After a recent change, I was considering the Royal Caribbean card from Bank of America. My daughter is getting to the age of running around and the idea of giving her hours of running around, swimming and food sounds to me like lots of naps for her and I can finish that novel I have been working on…
My Cruise Rewards
It looks pretty interesting, I mean, 10,000 points – WOW – that’s a lot isn’t it?
This should be pretty easy right, I mean, I am pretty good at the internet, how hard could this be? Let me try a search for “My Cruise Rewards” the name of their loyalty program.
Hmm, three of those results are just the credit card offer. Let’s try going down this list a little.
Okay, well what about heading back to the Royal Caribbean page and navigating from there. Let’s see what we can find. Ah, there is a link for My Cruise Rewards. Here we go, it says 10,000 points are awarded with approval, fine, enough for a $100 onboard credit. That seems a little low but I am confused as to whether or not the points can only be used for on-board credit. I thought part of the advantage of a cruise was that meals were included. I know sometimes alcoholic drinks are extra, but we just really aren’t big drinkers and I am sure my wife would like to use the spa. Outside of a massage I am not sure what we would use an onboard credit to purchase, and why that would be enough to sway someone to obtain and earn on the card.
After 20 minutes, I still can’t find an award chart, which seems like an essential component to a point-based reward system, then again, Delta doesn’t think so. I the scroll to the bottom of the page and find:
That seems like the exact place to find what I need. It should have how much the points are worth if I redeem for onboard credit, or instead if I want to redeem for the purchase of a cruise. Even the worst programs allow you to cash out their points at a severe discount for an iTunes gift card, maybe some of those options are there. I click the link, and here is what I find.
You have got to be kidding me. Their own website doesn’t even work? (I wrote this post March 31st, 2015, and flagged the issue with the company, it still has not been resolved as of October 14th, 2017). Now I am a little curious, how big is Royal Caribbean – to be fair I have only been on one cruise many years ago with a person for whom we don’t mention their name. I guess it’s possible that Royal Caribbean is a much smaller outfit than I thought.
Nope. That’s a $17bn publicly traded company. How is it possible that it can be this bad? How is it that I can’t find what these points are worth, surely onboard credit cant be the only thing you earn. I know people who cruise all the time, they can’t just be getting a couple of free cocktails and some high fives for the thousands of dollars they spend every year with the company.
I thought I would try my hand at speaking with a human. I dial the number: 1-866-562-7625. I list the number because it’s worth calling in just to see what I am talking about. Feel free to kill five minutes dialing it up.
None of the automated options work for me (of course), I have to try something else. I just hit the button for “New Cruise Reservation” because nothing else fits the bill. The very nice representative – unbelievably nice in fact – tries a few work arounds because she doesn’t know either. She instructs me to go to the same website, she tells me to pick the reward options for which I reply,
“You should click that and tell me what you see”
“File not found” She replied.
Then she took a little more initiative to try and find a solution. Somehow she got a rep on the phone that stated that the onboard credit was available. I understood that was an option, the rest of the conversation went like this.
“What about other redemption opportunities?” I asked.
“You can redeem for merchandise.” She said. Most programs offer this but typically at terrible values in relation to what the points are worth if spent on travel with that company.
“What about redeeming to pay for a cruise, I don’t know what I have here, do I have one cruise, five cruises, half a cruise, what are my points worth when paying for cruises?” My frustration with finding a straight answer was beginning to set in.
“You can redeem 5,000 points for a $50 discount on a cruise, 10,000 points for $100 discount or 15,000 points for a $150 off a cruise.” She said.
It seemed like she was dodging this info and rightly she should. The value of their points are just $.01/point which is not better than many bank cards which are not cruise line affiliated. Membership Rewards points from American Express offer the same rate for redemption, but the earning on travel expenses is between 2-3x giving an actual rate of return of 2-3%, significantly better than the branded card. Don’t ever do that by the way, contact Matthew first. It should never be that way. A branded card should always have a greater benefit than a general purchase card.
I have a few frustrations with this card and the reward system, but most go back to people within the travel industry and even those that are involved with the loyalty program either not knowing what the points are worth, or not knowing what would be a reasonable amount to receive. It could be a lack of knowledge about what other travel companies are rewarding, or maybe this is cruise industry standard. For me though, why wouldn’t I just get a rewards card the Barclay Arrival card that gives me $.02/point back, or (any others for that matter)? I could cruise for free in half the time, plus they give you 40,000 to start instead of 10,000 points and you aren’t locked into Royal Caribbean like you are with their points of course because you spend the points as cash.
Cruising could provide a good experience to a family, lots of activities, sunshine, manageable cost structures. I’m just not convinced of any reason to place my loyalty or any value in their program – but certainly not their credit card.
Have you found any value in cruise loyalty programs? Is there a program that you have found that’s better than My Cruise Rewards?