[This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson.]
In the world of travel-hacking, most of the conversation revolves around getting free flights, hotel stays, and cash back.
Unfortunately, this leaves out a huge swath of folks who prefer cruising as their vacation of choice. And yes, there are several co-branded credit cards that offer people the opportunity to earn points that can bring down on the cost of a ticket. The bad news is, none of them offer much of an incentive to sign up.
Take the Carnival World MasterCard issued by Barclay, for instance. Basically, the card offers a 10,000 “fun point” signup bonus if you meet certain conditions. You earn the first 5,000 “fun points” for your first purchase on the card. That part is easy. Unfortunately, you can only earn the other 5,000 “fun points” by transferring a $5,000 balance to the card within 30 days of account opening. Say what?
Oh, and it gets even worse. The 10,000 “fun points” are only worth $100 off a single cruise.
How to Cruise for FREE
Let’s face it, rewards cards that let you earn points with a specific cruise line are pretty sad. But don’t despair, my friends. There are plenty of other credit card reward offers that are far more lucrative and much easier to earn. You just have to think outside-of-the-box. Here are a few of the best options out there:
- Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard – This rewards card makes it easy to earn a free cruise. The deal is this: Spend $3,000 on the card within 90 days of account opening and earn 40,000 bonus miles. You also earn 2 miles/$1 spent on all purchases, and 10% of your points back every time you redeem for travel credits. Crazy, huh? So basically, your $3,000 minimum spend will net you $460 in travel credit. You can then use your card to book any cruise of your choosing. After the charge posts, you simply apply the credit and watch it melt away. The card does have an $89 annual fee, but it is waived the first year. Click here to apply for the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard so you can earn your 40,000 point bonus.
- Barclay Arrival World MasterCard – This card is similar to the Elite version, but with no annual fee and with a lower bonus. The deal is this: Earn 20,000 bonus miles after spending only $1,000 within 90 days of account opening. You also earn 2 miles/$1 spent on travel and dining and 1 point/$1 spent on everything else, and the same 10% of your points back after redeeming for travel. Since the 20,000 bonus miles are only good for a $200 statement credit, the Elite version of this card with the higher signup bonus is obviously a better option. However, if you’re worried about spending $3,000 in three months or don’t want to deal with an annual fee, this card is also an excellent deal. Click here apply for a Barclay Arrival World MasterCard so you can earn your 20,000 point bonus.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – If you already have one of the Barclay Arrival cards, your next best bet is signing up for the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card for their temporary increased signup bonus of 40,000 miles. This card is similar to the Barclay cards in that you redeem your miles for travel credit. The deal is this: Spend $3,000 within three months of card ownership and earn 40,000 bonus miles. You also earn 2 miles/$1 spent on every purchase, which means that hitting the minimum spending requirement should net you at least $460 in travel credit. The $59 annual fee is waived for the first year. A few caveats: First, you cannot redeem your points for partial credit, unlike Barclay Arrival cards. For example, if you want to redeem your points for a $500 cruise, you must have at least 50,000 points saved up. Second, Capital One loves to do a hard pull with all three credit reporting agencies. This may not be a big deal to you, but it is certainly something to consider.
Any of these offers could have you cruising for free in no time. That’s because cruises, in general, are fairly inexpensive.
A sample cruise that you can get for “free” (with travel hacking)
Carnival Cruise Line
- Departure: August 2, 2014 from Jacksonville, Florida on the Carnival Fascination
- Length: 5 Days
- Destination: Bahamas
- Total Cost: $777.98 for two adults including taxes, fees, and port expenses
In this case, two point-earners could sign up for any combination of these offers and cruise for free with ease. However, if you include the Capital One Venture card in your plans, make sure to split your cruise purchase over two cards so that you have enough Capital One miles to cover half of your trip. Cruising is a fairly low-cost vacation option to begin with, but free is even better.
Have you ever gone on a cruise? What did you like/not like? Are you a travel hacker? What’s your hack of choice?
About The Author: Holly is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly and Frugal Travel Guy. Check out more of her super awesome skills at clubthrifty.com. If you’re interested in writing for Vosa contact us here.
Afterword From Brent
Travel hacking works, plain and simple.
In the past couple of months I’ve stayed at the Banff Springs Hotel for free, have saved more than $2,300 on two round trip flights to Denver thanks to credit card points and have an upcoming trip where the hotel and flights are being paid for 100% by credit card points.
Even if you’re not a huge traveler, I highly recommend you start travel hacking and building up your point balances today. Traveling is a LOT more fun when you know it’s FREE! I recommend starting with the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite, the Barclay Arrival World, the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite and/or the US Airways MasterCard.
P.s Here are some other great resources here at VOSA about travel hacking:
- Travel Hacking Example: A 10 Night Italian Vacation for Less Than $300
- Travel Hack Your Way To Disney World with the U.S. Airways Premier Card
- Hawaiian Airlines Credit Card: Say Aloha To The Best Hawaiian Miles Card
- 40,000 Bonus Miles: Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard Review
- Credit Card Churning For Rewards: The Rules You Must Follow
- Credit Card Rewards: 5 Unique Strategies for Hitting Minimum Spending Requirements
- 5 Ways to Make Sure Travel Hacking Isn’t Ruining Your Credit Score
- Is The Starwood Preferred AMEX The King of Hotel Loyalty Cards?
Happy travel hacking!