Best Credit Cards for Cruise Travel 2018

May 30, 2017 | Be First to Comment!

Cruise Ship

While searching for cruise options online, you have likely been inundated with credit card advertisements from the major cruise lines. It certainly seems logical that a Carnival Cruise Line credit card may have benefits unique to your upcoming Carnival cruise, but will this card actually save you money? MyBankTracker researched current credit cards from the major U.S. cruise lines, and here is what we found.

Major U.S. Cruise Line Credit Cards

This list of cruise-line credit cards certainly isn’t exhaustive, but the cards below are the major players on the market today. It’s not difficult to see the similarities. In fact, each cruise-line card offers the same points system; 2x points for cruise purchases and 1x points for all other purchases. If variety is the spice of life, cruise-line credit cards seem a bit bland.


  • 2x points per $1 on Carnival Cruises
  • 1x points per $1 everywhere else
  • No annual fee

Norwegian Cruise Line

  • 2x points per $1 on NCL
  • 1x point per $1 everywhere else
  • No annual fee

Princess Cruises

  • 2x points per $1 on Princess Cruises
  • 1x point per $1 everywhere else
  • No annual fee

Disney Cruises

  • 2x points per $1 at Disney locations
  • 1x point per $1 everywhere else
  • No annual fee (Disney Rewards Visa)

Royal Caribbean International

  • 2x points per $1 on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamura Club Cruises
  • 1x point per $1 everywhere else
  • No annual fee

Best Credit Cards for Cruises and Other Travel

We prefer non-cruise line credit cards for all travel-related purchases, including those on cruises.

If you’re an avid traveler, we love the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. The bonus miles and miles back programs can’t be beat. But if your upcoming cruise is the first trip you’ve taken in five years, this might not be the card for you. Accruing miles is relatively pointless if you rarely travel. The Citi® Double Cash credit card is a more practical choice for folks who will be using their card for everyday purchases, with the occasional trip thrown in for good measure.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, you earn miles for all purchases and bonus miles for reaching certain milestones. Plus, your miles don’t expire. These miles are good for qualifying travel-related purchases only, so this card is best for frequent travelers. And for those globe-trotters who spend at least some of their travel dollars overseas, you’ll be happy to know that this card has no foreign transaction fees.

Best Runner-up Cruise Credit Cards

Citi® Double Cash

What’s ‘double’ about this card? Well, it’s actually pretty cool. With the Citi® Double Cash card, you get 1% back on purchases and then another 1% when you pay those purchases off. This earning structure is unique to the Citi® Double Cash card, and it’s great for people who want unlimited rewards. With no annual fee and no limit on earned rewards, this is a great all-around credit card. However, with a 3% foreign transaction fee and no travel redemption options, it might not be the best choice for frequent travelers.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Another travel-focused credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® is our second favorite option for frequent travelers. For travelers who spend the big bucks, this card has a great bonus program. If you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, you’ll earn 50,000 bonus points which can be redeemed for travel or cash/gift cards. However, if you redeem points for cash, you’ll get a rate of 1 cent per point whereas if you redeem for travel, you’ll get a rate of 1.25 cents per point. So why is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® only our second-favorite option? The qualifying travel redemption options with Chase pale in comparison to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® travel options. If you want more flexibility around what type of travel options you can use your miles for, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is the better choice.

What would Todd do?

We’d like you to meet Todd, a 31-year-old computer programmer with a passion for the open sea. Let’s assume that Todd is a frequent traveler. In addition to this cruise, Todd is also planning to go to London in July, New Orleans in October, and Mexico in December. The illustration below shows how the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® and the various cruise line cards will work with Todd’s current spending habits.

On a monthly basis, Todd spends $500 on groceries, gas, and other everyday expenses. He charges these expenses to his credit card and pays off the balance each month. Todd spends $7,000 on travel annually.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®:

With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, Todd will earn miles for every dollar he spends, whether the purchase is travel-related or not. These easy-to-earn miles can be used for Todd’s future travel purchases, and because of Barclaycard’s flexible travel redemption program, most travel-related purchases will qualify. This card also offers a miles-back benefit on travel redemptions, which means Todd can even earn miles when he’s spending them.


But Todd’s friend Leo’s brother’s girlfriend told Todd that if he’s going on a cruise he should totally get a cruise line card. She did it and got points for every dime she spent on her cruise.

Let’s compare the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® to the cruise line cards. For the sake of ease, we’ll use the Carnival FUNPOINTS card in the comparison. But all the major U.S. cruise line cards have similar core components; higher points for cruise purchases and lower points for all other purchases.

If Todd generally uses Carnival Cruise Lines, he may decide to sign up for a Carnival FUNPOINTS card. With this card, Todd will earn FUNPOINTS with his very first purchase. He will get FUNPOINTS for every dollar spent with Carnival, including onboard. But how much money is Todd actually going to spend while on board? Plus, these FUNPOINTS can only be used for future Carnival purchases and purchases with some other major U.S. cruise lines.

With the Carnival FUNPOINTS card, Todd basically just saves on cruises.

The Bottom Line

Any cruise line card is going to have a hard time standing up against a generic cashback credit card. Unless you actually live on a cruise ship, you’re probably better off signing up for a non-cruise line card. If you travel frequently, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is our absolute favorite. Otherwise, we like the Citi® Double Cash card. With cashback on all purchases, no foreign transaction fees, and no annual fee, this card is as flexible as they come. Nobody knows your spending habits better than you. With the vast array of credit cards available today, everyone can find a card that meets their unique needs.

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