The Best Credit Cards for Your Universal Studios Vacation [2022]

Choosing the best credit cards for Universal can help you offset your costs and maximize your rewards.
Last updated Nov. 20, 2022 | By Christy Rakoczy
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With theme parks around the globe, Universal Studios offers something for everyone, whether you're an aspiring magician and want to immerse yourself in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter or an adventure-seeker who wants to get wet on the Jurassic Park River Adventure.

One thing all Universal Studios visitors should be sure to do, though, is to figure out which credit card is the best to use for the park. While American Express cards are the official credit cards of the Universal Orlando Resort, there are actually several great cards that can help you score discounted tickets or earn bonus rewards for your Universal visit.

Read on to learn how you can maximize your rewards by choosing the right card for Universal Studios.

In this article

How to choose the best credit card for Universal Studios

There are a few key considerations when choosing which credit card is best to use whether you're headed for Universal Studios Hollywood or a Universal Orlando vacation.

First things first, you need to figure out how your Universal transactions will be categorized by your credit card provider. This matters because different cards offer bonus rewards for different kinds of spending. In general:

  • Theme park tickets are usually classified as entertainment spending
  • A stay at a Universal hotel or resort would likely be considered travel spending
  • Airline tickets to travel to Universal would typically be considered travel spending
  • Purchases at Universal Studios restaurants would generally be classified as spending on dining

Consider the most expensive aspects of your trip to Universal so you can find a credit card that gives you the most rewards for that spending type.

And in some cases, your focus may not be just on earning the most rewards for spending you do on your Universal trip but also on redeeming rewards to reduce your travel costs. Because of this, the right card for you will depend on whether your priorities are to earn the maximum rewards on things you buy at Universal, whether your goal is to redeem your card points for Universal tickets, or whether you want to score cool discounts and special perks once you're actually at the park.

The best credit cards for Universal Studios

Some of the best credit cards for Universal Studios include the following.

Card Welcome bonus Reward details Annual fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases $695 (Terms apply)
Hilton Honors American Express Card Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months 7X points at participating hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio; 5X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3X points on all other eligible purchases $0 (Terms apply)
Citi Premier® Card Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months 3X points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and on air travel and hotels; and 1X points on all other purchases $95
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases $95

The Platinum Card® from American Express

This card is a costly one, with a $695 annual fee. But it's a great card for frequent Universal Studios visitors and it may provide more than enough value to justify the fee — especially considering that new card members can earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months of account opening, plus 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

Since the The Platinum Card® from American Express offers 5X on flights booked with Amex Travel or directly with airlines, you'll get ample points for plane fare if you need to fly to Universal. You're also able to relax before you board thanks to the complimentary airline lounge access that comes with the card. Select benefits require enrollment.

In addition, you'll get 5X the points on prepaid hotels booked with Amex travel and complimentary benefits valued at around $550 if you stay at Fine Hotels and Resorts, including the luxurious Loews Portofino Resort at Universal Orlando.

And because Amex is the official card of Universal Orlando Resorts, you'll get special in-park privileges including 10% savings on Universal Dining Plans; 10% savings on merchandise purchases of $75 or more; a complimentary photo with the purchase of any photo package; and access to the American Express Lounge in Universal Studios if you buy either a multi-park ticket or annual pass.

Learn more about this card at our Amex Platinum Card review. 

Hilton Honors American Express Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Card is another Amex card that provides you with unique in-resort benefits at Universal including savings on dining plans and merchandise, a complimentary picture with your photo package, and lounge access at Universal Studios. This card, however, has a $0 annual fee, so it's a cheaper way to gain access to all these perks.

The card provides 7X points at participating hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio; 5X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3X points on all other eligible purchases. Getting bonus Hilton Honors points could include the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando.

You can also redeem your Hilton Honors points for free nights at this affordable family-friendly hotel walking distance from Universal's resort. Using your points would make your Universal trip much more affordable. With that savings, you and your family could splurge on fun treats at the park such as a Flaming Moe or Krusty Burger at Moe's Tavern, or a Blueman Group show at Universal's CityWalk.

With this card, you can also earn a generous welcome offer: Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. This could be used to cover the cost of multiple nights at a Universal resort.

Get more details at our Hilton Honors American Express Card review.

Citi Premier® Card

Amex isn't the only credit card issuer with cards that might be a good fit for a Universal adventure. This card comes with a $95 annual fee, but it may be the right one for your Universal trip because you'll get rewards on most of your vacation purchases.

The Citi Premier® Card offers 3X points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel, hotels, which could include plane ticket costs to get to Universal as well as hotel expenses and fuel for your rental car. You also get 1X points on all other eligible purchases, so you’ll reap these bonus rewards for park tickets and on-resort dining.

You can redeem your Citi points for airfare so you can make your trip cheaper by using points to cover plane costs. And new cardmembers will earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months — enough for $800 in free airline travel.

For more information, check out our Citi Premier Card review.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

With this card, you get 5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases.  

Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned with your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can be redeemed directly for Universal park tickets. Earn enough points to cover your park admission, and you’ll make your trip much cheaper! Thanks to the welcome bonus, you’ll be well on your way. New cardholders earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening an account. Those points could cover the cost of three one-day Universal Park-to-Park tickets for most travel dates.

The card's $95 annual fee is more than justified by the ample perks you get, including trip cancellation or interruption insurance if something goes wrong with your Universal trip or baggage delay insurance if your luggage is late arriving in Orlando. You also get a 25% bonus on redemptions when redeeming points for travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards — so your points could go even further if you use them to book airfare to Universal or to pay for a hotel room at or near the park.

Get all the details at our Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review.

Earn the most rewards with multiple credit cards

There are several different credit cards that you could use to earn the most rewards at Universal Studios. But, because some cards offer bonus points for travel and dining and others for entertainment, it can actually make a lot of sense to use different cards strategically.

You could, for example, book your hotel with the Hilton Honors card, use your Citi Premier Card for theme park tickets, and use your American Express card to pay for WiFi and baggage fees on your flight. Or you could redeem your Chase points for Universal tickets, redeem Amex points for plane tickets to Orlando, and redeem Hilton Honors points for hotel stays.

The key is to know what cards offer the best rewards on different kinds of spending and which programs provide the most value for points redemptions. That way, you can match the right card to the right purchases to maximize the value each card provides.

Methodology

When choosing the best rewards credit cards for Universal Studios, we reviewed rewards programs to options offering the most points on airfare, hotels, theme park tickets, and dining.

We also looked for cards that provide special perks to make your trip more enjoyable, including cards offering lounge access and other in-park perks at Universal, or cards that offered statement credits for fees incurred on the plane.

Finally, we looked for cards that provide points you can redeem to make your Universal trip cheaper, allowing you to defray the cost of your vacation and earn more rewards on that vacation to redeem in the future.

FAQs

Is there a Universal Studios credit card?

There is no specific credit card for Universal Studios, but you do have options for credit cards that can help you save on a trip to Universal. This includes many of the best travel credit cards that can help offset the costs of your flights and hotel stays. In addition, using one of the best credit cards for dining could help you offset expensive food purchases in and around Universal.

What is the cheapest way to go to Universal Studios?

One of the cheapest ways to go to Universal Studios is by using credit card points and miles. Using the best rewards credit cards on a daily basis for everyday purchases you were already planning on making is an easy way to earn valuable points or miles. These rewards that you earn can typically be redeemed for different things, often including travel or cash back.

If you choose to redeem your rewards for cash back, you’ll have extra cash on hand to cover trip expenses. If you choose to redeem your rewards for travel, you’ll help offset your trip’s costs, potentially even including the expensive flights and hotel stays.

Does Universal accept Amex?

Not only does Universal accept Amex cards, but it also has special perks for American Express cardmembers. This includes special food and beverage savings, merchandise savings, and photo package savings at Universal when using an Amex card.

You also get special access to the American Express Lounge in Universal Studios Florida when buying a Universal Orlando multi-park ticket or annual pass with an American Express card directly from Universal Orlando.

The bottom line

Ultimately, you should consider your own unique situation — including how often you'll use these cards after your Universal trip — to decide which credit card is best for you.

The most important thing is to pick a card that helps make your trip as affordable as possible or that allows you to earn the maximum rewards for your Universal visit so you'll have a little extra cash to splurge on some fun treats while you're enjoying all that Universal's Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, or The World Famous Studio Tour have to offer.

Our #1 Travel Card

Current Offer

Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10% anniversary point bonus each year
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • Typically need to spend thousands to reap rewards
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Author Details

Christy Rakoczy Christy Rakoczy has a Juris Doctorate from UCLA Law School with a focus in Business Law, and a Certificate in Business Marketing with an English Degree from The University of Rochester. As a full-time personal finance writer, she writes about all things money-related but her special areas of focus are credit cards, personal loans, student loans, mortgages, smart debt payoff strategies, and retirement and Social Security. Her work has been featured by USA Today, MSN Money, CNN Money and more, and you can learn more at her LinkedIn profile.