Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

The Best Credit Cards for Caribbean Travel

By: Bob Curley

If a Caribbean vacation rates as a dream, the fantasy is to get the trip paid for by someone else. And one way to do that is by signing up for a credit card where you earn points that can be used to defer the cost of travel.

Airfare and lodging are typically the two biggest expenses for Caribbean travelers, so choosing a credit card that rewards purchases with points that can be used for flights or hotel stays is your best bet for underwriting your next tropical trip. Some of these cards are specific to certain airlines or hotel chains, while others deliver reward points that can be used generally to book travel on the airline or at the hotel of your choice.

Here are our picks for the top rewards credit cards for Caribbean travel:

American Airlines AAdvantage Mastercard

American Airlines has more flights to the Caribbean and Latin American of any airline, with more than 800 weekly flights to 35 Caribbean destinations plus Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Holders of the Citi bank issued American Airlines AAdvantage Mastercard thus have the most choices for redeeming rewards points for an island getaway. The Advantage Mastercard comes in four versions — the entry-level MileUp Mastercard, the Platinum Select Mastercard, the Executive Mastercard, and the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard. Introductory miles bonuses range from 10,000 to 65,000 points, depending on the card selected; useful perks include priority boarding and — for the Executive Mastercard — entry into American Airlines Admirals Club airport lounges. However, Caribbean-bound travelers should note that the free checked bags offered on the Platinum, Executive, and CitiBusiness cards are for domestic flights only, so you’ll still pay to check bags to the Caribbean.

Delta Air Lines SkyMiles American Express Card

Delta flies to 13 Caribbean destinations plus Mexico, Bermuda and Costa Rica: the airline’s regional routes include popular destinations like Punta Cana and Montego Bay as well as less-traveled cities like Port au Prince, Haiti, and Havana, Cuba. If you’re a traveler used to paying off your credit card balance in full each month, the SkyMiles Amex Card may be a good choice: the card comes in Gold, Platinum, and Reserve versions, with introductory bonus mile offers of 40,000 to 50,000 miles. All offer priority boarding, and first checked bag fee waivers; the Platinum and Reserve cards have higher fees but include reimbursement for TSA Global Entry membership, airport lounge access, and a free annual companion travel certificate.

The Zoetry resort in Montego Bay.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa

Southwest Airlines brings its low-fare model and Rapid Rewards program to eight Caribbean destinations — Aruba, Grand Cayman, Havana, Montego Bay, Nassau, Punta Cana, Providenciales, and San Juan — and the Mexican Caribbean. The airline’s Rapid Rewards Visa, issued by Chase, has a 60,000-point introductory offer, plus a promo code that can be used to take 30 percent off an upcoming flight. Top perks include priority boarding and the ability to earn points toward a companion pass. The card comes in Plus, Premier, and Priority versions.

JetBlue Mastercard

JetBlue Airways flies to more than two dozen destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America, including some unexpected places like Guadeloupe and Guyana. The Barclays Bank issued JetBlue Mastercard comes in a base version with no annual fee and 10,000 introductory points and a Plus version with a $99 annual fee with 60,000 bonus points. The latter includes free first checked bags, a $100 statement credit when booking a JetBlue Vacations package, and 5,000 bonus points each year.

United Airlines Explorer Card

United Airlines includes more than 20 “beach destinations” in the Caribbean, Mexico’s Riviera Maya, and Latin America on its route map, and travelers can use points earned on the Explorer card to visit any of them. The Chase Visa Signature card entices new users with 50,000 introductory bonus miles plus perks like two United Club passes each year, free first checked bags, priority boarding, and up to $100 Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS fee credits.

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott has more than 80 hotels in the Caribbean, ranging from basic brands like Courtyard to five star luxury Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis resorts. Unique properties are grouped under the Autograph collection, while Marriott increasingly offers stays at all-inclusive brands like Royalton. Marriott’s Bonvoy credit cards come in four versions — two Visa cards and two American Express cards. The Bold Visa is the no annual fee card and comes with 30,000 introductory points, while the Boundless Visa has a $95 annual fee but includes three free nights as an introductory offer. The Amex cards have higher fees but bigger signup bonuses and include Marriott elite-level status.

Hyatt Visa

The World of Hyatt includes dozens of Caribbean, Latin America, and Riviera Maya properties, from Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara all-inclusive resorts to distinctive resorts like The Reef by Cuisinart in Anguilla. The Chase Hyatt Visa card offers 30,000 bonus points to new members plus an opportunity to earn another 30,000, a free night each year, and the ability to earn a second free night based on how much you charge in a year.

Hilton Honors

Hilton’s Caribbean portfolio includes 30-plus hotels, from business (and budget) friendly Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, and Homewood Suites properties and downtown hotels to luxury resorts like the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa. With the Hilton Honors American Express, users can earn up to 70,000 bonus points on the no-annual-fee level credit card to use on resort stays plus a free night certificate. The Hilton Amex card also is available in Surpass ($95 annual fee) and Aspire (4450 annual fee) versions with more bonus points and other perks.

Capital One Venture Card

Want a travel rewards credit card that’s not affiliated with a particular hotel chain or airline? The Capital One Venture Card is consistently rated as one of the best credit cards for earning points toward travel. The card has a $395 annual fee but gives $300 of that back in the form of statement credits for travel-related expenses, and perks include 75,000 introductory bonus miles, 10,000 anniversary miles, and $100 toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

Publishers Note: We are happy to partner with Alexander Britell, Founder and Editor in Chief of the Miami, Florida based Caribbean Journal and his staff contributing to the OTC and our Caribbean Connection Section. Check out the popular online magazine/website at

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