Are The Norwegian Cruise Line Credit Card Benefits Worth It?

Bank of America NCL MasterCardLogically, you would think it would make sense to get a credit card from your favorite cruise line.

Well, think again.

As is the case with many co-branded affinity cards, rarely do they actually benefit you. Norwegian Cruise Line MasterCard is a perfect example.

How much are your rewards truly worth?

As I write this review (August 2013) here’s the offer in a nutshell:

  • 1 WorldPoint per dollar on regular purchases
  • 2 WorldPoints per dollar on qualifying NCL purchases
  • 10,000 bonus points (for first-time applicants)

Now what can you actually buy with the NCL points? Here are some examples:

1,000 pts = $10 off entry fee for select Casino Tournaments
5,000 pts = $50 onboard cruise credit
10,000 pts = Up to 2-category upgrade on cruises 5-days or longer
10,000 pts = $100 off any cruise
20,000 pts = Up to 4-category upgrade on cruises 5-days or longer
50,000 pts = $500 off any cruise
50,000 pts = $500 onboard cruise credit
100,000 pts = $1000 onboard cruise credit

Pick any of the above rewards, run the numbers on them, and you will see you are most likely only getting a penny per point. That holds true even if you were able to accumulate a whopping 100,000 pts (which would require you to make $100,000 of regular purchases on your NCL credit card).

And if you are a high rollin’ spender who’s forking over that much on plastic, then there are some reward options for free cruises, too. But are those better? Not exactly…

3 or 4 day cruise for 2 in the Bahamas (excludes airfare):

60,000 pts = inside stateroom
70,000 pts = outside stateroom
90,000 pts = balcony stateroom
25,500 pts = cost of each additional guest sharing the same room

7 day cruise for 2 in the Caribbean/Mexican Riviera (excludes airfare):

137,900 pts = inside stateroom
157,900 pts = outside stateroom
227,900 pts = balcony stateroom
40,000 pts = cost of each additional guest sharing the same room

Hmm… how does that compare if you were to just go out and pay cash for a 7-day Caribbean cruise? Here’s a quote I just pulled for one…

cruise quote

So let’s see… you could pay $899 for the balcony stateroom – OR – you could cough up 227,900 points from your NCL MasterCard.

In that example, each point is only getting you about 4/10 of a penny!

To add insult to injury, the comparison is made worse by the fact that Norwegian Cruise Lines frequently features promotions for up to $250 in free statement credits when you buy a cruise. For example when I pulled the above quote, they were offering a $50 statement credit on the above itinerary.

And the final nail on the coffin…

If you need just one more reason to skip the NCL credit card application, I encourage you to thoroughly review the fine print on Bank of America’s website about it. There, you will see this statement:

info about rewards being taxable income

You may be issued a form 1099 to report the value of your credit card rewards to the IRS as taxable income.

Look elsewhere in 2013

If you want travel rewards, the new Arrival from Barclaycard gives you the highest value. Even though they call their rewards “miles” you can cash them out for statement credits to offset virtually any travel purchase at a rate of 1 mile = 1 cent.

Since you’re earning 2x miles on everything PLUS getting 10% of them back to use again, that’s like earning 2.2% on all your credit card purchases!

This review was written or last updated August 5, 2013

 
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