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 transferable 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.
8 Credit 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 often includes cruises!
Here are some great credit cards that offer bonus points on all types of travel (including cruises)!
1. Chase Sapphire Reserve® — 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 fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
Plus, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. When you pay for your cruise with your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you’ll earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. According to our points and miles valuations, Ultimate Rewards points are worth about 2 cents each, which means your return would be about 6 cents per dollar spent!
Chase Offers has also featured offers from cruise lines (like Carnival Cruise) that can help earn cash-back on your purchase!
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.
2. Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card — 3x Points
The Ink Business Preferred card is one of our favorite business credit cards for so many reasons.
In addition to great benefits like trip interruption and cancellation insurance and cell phone protection, the Ink Business Preferred card earns 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! Based on our valuations, that gives you a return of 6 cents per dollar.
Like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, these 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.
Hot Tip: These 2 cards, the Ink Business Preferred card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, both offer an easy 3 points per dollar on cruises. To help figure out which one is the best choice for you, check out our head-to-head comparison of these popular cards.
3. American Express® Green Card — 3x Points
While the Amex Green card might not be the most exciting travel rewards credit card out there, it’s actually got some great bonus categories — including travel! With this card, you’ll earn 3x points per dollar spent on all types of travel, including cruises.
In addition, this card earns 3x points on transit purchases, including trains and subways and at restaurants, so it’s a great one to keep in your wallet if you want to earn lots of American Express Membership Rewards points.
Keep an eye out for Amex Offers on cruises — you can stack these rewards with any other points and perks offered by your American Express card.
4. 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 4 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.
5. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card — 2x Points
The CapOne 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:
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 CapOne Venture card, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, including cruises!
You can redeem your Capital One miles (while they are called miles, they act as points) through the Capital One travel portal for 1 cent each.
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 CapOne Venture card vs. the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
6. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card — 2x Miles
The CapOne Venture X card offers a great way to pay for cruises since it earns 2 miles per dollar on any purchase.
Plus it comes with a nice list of additional benefits:
Like the CapOne Venture card, you can redeem your Capital One miles through the Capital One travel portal. You’ll get 1 cent per mile in value with both methods.
7. The Platinum Card® from American Express — 2x Points
Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a huge welcome offer of up to 150,000 points with the Amex Platinum card! (The current public offer is 100,000.)
While the Amex Platinum card doesn’t offer bonus points on a travel category, it does offer bonus points when you book a cruise through Amex Travel. With this card, you’ll earn 2 Membership Rewards points per $1 on cruises booked through American Express.
When you use your Amex Platinum card, you’ll be eligible for the Cruise Privileges Program that includes a shipboard credit of $100 to $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.
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.
8. Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® — 2x Miles
The AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite card earns 2 AAdvantage Miles per $1 spent (up to 20,000 miles) on cruises sailing through December 31, 2023, but only when you book through American Airlines Cruises.
We value American Airlines miles at about 1.4 cents per point, giving you a 2.8 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 transferable points options like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, or Citi ThankYou Rewards (Marriott Bonvoy 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 probably best to stick with a card that earns transferable points.
Bottom Line: You can easily earn 2 to 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 offers perks and bonuses like onboard credit or free specialty dining.
4 Credit 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 grocery stores 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.
1. Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express — 6% Cash-Back
This card offers an impressive earning rate at U.S. supermarkets, where you can purchase cruise line gift cards. With the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card, you’ll earn 6% cash-back on the first $6,000 you spend at U.S. supermarkets 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 U.S. supermarket purchases.
Per Amex’s terms, purchases of gift cards do not count toward a card’s welcome offer spend threshold.
2. The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card — 3 to 4.5x Points
The Amex EveryDay Preferred card is another powerhouse when it comes to supermarket spending.
This card earns 3 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent at U.S. supermarkets (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, giving you a return of about 9.9 cents per dollar!
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!
Per Amex’s terms, purchases of gift cards do not count toward this card’s welcome offer spend threshold or toward the 30 transition minimum for the 50% bonus.
3. American Express® Gold Card — 4x Points
Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a welcome bonus of up to 90,000 points with the Amex Gold card! (The current public offer is 60,000 points.)
The Amex Gold card offers great earning potential — 4 points per $1 spent — at U.S. supermarkets, and that means you can use it to purchase cruise line gift cards.
This is great news, especially because the cap on how much you can spend at that earning level is $25,000 per calendar year, which is much higher than other cards.
However, there is a potential catch: per Amex’s terms, the purchases of gift cards do not count toward the card’s welcome offer spend threshold and are ineligible to earn bonus points.
With that said, we’ve had luck using this card to purchase gift cards at U.S. supermarkets, but this is a definite case of “your earnings may vary.”
Note: Be careful when using an American Express card to purchase gift cards. Each card’s terms can vary and many of them state that gift card purchases either don’t count toward welcome bonus minimum spending and/or won’t earn extra points in bonus spending categories. There are plenty of data points showing that some gift card purchases can fly under the radar, but you should go into it knowing that there’s a potential that your points either won’t post or could get clawed back.
4. Chase Freedom Flex℠ — Up to 5% Cash-back
The Freedom Flex card offers 2 ways to earn 5% cash-back (or 5x points) on cruise gift card purchases. First, this card offers quarterly rotating bonus categories and grocery stores usually show up at least once a year. The maximum amount you can earn bonus points on is $1,500 per quarter. If you max that out, you’ll earn 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points on your cruise gift cards.
Hot Tip: The cash-back you earn on the Freedom Flex card comes as Ultimate Rewards points worth 1 cent each. If you also hold a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards card (Chase Sapphire Preferred card, Chase Sapphire Reserve card, or Ink Business Preferred card), you gain the ability to transfer those points to Chase’s airline and hotel partners.
2 Credit 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.
1. Chase Freedom Unlimited® — 1.5%-5% Cash-Back
The Freedom Unlimited card earns 5% cash-back on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash-back on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases. In actuality, you’ll earn Ultimate Rewards points that can be received 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 Chase card — you’ll gain the ability to transfer the points you earn on your Freedom Unlimited card to Chase’s hotel or airline partners. This can increase the value of those hard-earned points!
2. Citi® Double Cash Card — 2% Cash-Back Per Dollar
The Double Cash card is a great option when you want a simple way to earn points. With this card, you’ll earn 2% cash back per dollar (earned as ThankYou Points) — 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.
6 Cruise Line 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.
1. 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 its sister brands Azamara Club Cruises and Celebrity Cruises. MyCruise points are worth 1 cent each.
2. Princess Cruises® Rewards Visa® Card — 2x Points
The Princess Cruises card will earn 2 points per $1 spent on all Princess Cruises 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.
3. 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
- Gift cards
4. Disney® Premier Visa® Card — 2% Rewards
A Disney cruise is a bucket list item for lots of families, and the Disney Premier 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.
5. 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:
- Holland America Line
- Princess Cruises
- P&O Cruises Australia
- P&O Cruises UK
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.
6. Celebrity Cruises Visa Signature® Card — 2x Points
The Celebrity Cruises card earns 2x MyCruise points per dollar spent on qualifying purchases with Celebrity Cruises, 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 Premier card is the only one that offers bonus points on categories outside of cruises.
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!
The information regarding the American Express® Green Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, Royal Caribbean Visa Signature® Card, Princess Cruises® Rewards Visa® Card, Norwegian Cruise Line® World Mastercard®, Disney® Premier Visa® Card, Carnival® World Mastercard®, and Celebrity Cruises Visa Signature® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.