Best Credit Cards for Cruises [2024]: All Aboard for Rewards

CREDIT CARDS - TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS
The Bank of America Travel Rewards is our top choice for cruise credit cards, but there are other cards that might make more sense depending on your spending habits and travel preferences.
Updated May 16, 2024
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Couple on a cruise

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We recommend the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card as our top choice for best credit cards for cruises because it has a $0 annual fee, you can earn travel rewards on everyday purchases, and you can redeem rewards for cruises.

But depending on your travel preferences and how you like to earn rewards, we’ve included four more cards to choose from.

Let’s explore the best cruise credit cards to see which one makes the most sense for you.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • We recommend the Bank of America Travel Rewards and Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card(Rates and fees) if you want to earn travel rewards on cruises and everyday purchases.
  • Many of the best travel credit cards also make sense as cruise credit cards because they typically earn bonus rewards on travel purchases, which often include cruises, flights, hotel stays, and more.
  • We don’t recommend cobranded cruise credit cards (like the Carnival® World Mastercard®) because general travel credit cards tend to offer more flexibility and value with their benefits and rewards.

The 5 best credit cards for cruises

Compare the best credit cards for cruises

Card name Welcome offer Rewards rate Annual fee
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases $0
Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months (that’s a $200 cash redemption value) Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans; plus earn 1X points on other purchases $0
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening Earn 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠; 3X points on dining, select streaming services, and online groceries; 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases $95
Citi Strata Premier ℠ Card

Citi Strata Premier ℠ Card

Earn 70,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening, redeemable for $700 in gift cards or travel rewards at thankyou.com Earn 10X points on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on CitiTravel.com; 3X points on air travel and other hotel purchases, at restaurants, supermarkets, gas and EV charging stations; and 1X points on all other purchases $95
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening Earn 5X points on flights and 10X points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually; 3X points on other travel and dining & 1X points per dollar on all other purchases $550

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Pros
  • $0 annual fee
  • Simple rewards rate
  • 0% foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • Average earning rate

The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card makes sense if you want to use one credit card to earn rewards on all your eligible purchases. You can then redeem your rewards as statement credits to offset eligible travel purchases, including purchases from cruise lines and travel agencies.

Welcome offer: Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.

Rewards rate: Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases.

Why we like it: With a simple rewards rate and $0 annual fee, the Bank of America Travel Rewards takes all the stress out of earning rewards on your everyday purchases. It also has 0% foreign transaction fees, which could be useful if you take international cruises.

What we don’t like: The earning rate is average. However, you could boost your earning potential by up to 75% as a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member.

Other benefits include:

  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 billing cycles (then 19.24% - 29.24% Variable)
  • 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (then 19.24% - 29.24% Variable)

Apply for the Bank of America Travel Rewards card | Read our full Bank of America Travel Rewards review

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Pros
  • $0 annual fee
  • Elevated earning potential on everyday purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • Not as useful if your spending habits don’t align with its bonus categories

The Wells Fargo Autograph Card makes sense for earning elevated rewards on your travel purchases, including cruises.

Welcome offer: Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months (that’s a $200 cash redemption value).

Rewards rate: Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans; plus earn 1X points on other purchases.

Why we like it: The Wells Fargo Autograph provides high earning rates on multiple everyday categories, making it easy to boost your rewards balance from purchases you already plan on making.

With Wells Fargo Rewards, you can redeem your points for travel, including cruises, airline tickets, car rentals, hotel room rentals, and more.

Since the Wells Fargo Autograph has no foreign transaction fees, it’s an ideal card to use when exploring foreign ports.

What we don’t like: There are better rewards credit cards available if your spending habits don’t align with the Wells Fargo Autograph bonus categories.

Other benefits include:

  • 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases (then 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable)
  • Cell phone protection

Apply for the Wells Fargo Autograph card | Read our full Wells Fargo Autograph review

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Pros
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem points for travel through Chase Travel℠
  • Extensive travel coverage
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • $95 annual fee

The Chase Sapphire Preferred makes sense if you want credit card travel insurance for upcoming trips, including flights and hotel stays you may have booked together with a cruise.

Welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠; 3X points on dining, select streaming services, and online groceries; 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases.

Why we like it: The Sapphire Preferred has no foreign transaction fees and provides travel coverage if you pay for eligible purchases with your card. The travel coverage includes:

  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Travel and emergency assistance services

It’s common to book flights and hotel stays along with cruises, and having travel insurance could help make sure all your travel plans stay intact.

What we don’t like: There’s a $95 annual fee for Sapphire Preferred cardholders.

Other benefits include:

  • Earn up to $50 in statement credits each account anniversary year for hotel stays purchased through Chase Travel℠.
  • Transfer your points to over 12 airline and hotel travel partners, including Marriott Bonvoy, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, and World of Hyatt.

Apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred | Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred review

Citi Strata Premier ℠ Card

Pros
  • Elevated earning potential on everyday purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • $95 annual fee

The Citi Strata Premier Card makes sense if you want to earn travel rewards (that can be redeemed for cruises) on your travel and everyday purchases.

Welcome offer: Earn 70,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening, redeemable for $700 in gift cards or travel rewards at thankyou.com.

Rewards rate: Earn 10X points on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on CitiTravel.com; 3X points on air travel and other hotel purchases, at restaurants, supermarkets, gas and EV charging stations; and 1X points on all other purchases.

Why we like it: You don’t have to pay foreign transaction fees, and the Citi Strata Premier bonus categories can easily align with your everyday purchases. That makes it easy to rack up rewards that you can later redeem for cruises, flights, and hotel stays for upcoming trips.

What we don’t like: There’s a $95 annual fee for card membership.

Other benefits include:

  • Enjoy $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, through CitiTravel.com once per calendar year.
  • Transfer your points to over 12 airline and hotel partners, including Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles, Choice Privileges, and Wyndham Rewards.

Apply for the Citi Strata Premier card | Read our full Citi Strata Premier Card review

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Pros
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • 50% more value when you redeem points for travel through Chase Travel℠
  • Airport lounge access (Priority Pass Select)
  • Extensive travel coverage
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • $550 annual fee

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® makes sense if you want premium travel benefits, such as airport lounge access, that you can use on your way to cruise destinations.

Welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 5X points on flights and 10X points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually; 3X points on other travel and dining & 1X points per dollar on all other purchases.

Why we like it: The $300 annual travel credit works with many different types of travel purchases, including cruises, flights, and hotel stays.

You can also take advantage of complimentary airport lounge access with a one-time enrollment in Priority Pass Select. That could make flying to different cruise port cities more convenient and comfortable.

Travel protections on the Sapphire Reserve include:

  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Travel and emergency assistance services

What we don’t like: There’s a $550 annual fee for cardmembers.

Other benefits include:

  • Receive one application fee credit (in the form of a statement credit) of up to $100 every four years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS.
  • Transfer your points to over 12 loyalty program partners, including JetBlue TrueBlue, United MileagePlus, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve | Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve review

How to choose the best credit card for cruises

Consider these factors to help choose the best cruise credit card for you.

Travel rewards

In general, the best cruise credit card should:

  1. Offer a welcome bonus or sign-up bonus to new cardholders
  2. Earn travel rewards for any cruise purchases you make
  3. Earn travel rewards on other types of purchases so you can build your points total with everyday expenses
  4. Provide multiple redemption options so you can help reduce your cruise trip expenses (Those redemption options could include cruises, flights, and hotel stays.)

Note that certain cash back credit cards could also make sense for cruises. You can typically receive statement credits or deposits into bank accounts with cash back cards, making it easy to use cash back toward travel.

Travel benefits

The cruise itself is the main point of going on a cruise, but you still might have to consider how you’re getting to different cruise ports. That often involves booking flights and hotel stays.

Certain credit card benefits can help enhance your travels to and from cruise port cities. For example, airport lounge access could make for a more relaxing experience at any airport you have to travel through. And having a travel or hotel credit could help reduce your overall expenses for your cruise trip.

Credit requirements

The best travel credit cards typically require good or excellent credit scores to qualify. A good credit score is at least a 670 on the FICO scoring model, while an excellent score is at least an 800.

Note that your credit score is often just one of multiple factors that card issuers consider to determine your eligibility.

Annual fee

Credit cards with annual fees tend to provide more perks and benefits than no-annual-fee cards. But, depending on your preferences and personal finance goals, you might choose one type of card over the other.

Foreign transaction fees

It’s common for cruises to visit international destinations, even if you’re departing from the U.S. If you plan on exploring a foreign port, it helps to have a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees on hand.

Cruise line credit cards

In general, we recommend avoiding cruise line credit cards. That’s basically any card that’s offered by a credit card issuer in partnership with a cruise line, such as the Royal Caribbean Visa Signature® Card or Carnival World Mastercard.

We recommend going with travel credit cards that earn general rewards currencies because they tend to have better rewards and benefits. And, most of the time, you can still use rewards from these cards for booking cruises through a card issuer travel portal.

Another benefit is that you’re not locked into a specific rewards currency. For example, the best redemptions on the Carnival World Mastercard are for Carnival cruises and related purchases. That’s not particularly helpful if you want to use points toward airfare or a hotel stay.

That said, if you do opt for a cruise line co-branded credit card, look for one that offers perks like onboard credits and other cruise upgrades.

Redeeming points for cruises

Using certain credit card rewards currencies could give you more flexibility with your redemption options, including if you want to redeem points toward cruises, flights, or hotel stays.

Some examples of card issuers, general rewards currencies, and associated travel portals include:

Card issuer Rewards currency Associated travel portal or similar redemption method
American Express Amex Membership Rewards points amextravel.com
Bank of America Bank of America Travel Rewards points Receive a travel credit as a statement credit to help offset eligible travel and dining purchases
Capital One Capital One miles Capital One Travel
Chase Ultimate Rewards points Chase Travel℠
Citi Citi ThankYou Points thankyou.com
Wells Fargo Wells Fargo Rewards Redeem for Travel Rewards in your online account

Note that the availability of different cruise lines could vary between credit card reward travel portals. If you want to guarantee that you can use rewards to cover a cruise, consider credit cards that offer statement credits to cover past travel purchases.

Using this strategy makes it so you can directly purchase a cruise from any cruise line on any cruise ship, whether it’s Princess Cruises, Disney, or Celebrity Cruises, and then use your credit card rewards to cover that travel purchase.

FAQ

Should I pay for my cruise with a credit card?

Paying for a cruise with a credit card could help you earn valuable rewards and provide useful travel insurance for your travels. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns travel points on eligible purchases and provides the following travel coverage.

  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Travel and emergency assistance services

Which credit card is best for cruises?

We recommend these credit cards for cruises because they earn travel rewards that can be redeemed for different cruise itineraries.

How do I book a cruise with Chase Sapphire Preferred?

You can book a cruise with the Sapphire Preferred in multiple ways.

  1. Pay for a cruise directly with a cruise line, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line.
  2. Pay for a cruise using a travel agent or third-party company such as Expedia or Cruise Critic.
  3. Pay for a cruise using cash or points through the Chase Travel℠ portal.

Best credit cards for cruises: bottom line

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is our overall choice for cruise credit cards because it has a simple rewards rate, a $0 annual fee, and you can redeem your rewards toward cruise trips.

If you prefer higher earning rates on your travel purchases, we recommend the Wells Fargo Autograph and Chase Sapphire Preferred credit cards. For premium travel benefits, such as airport lounge access, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is our top choice.

For more of our recommendations, compare credit cards to find the right credit card offer for you.

Methodology

The companies we chose for our list of the best credit cards for cruises are current or past FinanceBuzz partners. We did not review all companies in the market. When evaluating these companies, we considered factors such as reward categories, welcome offers, reward programs, travel perks, and travel insurance.

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

Benefits

Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Apply Now
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Bank of <span class='whitespace-nowrap'>America<sup>®</sup></span> Travel Rewards credit card
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Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee

$0

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Why we like it

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI® Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.

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