One area of travel that does not seem to have many loyalty point options is cruising. My wife and I are currently looking to sail next year (which will be our eight) so we are beginning our search now for a cruise that fits our availability, hits our desired destinations and can be had with the help of points. Below are some of the most popular methods for cruising with points which can lower or eliminate your out-of-pocket costs.
Barclycard Arrival Miles (Link to apply)
Although this card has changed some of their benefits (redemption bonus down from 10 to 5%, higher minimum redemption and dropping the free TripIt subscription) for new card holders and plan to roll them out to existing cardholders in Aug. or Nov. ’15. I still think it’s the most solid option for cruising with points. You earn 2x points on all purchases and can then use these points at 1.05 cents each to pay off your credit care cruise purchase. This does mean that you have to be sure to purchase your cruise using your Barclay Arrival card. The new lower 5% redemption bonus makes each dollar worth of purchases worth 2.1 points/cents. That’s $47,619 of spend to pay off $1,000 towards your cruise charge.
Capital One Venture Rewards
The Capital One Venture Rewards card gives you 2 points/cents for every dollar spent that can then be used towards travel expenses purchased on your Venture card. It’s a lot like the Barclays Arrival card with the differences being the 5% redemption bonus on the Barclays cards and the lower annual fee of $59 vs. $89 on the Venture card. You will need $50,000 of spend to pay of $1,000 of your cruise charge.
American Express (Amex) Pay with Points and
Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR)
These two types of cards are roughly the same when redeeming for cruise travel. Amex membership points and UR points re worth 1 cent unless you have a Amex Business Platinum card or a Chase Sapphire Preferred card where you get 1.25 cents per point. Either way, both fall short of the 2.1 or 2 cents you get with Barclays Arrival and Capital One Venture Reward cards.
Cruise Line-Specific Points
Bringing up the rear are cruise line co-branded credit cards through partners like Barclays. You may earn 2 points per $1 on cruise purchases and then redeem those points as statement credits at the rate of 1 cent each on cruise purchases, so your rate of return on cruise purchases is 2%, but your locked into the cruise line for which you have the card. If you always use the same cruise line then maybe this one jumps to the front of the line for you, but for me I like the flexibility I get with Arrival points.
Citi ThankYou Points
ThankYou points and are worth a flat 1 cent each towards cruises and other travel. They fall to the back of the pack if you plan to use them for your cruise.
Like I mentioned above we will rack up as many points as possible on our Barclay Arrival credit card and then use those to reduce the price of our cruise. I am in the process of weighing if this will remain my everyday spend credit card now that they are changing their terms. They were an easy winner in my mind until they cut their redemption bonus in half. Starting in August we will only get 5% of our points back when redeeming for travel versus the 10% we used to get. This effectively cuts the value of a point from 1.1 cents to 1.05 cents or 2.2 cents per dollar spent to 2.1 cents. This may not seem like a lot, but when compared to the 2.0 cents eared per dollar with the Capital One Venture card, with a $30 a year less annual fee ($59 vs. $89), it may be worth a change. I would have to spend 30,000 or more on my Barclays Arrival card to still make it worth more than the annual fee difference. I’ll have to take a look at my future spend and see if this will be the case. Stay tuned to future posts as I document the checklist I follow when booking a cruise to ensure the best value. I look forward to everyone’s tips and comments added along the way.
As always, happy brainstorming and safe travels!