially be earning 3 miles per dollar for the first year. 

You’ll be able to use your miles as a credit for any travel purchases on your statement, and each mile is worth 1 cent in credit.

So, if you’re looking for a simple credit card with no annual fee and no bonus categories to keep straight, the Discover Miles card may be a good choice. However, if you want a more well-rounded travel rewards credit card with lots of perks, there are better options out there.

The Platinum Card® from American Express — 2x Points

While the Amex Platinum card doesn’t offer bonus points on a travel category, they do offer bonus points when you book through Amex. With this card, you’ll earn 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 on cruises booked through americanexpress.com/cruise or through Platinum Travel Services at 800-525-3355.

When you use your Amex Platinum card, you’ll receive a shipboard credit of $100-$300 per stateroom (based on cabin type and cruise line) on eligible cruises of 5 nights or more plus an additional exclusive amenity based on your cruise line.

These extra amenities include things like a bottle of wine or Champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, a spa treatment, or a specialty dinner for 2.

In addition to the cruise benefits, the Amex Platinum card comes with a lot of premium travel benefits that make it one of the most popular travel rewards credit cards out there.

Hot Tip: Keep an eye out for Amex Offers on cruise lines — you can stack these rewards with any other points and perks your Amex Platinum offers.

Amex Offers on Cruises
You’ll often find Amex Offers for cruises! Image Credit: American Express

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® — 2x Miles

The AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite card earns 2 AAdvantage Miles per $1 spent on cruises, but only when you book through American Airlines Cruises.

We value American Airlines miles at about 1.3 cents per point, giving you a 2.6 cents per point return. That’s good news if you’re in the market for more AAdvantage miles, especially since American Airlines doesn’t partner with transferrable points options like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, or Citi ThankYou Points (Marriott points do transfer to American, though).

The AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite card is a good option if you are trying to earn American Airlines miles. However, if you don’t have a particular use for AAdvantage miles, it’s best to stick with a card that earns transferrable points.

Bottom Line: You can easily earn 2-3 points or miles per dollar when you pay for your cruise. Don’t forget to stack these rewards with those offered by the cruise line or an online travel agency. There are lots of great websites you can use to book your cruise that offer perks and bonuses like onboard credit or free specialty dining.

Cards That Earn Bonus Points on Cruise Gift Cards

The next category of credit cards we are going to look at are those that earn bonus points at places where you can purchase gift cards for your cruise. With these cards, you’ll earn your bonus points on the gift cards, then you can redeem the gift cards for your cruise.

While it adds an extra step, it’s a great way to earn points on cards that don’t offer a travel bonus category.

cruise line gift cards
You can buy cruise line gift cards at grocery stores to earn some big-time points! Image Credit: Katie Seemann via Zen Life and Travel

American Express® Gold Card — 4x Points

The Amex Gold card earns valuable American Express Membership Rewards points. These points can be used in the Amex Travel portal, but you’ll get a lot more value when you transfer them to one of Amex’s hotel or airline partners.

With the Amex Gold card, you’ll earn 4 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year). While that can be incredible for your everyday grocery spending, you’ll also earn those 4x points on gift cards purchased at a supermarket. Most grocery stores sell a variety of gift cards, so you should be able to easily find gift cards for cruise lines including Disney, Holland America, Princess, and Carnival.

We value American Express Membership Rewards points around 2.2 cents each. Using the Amex Gold card then gives you a return 8.8 cents per dollar!

Hot Tip: For more information about this card, check out all of these benefits offered by the Amex Gold card.

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card — 3-4.5x Points

The Amex EveryDay Preferred card is another powerhouse when it comes to grocery store spending.

This card earns 3 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent at U.S. grocery stores (up to $6,000 per year), but the great part is that if you have 30 or more transactions during a billing period, you’ll get a 50% bonus on the points you earned.

That means you could earn 4.5 points per $1 when using your Amex Everyday Preferred card to purchase gift cards for your cruise.

The bad news is that you are capped at $6,000 — but that still means you could earn an extra 27,000 Membership Rewards points if you maxed out this benefit!

When you earn the full 4.5 points per dollar, you’ll get a return of about 9.9 cents per dollar!

Hilton Honors™ Surpass® Card from American Express — 6x Points

The Hilton Surpass card earns Hilton Honors points, which may not be as valuable as transferrable points options like Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards. However, if you’re a Hilton loyalist, it could be a good option.

This card earns 6 Hilton Honors points per $1 spent at U.S. grocery stores. We only value Hilton points at about 0.4 cents each, so your return will be about 2.4 cents per dollar.

So, while you’ll earn tons of Hilton points this way, they are only going to offer solid value if you are a Hilton loyalist or are trying to earn points for a specific Hilton redemption.

Hot Tip: Want to learn more? Check out all of the benefits offered by the Hilton Surpass card.

Cards That Earn Cash-Back

Maybe you would prefer to earn cold hard cash instead of points? Well, there are some great credit card options for you, too.

Here are just some of the credit cards that offer cash-back on your cruise purchases.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express — 6% Cash-Back

This card offers an impressive earning rate at U.S. grocery stores, so you’ll be able to purchase cruise gift cards. With the Blue Cash Preferred card, you’ll earn 6% cash-back on the first $6,000 you spend at grocery stores every year! Your cash-back can only be redeemed as a statement credit, so this could be a good option to help offset the price of your cruise.

If you’d prefer a card that skips the annual fee, check out the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. This card earns 3% cash-back (up to $6,000 annually) on grocery store purchases.

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card — 1.5% Cash-Back

The Freedom Unlimited card is a great option when you want simplicity. This card earns 1.5% cash-back on every purchase. In actuality, you’ll earn 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar which can be taken as cash-back or used in the Chase Travel Portal for 1 cent each.

The real magic with this card is when you pair it with a premium card from Chase like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred.

When you also have one of these premium cards, you gain the ability to transfer the points you earn on your Chase Freedom Unlimited card to Chase’s hotel or airline partners. This can increase the value of those hard-earned points!

Hot Tip: You can learn more by checking out all of the benefits that come with the Chase Freedom Unlimited card.

Cit® Double Cash Card — 2% Cash-Back

The Double Cash card is a great option for those of us that want a simple way to earn cash-back. With this card, you’ll earn 2% cash-back — 1% when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay your bill on time. There are no categories to consider and no maximum to the amount of cash-back you can earn.

Cruise Credit Cards

Cruise line credit cards generally don’t offer as much overall value as other travel rewards credit cards unless you are a cruise-only traveler or have zero interest in earning flexible points or cash-back.

cruise ship
Image Credit: Nan728 via Shutterstock

Royal Caribbean Visa Signature® Card — 2x Points

The Royal Caribbean card earns MyCruise® Reward points that can be redeemed for things like onboard credit, stateroom upgrades, and cruise discounts.

With the Royal Caribbean card, you’ll earn 2 MyCruise points per $1 spent on your qualifying purchases with Royal Caribbean and their sister brands (Azamara Club Cruises and Celebrity Cruises). MyCruise points are worth 1 cent each.

Princess Cruises® Rewards Visa® Card — 2x Points

The Princess Cruises card will earn 2 points per $1 spent on all Princess purchases (including onboard). Plus, you’ll earn bonus points the first time you use your card.

Each point is worth 1 cent and can be redeemed for onboard credits, onboard amenities, cruise rewards, and discounted airfare.

Norwegian Cruise Line® World Mastercard® — 3x Points

The Norwegian Cruise Line card earns 3 Worldpoints® per $1 spent on Norwegian Cruise Line purchases.

Your Worldpoints are worth 1 cent each and can be redeemed in a number of ways including:

  • Onboard credit
  • Stateroom upgrades
  • Cruise discounts
  • Redemption opportunities for last-minute cruises
  • Car rentals
  • Hotels
  • Gift cards
  • Cash-back

Disney® Premier Visa® Card — 2% Rewards

A Disney cruise is a bucket list item for lots of families, and the Disney card may be a way to help you keep your costs as low as possible. While this card isn’t cruise specific, it may be a good option if you’re in the market for a Disney cruise.

This card earns 2% back in the form of Disney Rewards Dollars at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and most Disney locations.

You can then redeem your Disney Dollars towards all purchases charged to your cruise portfolio (including dining, shore excursions, and more) and all vacations booked through Disney Cruise Line!

Hot Tip: The Disney Premier Card is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule. That means if you have opened 5 or more credit cards (from any bank, not just Chase) over the last 2 years, you probably won’t be approved for this card.

Carnival® World Mastercard® — 2x Points

With the Carnival World card you’ll earn 2x FunPoints® per $1 on purchases with Carnival Cruise Lines plus any of the other “World’s Leading Cruise Lines” brands including:

  • AIDA
  • Costa
  • Cunard
  • Holland America Line
  • Princess Cruises
  • P&O Cruises Australia
  • P&O Cruises UK
  • Seabourn
  • Fathom

Your FunPoints can be redeemed as a statement credit towards any Carnival purchase, including onboard charges. A minimum of 5,000 FunPoints (worth $50) is required to make a redemption.

With the Carnival World card, you’ll earn a welcome bonus with your first purchase or balance transfer.

Celebrity Cruises Visa Signature® Card — 2x Points

The Celebrity Cruises card earns MyCruise points which can also be redeemed on Royal Caribbean and Azamara Club Cruises.

With this card, you’ll earn 2x MyCruise points per dollar spent on qualifying purchases with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Azamara Cruise Lines.

These points can be redeemed for things like stateroom upgrades, spa treatments, and shore excursions.

Bottom Line: Cruise line credit cards generally don’t offer the most bang for your buck when it comes to travel rewards. There are, however, a couple of exceptions that may be worth looking at. The Norwegian Cruise Line card offers the highest earning rates and most redemption options among the cruise line credit cards. The Disney card is the only one that offers bonus points on categories outside of cruises.

Final Thoughts

There are so many great credit cards out there, it can sometimes be a little confusing to know which one is right for you. When you are choosing a credit card to book a cruise, think about what benefits you would like to earn — bonus points, cash-back, or cruise line perks.

Once you know what you are after, you can narrow down your options to choose the right credit card for your vacation. Now all that’s left to do is to pack your bags and set sail!


FAQ

What's the best credit card for a cruise?

The best credit card to use for a cruise depends on what type of rewards you are looking for. There are cards that earn cash-back or cruise bonuses, but we prefer cards that earn travel rewards. The Ink Business Preferred card and Chase Sapphire Reserve card both earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on a cruise, so they’re great options to use with any cruise line.

What is the best cruise line credit card?

Cruise line credit cards tend to offer very similar earning structures and bonuses, so there’s really not much difference between them. However, there are a few that stand out.

The Carnival World card earns 2x points on cruises on multiple cruise lines which gives you more flexibility. The Norwegian Cruise Line card earns 3x points on Norwegian cruises and offers more flexibility when it comes to redeeming your points.

Katie Seemann

About Katie Seemann

Katie is an Ohio native who caught the travel bug after spending a semester in college in Nottingham, England. In addition to exploring England, she visited Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands during that time and loved every minute of it (everything except the hostel in Scotland – that’s an experience she doesn’t intend on repeating!) In 2015, Katie discovered the world of points and miles, and since then she’s earned countless points and has an embarrassingly large number of credit cards in her wallet (which she needs a spreadsheet to keep track of!)

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