While the cruise industry came to a screeching halt at the start of the pandemic, most of the major cruise lines are back in full operation now. In fact, guests looking for a cruise in North America and elsewhere will find a full roster of ships and itineraries to choose from. This includes options from budget-friendly operators like Carnival and MSC Cruises, as well as luxury or adults-only cruises with companies like Virgin Voyages and Silversea.
Plus, in February 2022, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) relaxed some of its guidance regarding vaccination requirements and masking on ships. And cruise lines have updated their cancellation and rebooking policies to make them more flexible overall.
All of this means that you can start earning rewards for your next cruise. But, which credit card for cruises should you choose? That depends on what you hope to get in return.
Best credit cards for cruises in 2022
Many rewards and travel credit cards can help you to cover the cost of your cruise with rewards, and some can also help with flights and hotels. Note that all of the cards that made our ranking can be used to book cruises with any cruise line, and not just with a specific carrier.
Here are the best credit cards for cruises in 2022:
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best for its bonus offer
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a welcome bonus of 60,000 points—worth $750 in travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards—after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. With the card’s relatively low spending requirement, anyone can earn $1,000 toward their next cruise within a short amount of time.
The Sapphire Preferred also makes it easy to quickly earn points, allowing cardholders to earn 5X points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and on Lyft rides (through March 31, 2025); 3X points on dining (including eligible delivery services), select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs); 2X points on other travel; and 1X points on all other spending. A $95 annual fee applies.
Discover it Miles: Best for no annual fee
The Discover it® Miles is a solid rewards credit card for cruises if you’re averse to paying annual fees. This card gives you 1.5X miles for each dollar you spend, and Discover will match all of the miles you earn during your first year of card membership after the first year is up. You can redeem your miles to cover cruises at a rate of 1 cent per mile.
With this earning rate, spending $10,000 on your card within a year would net you 15,000 miles. Discover would essentially double your miles to 30,000 at the end of your first year, which you could redeem for $300 in cruise fare.
Better yet, Discover it Miles offers an intro 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 12.74 percent to 23.74 percent. This means you could charge your cruise to your card and pay it down interest-free for more than a year.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for flexibility
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card keeps everything simple by offering 5X miles for hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 2X miles for all other purchases. You can also earn 75,000 bonus miles—worth $750—when you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening.
When you go to redeem, you can use your Capital One miles to cover cruise fare at a rate of 1 cent per mile. You can also cash in your rewards for purchases through Amazon.com or PayPal, or for transfers to Capital One airline and hotel partners. A $95 annual fee applies, but you can receive up to a $100 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for a premium travel card
If you’re a frequent cruiser seeking a premium travel credit card, check out the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. This card includes an annual fee of $550, but you’ll get perks like a $300 annual travel credit (good toward cruises and other travel), airport lounge access, a fee credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and 50 percent more points value when you redeem points for travel through Chase.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve provides 50,000 points—worth $750 through Chase Ultimate Rewards—after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening. You’ll also earn 10X points on hotels and car rentals booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 10X points on Chase Dining purchases through Ultimate Rewards; 10X points on Lyft rides (through March 31, 2025); 5X points on flights booked through Ultimate Rewards (after earning your $300 travel credit); 3X points on general travel and restaurants; and 1X points on other purchases.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Best for VIP perks
If you’re in search of a credit card for cruises that comes with VIP benefits, you should consider the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. It has a $395 annual fee, but users can enjoy up to $300 in annual travel credits for Capital One Travel purchases, up to a $100 fee credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership. Cardholders can also access Capital One airport lounges, and they’ll get automatic President’s Circle status with Hertz.
New cardholders are also eligible to earn 75,000 miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. That’s on top of earning 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One, 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One and 2X miles on all other purchases.
When it comes to redeeming rewards for a cruise, Capital One Venture X customers can cover all or part of a cruise that’s charged to their card with a redemption rate of one cent per mile. Other redemption options include transfers to Capital One partners, purchases through Amazon.com or PayPal and more.
What about travel insurance for cruises?
Considering all of the costs that go into cruising (cruise fare, airfare, hotels, etc.) and the general mayhem the COVID-19 pandemic is still generating when it comes to travel, you’re also probably wondering about travel insurance. How do you get travel insurance for cruises that covers pandemic-related costs, including quarantine?
Once again, many cruise lines have stepped up to the plate, and most of them now offer specific travel insurance plans you can add to your cruise booking. For example, with Carnival Vacation Protection, you’ll get trip cancellation coverage that lets you cancel for any reason. You’ll also get baggage insurance, medical coverage worth up to $10,000, emergency evacuation coverage and more, all starting at $49 per person.
You can also purchase travel insurance that comes with COVID-19 coverage, but you should make sure any plan you buy does in fact cover pandemic-related travel expenses. While more and more companies are adding COVID-19 travel coverage to their insurance offerings, you can still find plenty of companies that exclude pandemics or “disclination to travel due to a pandemic.” In any case, your best bet is to purchase a plan that comes with “cancel for any reason” coverage.
Also note that some credit cards offer travel insurance coverage, although many plans specifically exclude pandemic-related claims or quarantine. That said, you can still lean on a credit card with travel insurance for baggage delays, trip delays and other issues you run into.
Is a card that offers rewards for cruises right for you?
The best credit cards for cruises can help you save money or access special perks if you know how to use them. A credit card for cruises may be right for you if:
- You’re debt-free and plan to stay that way.
- You’re disciplined enough to use a 0 percent APR offer for purchases without racking up long-term debt.
- You find travel benefits like airport lounge access or TSA PreCheck credits appealing.
- You’re not in a hurry to earn a free cruise with rewards.
- Your credit score is very good or excellent.
If you are struggling with debt, you may want to steer clear of credit and save up for the cruise you want. While everyone needs a vacation—and cruising is one of the best options out there—coming home to a mountain of bills (including interest payments) can ruin the fun in a hurry.
How to choose a credit card for cruises
The right credit card for your next cruise depends on the type of spender you are, your credit score and what you hope to accomplish. These tips can help you pick the best cruise credit card for your goals:
- Decide if you want 0 percent APR. Some of the best rewards credit cards offer 0 percent APR on purchases for a limited time, which can help you make payments on your cruise without any interest. These offers should be used sparingly and only if you have a plan for repayment, but they can still be a good deal.
- Compare bonus offers. If you’re able to meet the spending and timeframe requirements to earn the welcome bonus for your new card, you could earn a welcome bonus worth hundreds of dollars or more toward your next cruise.
- Check for earning rates that make sense with your spending. Be sure any credit card you pick offers rewards that align with your spending habits.
- Consider annual fees. There’s nothing wrong with paying an annual fee for a credit card, but you should be sure any perks or benefits you receive are worth it.
- Look for no foreign transaction fees. If you plan to visit cruise ports outside of the U.S., you’ll want to be sure your cruise credit card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
- Understand which travel benefits you want the most. Finally, note that many of the best travel credit cards have benefits like airport lounge access and annual travel credits. You’ll pay more for a card with a broader selection of perks, but the investment can be worth it if you travel often.
The bottom line
If you’re thinking of picking up a cruise credit card, you should select one that gives you the most bang for your buck. This means picking a card with a generous welcome offer and plenty of rewards for your spending. If you get some extra travel perks along the way, that’s even better. With the right credit card, you’ll be cruising before you know it—and with fewer out-of-pocket expenses than ever before.