Reader Question: Points and Cruises

Reader J. writes:

We currently have a lot of UR points and AA points. Probably using as much of them as we can for travel to China. We are planning on cruising the beginning of 2013. I have cruised 4 times on Norwegian and am a Latitudes member so I would like to stick with them. They currently have a Bank of America Card with a 10,000 point bonus. Do you know if any of my other rewards could be used or of any other better offers. Any suggestions are appreciated.

MJ responds:

I think NCL’s credit card issued by BofA is quite similar to the Royal Caribbean card, also issued by BofA, that I recently wrote a post about. It’s OK for a fee-free backup credit card, but in most instances, you would usually be better off concentrating on one of the other points cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold card. You can cash in 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points for a $200 dollar gift card on Royal Caribbean or Carnival. In your case of desiring to cruise NCL, you could simply cash out 20,000 points and Chase will give you a $200 dollar statement credit or send you a check for $200 dollars.

With the NCL card, you get a 10,000 point first purchase bonus, which equals $100 dollars in onboard spending money. After that, you’re earning 1 point per dollar for all of your non NCL purchases and 2 points per dollar with NCL. That $100 dollars is free money, but in your day to day spending is where the Sapphire or Ink Bold really shine. Sapphire = 2 points per dollar on on dining and travel and the Ink Bold could net you 5 points per dollar in categories like cell phone expenses, landline phone, internet access, and cable tv; 2 points per dollar at gas stations and hotels; and 1 point elsewhere. In other words, you could be earning more points per dollar that are more valuable than those offered by the NCL card and offer better bottom line cash benefits to you that you can use on your cruises. I hope this helps. Please feel free to write back with any questions or comments.
Anything I missed on this? One thing I can already think of (and that I learned more about at FT University) is possibly adding the Chase Freedom card to the mix. Since the reader already has at least one Ultimate Rewards card, they may be limited in what they can add. Any thoughts from other readers?

About Marshall Jackson

Marshall Jackson is a former airline pilot, grounded by diabetes. After spending several years in operations management, he exited the airline business for a more stable career. But that hasn't dampened his interest in airplanes, airlines and travel in general.

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  1. […] Now, if I decide that the benefits of using the Amex Cruise Privileges program are outweighed by another offer like a significant onboard credit by booking with the cruise line, I pay for my cruises with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. This card offers 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for all travel purchase including cruises. I like Ultimate Rewards a lot. They can be transferred to airline programs like United or British Airways, Hotel programs like Hyatt or Marriott, and you can even use them to pay for your cruise. I actually wrote a blog based on a reader question about cruise credit cards a few months ago. You can check that out here. […]


  1. I would also check AA cruises or the UR Mall too see if they have any bonus miles if you book with them. May not help up front but it can help replace some of the miles you are planning on spending to China.

  2. Excellent point Cliff. I’m prone to ignoring the mileage earning options because I have a regular travel agent I like. That said, I think the airline cruise agencies are good way to pick up a few miles for something you’re going to be doing anyway.

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