Carnival Cruise Line has no shortage of impressive destinations from the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean and the Mexican Riviera, to locales much farther from home like Europe, Australia, New Zealand and more.
And if you're planning to take to the seas with this cruise line, the $0-annual-fee Carnival World Mastercard can definitely defray some of your costs. Issued by Barclays, it offers uniquely generous introductory offers, and Carnival super-cruisers in particular may enjoy the card's discounts on shore excursions.
Still, the Carnival World Mastercard suffers from some of the same drawbacks that other cruise line credit cards have:
Modest ongoing rewards, which means it'll take you a while to accrue a pile of points on your everyday spending.
Complex redemption tiers, which make it difficult to determine the value of those points.
Here are five things to know about the Carnival World Mastercard.
1. Its introductory offers are rich and rare ...
New cardholders will qualify for the following offers:
A VERY Easy-to-earn sign-up bonus
As of December 2020, the Carnival World Mastercard was offering 20,000 "FunPoints" — worth $200 in statement credit toward your next cruise — after making just one purchase or balance transfer. This is a rare offer that stands out among the competition for two reasons:
You can earn it without having to meet a specific spending threshold. Just buy something as small as, say, a pack of gum and get $200 in value back. This kind of offer is not unheard of, but it's uncommon.
You can earn it without having to make any kind of purchase at all. You could instead opt to transfer a balance from an existing card and reap the $200 value. Earning rewards on balance transfers is rarer still.
A lengthy 0% intro APR on balance transfers
And about those balance transfers? New cardholders get a 0% introductory APR on the first 15 billing cycles following each balance transfer that posts to the account within 45 days of opening it. You can sometimes find balance transfer terms on other travel credit cards, but their promotional windows are generally shorter. (The Carnival card does charge a balance transfer fee of 3%, which is fairly standard.)
Nerd tip: The Carnival World Mastercard also offers an APR promotion on purchases, but as of December 2020 it was on only "qualifying Carnival cruise booking purchases," and for only six billing cycles. Otherwise, the ongoing APR varies depending on your creditworthiness but can range well above 20%.
Additional points on transferred balances
But wait, we're still not done talking about balance transfers: The Carnival World Mastercard offers 1 FunPoint per $1 in balance transfers posted to the account within the 30 days after opening it, up to a maximum of 5,000 FunPoints. As noted, it is highly unusual to receive rewards on balance transfers.
2. ... But ongoing rewards fall short
Beyond the introductory offers, the Carnival World Mastercard offers mediocre rewards. You'll earn:
2 FunPoints for every $1 spent on purchases made with Carnival Cruise Line and other eligible brands under the World’s Leading Cruise Lines umbrella (including AIDA, Costa, Cunard, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises Australia, P&O Cruises UK and Seabourn. These brands are accurate as of December 2020.) Terms apply.
1 FunPoint per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Unless you’re frequently setting sail with qualifying cruise lines, it will take you a while to rack up points. Other no-annual-fee travel credit cards earn bonus rewards in everyday spending categories — like dining or groceries — or they may simply offer a high flat rate, like 1.5% back on purchases of any kind.
3. Point values vary and redemption is needlessly complex
You can redeem FunPoints for statement credits toward a variety of purchases, though you'll potentially get the most value for them when you redeem them as credits to offset eligible Carnival purchases.
But here's the rub: When using your points this way, their value depends on the amount of the purchase. You'll need a minimum of 5,000 points to start, but here's what you can expect them to be worth in statement credit:
Spend $50 to $1,499.99: Statement credit redemption value of 1%.
Spend $1,500 or more: Statement credit redemption value of 1.5%.
(The card's terms note that if you don't have enough points to redeem for the full purchase amount, you'll be able to redeem only in $50 statement credit increments between $50 and $5,000.)
Point values also differ for other redemption options:
Spending on other World’s Leading Cruise Lines brands: Statement credit redemption value of 1%.
Spending on merchandise or onboard amenities: Statement credit redemption value of 1%. (For these options, the minimum amount of points required to redeem may vary.)
Spending on eligible airline or hotel purchases: Statement credit redemption value of 0.9%.
Spending on gift cards: Statement credit redemption generally has a value of about 0.75%. (For these options, you need a minimum of 3,300 points, redeemable for $25.)
Nerd tip: These tiered point redemption values are common among other co-branded cruise line cards issued by Barclays, including the Princess Cruises Rewards Visa® Card and the Holland America Line Rewards Visa® Card. But this is not typical of most travel cards, where points have a fixed redemption value no matter how much you spend on a specific transaction.
A general travel credit — one that's not tied to any specific brand — will be much more straightforward and flexible. One example is the $0-annual-fee Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card. It earns 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases (and 3 points per $1 spent if you book eligible travel through the Bank of America® Travel Center), and those points are worth 1 cent each when redeemed for travel — but not just with cruise lines. You can redeem them for purchases with airlines, travel agencies, trains, buses, taxis, boat rentals, tourist attractions and exhibits, to name a few.
4. It offers a 10% discount on shore excursions
You can qualify for a 10% discount in the form of a statement credit when you use the card to purchase a Carnival shore excursions package prior to your cruise.
Shore excursions are activities or tours that you can participate in as you explore a new destination. Taxes and fees are not included in the discount.
5. It's relatively fee-friendly
With the Carnival World Mastercard, you don’t have to worry about an annual fee or foreign transaction fees when you make a purchase abroad. (Some cards charge 1% to 3% of each international transaction.)
As a Mastercard, the card is also well equipped for travel abroad, as it will be widely accepted by merchants everywhere.