Clark Howard

The Only Way You Should Pay for a Cruise

Are you thinking about booking a cruise soon? If so, you may be told that using a particular payment method will save you money.

A listener of money expert Clark Howard's podcast recently asked whether it makes sense to book a cruise with an e-check, an electronic payment that pulls funds from your checking account.

Booking a Cruise Soon? Read This

The caller cited Viking Cruises, which says on its website that customers get a 3.3% discount if they pay using an e-check.

While that may sound convenient, Clark cautions against using an e-check, which works just like an electronic debit card, to book travel. As you know, Clark is not a fan of debit cards because they don't offer the same protections as credit cards.

“I always want you to pay for a cruise with a credit card, never with a debit card,” Clark says.

Aside from the better consumer protections credit cards offer, Clark points to another reason why you’d want to use a credit card to pay for your cruise. He notes that the cruise industry is currently burdened with debt and says that any one of the big cruise line companies could fold at any minute. It might be impossible to get your money back if you’ve paid with an e-check.

According to finance site CNBC, Carnival is $35 billion in debt, while Royal Caribbean and Norwegian are holding $25 billion and $14 billion in debt respectively.

“The cruise industry is on the ropes financially,” Clark says. “The debt levels are astronomical. We don’t know who’s going to survive and who won’t.”

What Is the Best Credit Card To Use To Pay for a Cruise?

Clark takes trips frequently and carries a travel credit card in his wallet, but he says the best travel cards are usually a good fit for only the most frequent travelers. Most consumers would do well with a solid cash back credit card instead.

In considering which cash back card is right for you, it’s a good idea to think about your interests, including how frequently you’ll use the card and what you’ll likely use it for.

Here’s a list of credit card categories that may be of interest. Note that many of the cards have annual fees:

Final Thoughts

Clark doesn’t want you to use e-checks or a debit card to pay for your cruise – even if the cruise line says it’s giving you a deal to do so.

“Never, never, never, never, not ever use a debit card to pay for travel. Absolutely do not use an e-check to pay for a cruise or travel,” he says.

Clark also wants you to protect the money you pay for a cruise by buying trip insurance.

"If you are going on a cruise or an expensive tour, buy trip insurance that covers supplier default," he says. "Never buy trip insurance, or what they call 'trip coverage,' from a cruise line itself."

For trip insurance, Clark recommends or a similar travel insurance comparison website. Read Team Clark's in-depth review on InsureMyTrip.

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