Carnival™ World MasterCard® review: Only for the most enthusiastic cruise addicts

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In a Nutshell

The Carnival™ World MasterCard® might sound appealing to frequent cruisers, but its lackluster rewards structure doesn’t stack up against top general travel cards.

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The idea of getting credit card rewards that you can put directly toward your next trip on the high seas can be attractive.

But like other co-branded credit cards, your options with the Carnival™ World MasterCard® can be limited when it comes to earning and redeeming your rewards.

Who should consider a co-branded credit card?

A co-branded credit card is a joint partnership between the credit card issuer and a merchant or travel company.

In some cases, co-branded credit cards offer exclusive perks specific to the partner brand. For example, an airline credit card might offer priority boarding or a free checked bag. Similarly, a co-branded hotel card might offer elite status or a free night’s stay when you renew your card membership.

However, these cards often limit you to using your rewards based on that specific partner’s rewards program. General travel credit cards, on the other hand, typically offer rewards that you can redeem for just about any travel purchases.

If you’re loyal to a travel brand, getting these special perks can be worth it. Before you choose one, though, consider the whole package, including rewards, fees and other features.

  1. The rundown: Everything we like about the Carnival™ World MasterCard®
  2. Heads up: What you should consider before applying for the Carnival™ World MasterCard®
  3. Do the math: How to get the most out of the Carnival™ World MasterCard®
  4. The competition: How the Carnival™ World MasterCard® stacks up against similar cards
  5. Bottom line: Is the Carnival™ World MasterCard® right for you?

The rundown: Everything we like about the Carnival™ World MasterCard®

If you’re a serial cruiser and Carnival Cruise Lines is your top choice, you might consider adding the Carnival™ World MasterCard®, issued by Barclays, to your wallet.

“The card provides some potential value for frequent cruise-goers,” says Alex Miller, founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, a website that helps people maximize their travel rewards. “It’s a decent way to get certain items like champagne, a cruise credit or excursions for free.”

To give you an idea of what to look forward to, here’s what we like about the card.

Sign-up bonus with no minimum spending requirement

You’ll earn 20,000 Carnival FunPoints® after your first purchase. That’s good for a credit of up to $200 toward your next cruise purchase. Many credit cards require that you spend a certain amount before qualifying for a sign-up bonus, but this one doesn’t.

Get extra rewards when you cruise

Whenever you spend money with Carnival Cruise Lines, you’ll earn two points per $1. That includes onboard purchases with the Sail & Sign® program, Carnival’s cashless onboard credit program. For non-Carnival purchases, you’ll get one point per $1 spent.

No foreign transaction fees

If you’re heading on a cruise that docks in another country, some credit cards might tack an extra fee on your foreign purchases — typically 3%. The Carnival™ World MasterCard® can save you money on souvenirs and excursions because it doesn’t charge that fee.

No annual fee

When a credit card charges an annual fee, you have to do extra math to make sure you’re getting enough value out of the card to make it worth the cost. With this card, however, you don’t have to worry about that.

Balance transfer promotion

If you need help paying off high-interest credit card debt, why not have fun while you’re at it? The Carnival™ World MasterCard® offers a 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles for each balance transfer that posts to your account within the first 45 days of card opening. There’s a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the transferred balance, whichever is greater. After the promotional period, you’ll have a variable balance transfer and purchase APR of 15.49%, 20.49% or 25.49%.

You’ll even get one point per $1 in balance transfers that post to your account in the first 30 days after the account is opened, up to 5,000 points. That’s impressive, considering you typically don’t earn rewards on that kind of transaction.

Heads up: What you should consider before applying for the Carnival™ World MasterCard®

While the Carnival™ World MasterCard® has a few respectable features, there are a few reasons why you might want to look elsewhere:

The sign-up bonus is subpar

A 20,000-point sign-up bonus is decent, but the most you’ll get out of it when you redeem is $200. For reference, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card offers 25,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening. That bonus is worth $250 as a statement credit toward travel purchases, including cruises.

The ongoing rewards are mediocre

Unless you cruise with Carnival multiple times a year, you won’t get many chances to earn bonus rewards with this card. When you get your rewards, your redemption options are limited to Carnival and some other cruise lines.

With the Discover it® Miles, you’ll earn 1.5 miles on every purchase, giving you more bang for your buck. Plus, you can use your miles for your next cruise booked through online travel sites, or just about any other travel purchase.

No special Carnival perks

The main advantage that many co-branded travel credit cards have over general travel cards is that they offer specialized perks to loyal customers. But the Carnival™ World MasterCard® doesn’t offer priority boarding, elite status or any other cruise-related benefits.

You won’t want to carry a balance

With the Carnival™ World MasterCard®, your variable APR could be 15.49%, 20.49% or 25.49%, depending on your creditworthiness. To avoid paying high interest rates, be sure to pay off your balance in full each month.

Do the math: How to get the most out of the Carnival™ World MasterCard®

As with any credit card, it’s crucial to analyze your spending before choosing a credit card. With the Carnival™ World MasterCard®, the most important factor is how much you spend on Carnival cruises.

Since the card earns two points per $1 spent with Carnival, you stand to get a lot of value only if you’re a serial cruiser. But if you go on only one or two cruises a year at most, you might be better off with a general travel credit card that generates more rewards on everyday spending and allows you to use your rewards to book cruises.

If you do plan to apply for the card and have high-interest credit card debt, seriously consider using the card’s balance transfer promotion. Not only will you get a decent amount of time to pay off your debt interest-free, but you’ll also get one point per $1 transferred up to 5,000 points on your transfer, which is a benefit you won’t see in other balance transfer cards.

Just keep in mind that the card charges a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the transfer, whichever is greater. The bonus points help mitigate the cost, but don’t do it just for the points.

The competition: How the Carnival™ World MasterCard® stacks up against similar cards

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Best no-annual-fee general travel card
Discover it® Miles Best for big spenders

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is one of the best no-annual-fee travel cards on the market. It offers a flat 1.5 points per $1 spent on all your purchases and 25,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening. And foreign transaction fees? None. You can redeem your points as a statement credit for several different travel purchases.

From our partner

Discover it® Miles

With this card, you’ll earn 1.5 miles for every $1 spent. In addition, at the end of your first year, Discover will match all the miles you’ve earned that year. Because of this, if you know you’re going to be spending a lot in a particular year, this card can help you maximize your credit card rewards.

You can book your travel with your card and redeem your miles for cash or as a statement credit for travel purchases made within the last 180 days.

Bottom line: Is the Carnival™ World MasterCard® right for you?

When picking a travel credit card, you want to find a card that will get you on your next vacation the fastest. Unfortunately, the Carnival™ World MasterCard® doesn’t offer a robust rewards program, even compared with some general travel credit cards that have no annual fee.

“Certain other carrier-agnostic cards can let you earn rewards on non-cruise purchases faster,” says Miller, including the general travel cards listed above.