Free Money on Cruises

The final night of our cruise on the Rhapsody of the Seas, Mrs. Kuki was busy packing for debarkation, when the bill was slipped under our cabin door. She took a quick look and panicked. $8000!!! As the sweat poured profusely down her brow, she feared, "what in the world has he done now?" I suppose, given my checkered past, her worry was justified.

No, I didn't buy my favorite cocktail waitress a diamond tennis bracelet in the duty free shop. I was simply taking advantage of the cruise lines' generous policy of giving away free money.

Here's a little known fact: most major cruise lines allow you to use your onboard charge card to purchase chips from the casino cashier. These chips may later be exchanged for cash. The cruise lines treat these transactions as onboard purchases, rather than cash advances. If you pay off these charges in full when your credit card bill arrives at home, the cruise lines have provided an interest free loan.

OK, so it's just been a short-term loan, but there is another major advantages to these types of transactions: Mileage! I use a credit card that accumulates frequent flyer miles. Credit card companies generally provide one frequent flyer mile for every dollar charged. The American Express Platinum Card awards one and one half frequent flyer miles for every dollar spent.

Being Canadian, I am often at a disadvantage when it comes to the killer rates we pay for U.S. dollars. However, through the frequent flyer mile award programs, I make up for some lost ground. My Rhapsody $8000 charge converts to roughly $12,000 Canadian dollars. When that $12,000 is processed through my credit card award program, I receive 18,000 frequent flyer miles.

The cruise line's generous interest free loan translates to nearly enough frequent flyer miles for a free airline ticket to fly me to my next cruise. You see -- they really did give me "free" money. I have used this procedure often on a variety of ships and cruise lines. The only major cruise line where I couldn't use my nifty program was Princess, which charges a 3% service fee for each of these transactions, negating any possible advantages. The daily maximum amounts the cruise lines allow for this type of transaction varies, ranging from $350 to $1500 per day.

If you are a frequent cruiser I highly recommend getting a credit card which awards frequently flyer miles. I know there is a Carnival Cruise Lines Visa. Using that card in the manner which I described, it would take no time at all to earn a free cruise.

Free money! However, always remember to pay off the credit card bill as soon as it arrives. And, trying to double it in the casino is definitely NOT a good idea.

Disclaimer: The editors of CruiseMates have not tried this, (okay, we did once, but just to get enough cash to pay our tips) and it is up to each individual to determine whether or not any additional charges may apply. The cruise lines can change their policies at any time. Oh, and Kuki is a really big guy, so don't be lookin' for him as he steps off the ship.

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