Trevor just gave us a quick state of the union on MS today. Since, we I’m heading off on a cruise next week, I thought to share the ‘At Sea’ version.
I really enjoy at Sea MS because it involves walking up to a machine wearing your favorite hawaiian shirt sipping on chilled beverage, typing in a few digits, and walking off with a coupon for up to $3000 (or perhaps more) that you then mosey over to another nearby machine and turn into $100 bills.
It’s worth noting that the newer the ship, the easier this is. When we took our two week cruise around South America, starting in Santiago it was on the older, NCL Sun, which didn’t have the new Casino cashless gaming system installed, and each $1K entailed a phone call to the front desk for approval. That said, it’s still a very viable solution.
NCL Pricing is 3% transaction fee, and Royal Caribbean is 5%. While both might appear to rule out the value of MS, I’d argue a few cases that make sense:
- Citi Premier (or whatever they call that one that is 3x on Travel) > 3% if you use the points for travel, and can leverage the redemption for travel.
- The Altitude reserve is 3x on Travel plus a 1.5x multiplier when spent on flights on their platform.
Both of the above beat the 3% on NCL, by a margin between perhaps 20-50% or more, depending on how you can redeem.
Equally, both would be a struggle to beat the 5% on Royal. That said, if you’re able to Status Match in from Hyatt to mLife, then into Royal/Celebrity you might be able to get the 5% waived entirely. This is a case where you need to socially engineer the exchange. If you find yourself successful, you could be looking at a large amount of ‘free MS’.
Lastly, it’s worth looking at min spend requirements. Personally, I recently applied (a month or so ago) for the Altitude Reserve and haven’t bothered to meet the spend. With min spend bonus met effortlessly, plus effectively 4.5% per dollar, even at 5% (I’ll be at 0%) it would be a good deal.
My initial plan for this cruise was to max out the Altitude credit line, then swap to the Citi Premier, but because of the value of simple min spend meeting, I applied for a Capital One Spark, $500 bonus for $4500 spend. My new approach for the week will be:
- Max Spend on Altitude ($10K)
- Min Spend on Capital One Spark ($4500)
- Finish off on Citi Premier
- 50K pts bonus, 30K earned pts for $1200 in flights
- $500 bonus plus $90 earned, for $590 in cash
Total cost to acquire the MS = $0, total liquidation cost $0, and maybe even a free rum punch while doing so.
I’m aware that I’m leaving 1x on the table (technically more than 1x) by inserting the Capital One card before pivoting from 3x of Altitude to 3x of TYP. That does have a real cost of about $45*1.X but that’s pure convenience fee for me, and allows me to work seamlessly.
I know not everyone will be able to guarantee the 0% transaction fee, but it does make for an interesting attempt at an App-O-Rama Min Spend trip for those who are willing to ‘take a chance’ on it. For those who do, I can tell you that the daily cap on NCL was limited to $3,000 per card.
If you do decide to go big (or to avoid going big…) don’t forget to fill out FINCEN form 105.