5 Ways to Use Credit Card Rewards to Save On a Cruise

Over the years, I’ve grown to have a little more respect for cruising than I did in the past. Where I once saw cruising as a generic way to see the world without learning anything, I now see it as a fun way to sample different destinations for a budget price. Cruises are also fun, as much as I hate to admit it. And since your food and entertainment is bundled for one price, you can usually cruise pretty affordably — especially with budget cruise lines like MSC Cruises and Carnival.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways rewards and travel cards can help you save even more on a cruise. Here are the five best strategies to consider as you plan out your vacations for the new year and beyond:

Use flexible travel credit to cover all or part of your cruise fare.

Credit cards like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard and Capital One Venture make it easy to earn points you can redeem for any type of travel, including cruises. Right now, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is an especially good deal because you earn 2x points on every purchase and 70,000 points worth $700 in cruise fare after you spend $5,000 on your card within the first 90 days.

Book excursions using flexible travel credit or flexible points.

You can use flexible travel credit from the Barclaycard or Capital One Venture to book any cruise excursion that codes as travel on your credit card bill. However, I love booking excursions and day trips through Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. Both programs let you book “activities” near cruise ports such as snorkeling excursions, city tours, and bus tours.

Use hotel points or free night vouches for pre- or post-cruise hotel stays.

If your hotel credit card offers a free night every year, it’s smart to use these vouchers for a hotel stay before and after your cruise. I used the free night from my IHG credit card and my Hilton Aspire card for free stays before and after our recent cruise out of Miami, and it definitely helped me save some cash.

Book your rental car with points.

If you need a rental car before or after your trip, you can redeem flexible travel credit or flexible travel points to cover the expense. I love booking rental cars through Chase Ultimate Rewards especially since rates can be extremely low. However, you should check prices to see if you can do better via Expedia.com, Priceline.com, or AutoSlash.com. Make sure to use a rewards card that offers primary rental car coverage so you can skip paying for pricey rental coverage at the counter.

Pay for flights to your cruise port with airline miles.

Finally, don’t forget that you can save even more by accruing airline miles and using them to get to your cruise port. Southwest credit cards are a popular option since they let you fly for free to numerous cruise port destinations such as Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, Tampa, Boston, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. However, you may need to pick a different airline loyalty program depending on where you plan to cruise out of.

Research airline cards to see what works best for your cruising needs, or sign up for a flexible travel card that lets you transfer points to multiple airlines. The Chase Sapphire Preferred, Amex Gold Card, or Citi ThankYou Premier are flexible travel credit cards that can work for everyone.


What is your favorite way to redeem points and miles to save on cruises?

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