Review: Carnival MasterCard vs. Chase Sapphire

Surprisingly, fans of Carnival Cruises may not be getting the best deal with their branded card.

Just about every travel-related company has their own branded card. The Carnival Fun Points MasterCard is one such example, but how does it really stack up against an unbranded travel card such as the Sapphire?

Note: The offers for the Carnival Mastercard and Chase Sapphire are currently unavailable. The information below is for reference only.

 
Barclays Carnival MasterCard
Barclays Carnival MasterCard
Chase Sapphire Card
Chase Sapphire® Card
Annual FeeNoneNone
Rewards ProgramCarnival FunPoints, which are redeemable for cruises and on-board amenitiesChase Ultimate Rewards points, which are redeemable for any travel purchase, cash back, gift cards, and merchandise.
Rewards on Regular Purchases1 point per dollar 1 point per dollar
Rewards on Categories2 point per dollar on Carnival Cruise Lines 2 points per dollar on dining at restaurants.
Point value1 point = $0.008 (based on 12,500 pts = $100 onboard credit) 1 point = $0.01 towards travel rewards and cash back
Signup BonusUnavailableUnavailable

I wish I could say this is unusual, but it’s not. A lot of these co-branded credit cards (which includes store cards) are not in your best interest. With the Carnival MasterCard you are getting 2x points on their ships, but given the lousy point value that’s hardly worth it.

In fact if you do the math, those double points on Carnival purchases is like getting as little as 1.6% cash back. And if you apply that same point value to the signup bonus, it’s like getting $40. I think most of us would agree that is about the most boring bonus offer ever!

And when these points are redeemed, I found these caveats about them in the fine print:

  • To redeem rewards for onboard amenities, you have to order 15+ days in advance – Per their own wording: “Orders for onboard amenities will be accepted up to 15 days prior to the passenger’s cruise departure date.”  Examples of onboard rewards are things like Robert Mondavi wine (3,700 pts), a terry cloth robe (7,200 pts), and chocolate + champagne (6,100 pts). Booking those things in advance is fine for most, but if you’re like me sometimes you just like to play it by ear on your vacations so you won’t know in advance the exact day and time you want these things.
  • Rewards are subject to availability – Oh this is super… the whole reason we get frustrated with airline frequent flyer programs is because of their blackout dates and restrictions. The Carnival application is vague as to what “subject to availability” actually means, but they do say on the website the following: “Certain rewards are available only during the time periods described in the Program communications. Merchants participating in the Program are subject to change. Some rewards have limited availability.”

Benefits? What benefits?

Now sometimes these types of cards make sense if you are getting extra benefits with the company. Much to my surprise, when I pull up the application for their MasterCard I see NOTHING listed specific to Carnival.

It’s almost as if the only thing they have to do with it is slapping their logo on the card. Aside from that, there is practically nothing that differentiates this from any other ol’ card.

The one good thing is that at least it’s a World MasterCard, which includes perks like concierge and a free emergency assistance hotline. But in my opinion the similar Visa Signature tier of cards is better because you get more benefits with less restrictive rules attached to them.

Is it worth it for the zero percent?

Now this is interesting. When I looked at the card on Barclaycard’s website, there was no 0% offer mentioned. However when I go to Carnival.com and click on the application from there, it loads with this zero interest promo on purchases:

Carnival's signup offer

12 months is hardly anything special. And it’s only applicable to purchases, NOT on balance transfers. You can find 0% offers a lot longer elsewhere.

Winner: Use a non-branded travel rewards card

Don’t be fooled… no matter how much you love their cruises, the Carnival MasterCard is not in your best interest. This is one of the few cards on the market where I honestly can’t think of one logical reason to apply for.

Even some store cards which are equally terrible I can recommend to people with bad credit because they’re easy to get approved for. But with Carnival, BarclayCard says you need good credit to qualify. Well if you have good credit that means you will be able to score something a lot better elsewhere!

This review was written or last updated February 2015

 
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