Reader Question: Which Credit Card Do You Use For Cruising?

A reader writes:

Hey Marshall, I enjoy reading your blog and also enjoy traveling and…CRUISING (esp. with Celebrity!)!  I thought you would like to know the current season of Top Chef (Seattle) will have an episode where they cook on the Celebrity Millennium during an Alaska itinerary.  Do you have a credit card you recommend using to pay for cruises (free insurance/trip interruption/etc)?  Keep up the good work!
Thank you very much,

MJ Responds:

Hi there. Thank you for your email. I had seen a couple of advertisements for that Top Chef episode. Looks like fun. 🙂 Credit cards and cruises are a trick. There is no one perfect solution, and I am not aware of any card that provides the kind of insurance that would cover the cost of a cruise if something went wrong and you were unable to cruise. The American Express Platinum Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card do offer some travel insurance that covers things like lost baggage, flight cancel protection, etc.

The Amex Platinum Card offers a program called Cruise Privileges which includes onboard credits, possible upgrades, and some ship board amenities. I weigh those benefits against booking through another channel which may include a bigger onboard credit or other benefit when making a decision on how to pay for the cruise. If the Cruise Privileges bennies win, then I pay for the cruise with my Amex Platinum Card. The downside of this card is that it carries an annual fee of $450 dollars. That said, I fly a lot, and the card offers airline lounge access with Delta (my primary airline). If I didn’t carry the Amex Platinum card, I would be buying lounge access from Delta, which incidentally, costs the same as the Amex annual fee and offers none of the other benefits that come with the card. There are other benefits with the card for travelers that in my mind, at least, pay for that annual fee, but those benefits aren’t worth the same thing to everyone.
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.
I have links to each of these credit cards on the blog. Please note that if one applies for and receives a credit card through those links, I will receive a referral bonus. There is no requirement to do so, and you are welcome to just click on those links and read the information available on the cards I mentioned without applying for any credit.
I appreciate your email, and hope this information is helpful. Feel free to write back if you have any questions.
Disclosure: There are no direct links to my credit card offers in this post as it is a cc of an email between a reader and myself. However, I do reference my “Credit Cards for Traveling Well” page, so in the interest of full disclosure, it is possible to click through to some links that will offer me a referral bonus if a credit card is applied for and received through those links. As always, your readership is appreciated whether you use my links or not.

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. Thanks for the information and plan you follow. I’ve done a lot of research on cruises from the bookings I’ve done. If the airline or other portals don’t offer a good deal I will go through I’m not an advertiser for them but for some odd reason I’ve gotten some great cruise and even airline prices from them over the years. Many times I’ve found they are a few dollars cheaper and may offer an additional OBC or gift over other agents. Also for the record the cruise line sites are normally the worse place to book. They even offer better prices over the phone than on the website.

  2. Now that DL is your primary airline will you add the DL Reserve Amexx to your wallet to improve upgrade chances?

  3. Corey, I think there is a better than even chance that I do that. I currently hold the Delta Platinum card. I may look at upgrading it as long as I get the MQM boost that comes with switching. I don’t think I will go out and apply for it right now as I’m likely to spend the first 6 months of 2013 as a Silver Medallion. I don’t think that the upgrade benefits of the Reserve card will save me from on most occasions as a Silver.

  4. I upgraded from Gold to PLT DL Amexx in 2012 and received the 5k MQMs and was told you receive the 10K for upgrading to the reserve card as well. Considering doing that this month for upgrades & club access.

  5. @Corey, my biggest hold up is that I don’t want to pay 2 x $450 in annual fees, but if I finally decide that the card will make a big enough difference with upgrades, there’s no doubt that I will upgrade to the Reserve card.

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