ALL ABOUT YOUR ON-BOARD ACCOUNT - a guide for Cruising.

on-board account Now you know all there is to know about Cruise Cards (from last week’s blog), let’s delve a little deeper into the murky waters of the Cruise Ship On-board account.

Paying for expenses on-board seems to be an area that confuses and perplexes many cruisers.  And who wants to be worrying about money while they are on holiday – not me!

Follow this easy guide to understanding on-board accounts, then just set & forget!

What is an On-Board Account?

This is where the ship will keep a record of all the spending you do on-board.

Think about it like your own special bank account on the ship set up for the duration of your cruise.

Everyone must have an on-board account (even if you don’t plan to spend any money).

Each time you make a purchase (by using your cruise card) the amount will be added to your on-board account.

Setting Up an On-Board Account:

This is done as part of the check-in procedure before you board your ship.

You can do this on-line yourself, or your travel agent may do it for you.

You will be asked to nominate the way you will be settling your on-board account (you can change your mind later if you want to, so it’s not set in stone).

The cruise line will then set up your on-board account and link it to your Cruise card which you will receive as you board. 

You can start spending as soon as you board.

Cashless Cruising:

Put your wallet away when you arrive on-board. 

You DO NOT directly use cash or your own credit/debit cards when you make purchases on the ship. 

Every time you want to make a purchase on the ship you will present your Cruise card.

Your Cruise card is the KEY to your on-board account.

Paying the on-board account:

Even though you have just waved your Cruise card around to pay for things all week, eventually the real money has to come out!

You have the option of using a credit card, a debit card or cash to pay your on-board account.

Paying by Cash:

If you want to pay your account by cash, you do this by depositing cash into your on-board account via the automatic teller machines or at the guest services desk. For some cruise-lines you can also deposit cash on-line before you cruise.

You can top up your cash account during the cruise, but if you run out of cash on your account your cruise card will be blocked.

Some ships will allow your on-board account to build up to a certain amount before you have to put cash on it, others will expect a minimum cash amount deposited to your account BEFORE your cruise card is activated.

Ships do have ATMs available to withdraw cash if you need to top up your account, but don’t rely on being able to withdraw cash this way as the machines can and do run out of cash or break down from time to time. 

If you want to pay your on-board account with cash, I would suggest you bring enough cash with you and just deposit it all onto your on-board account immediately.  You can withdraw any left-over cash from your on-board account at the end of your cruise if you don’t spend it all.

Paying by Credit/Debit Card:

If you elect to pay your on-board account with your credit or debit card, your bank account will be debited on the final morning of the cruise, so you don’t need to do a thing.

Just be aware that Cruise Lines use a PRE-AUTHORISATION system with YOUR BANK to ensure you have enough funds to cover your spending on-board.

Each day the cruise-line will put a HOLD on your Credit/Debit card for the amount you have spent.

At the end of the cruise the total of your on-board account is debited from your Bank account as one amount, and the ‘holds’ are released.

BUT, your bank can take up to 30 days to remove these ‘holds’ so it can appear as if you have been charged twice!  The holds will affect the balance of your account so make sure you have enough “extra” funds in your account to take the pre-authorisation holds into consideration.

Check the details with your bank before you cruise if this could be an issue for your bank balance.

Paying with a bit of Both:

Maybe you decided to put cash onto your on-board account to help you stick to a budget. But you’ve had such a great time you have blown your funds…  You can still go to guest services and add your credit/debit card to your on-board account to fund the rest of your cruise!

Sharing Accounts:

When you are setting up your on-board account you can nominate whether the account will cover just you, or several people.

Everybody still has their own Cruise card, but more than one cruise card can be allocated to an on-board account.

If you travel as a couple you can create ONE on-board account that both of your purchases will be added to.

If you have children you can add them to your on-board account, or you can create a separate account for them and also nominate a daily or total spending limit.


If you book your cruise on a deal that includes On Board Credit (OBC) this will be added to your on-board account and be available to spend via your cruise card when you board the ship.

Your OBC will be used towards your account balance BEFORE any of your own funds are used.

Keeping an eye on your on-board account:

Using a cruise card to make purchases can be costly – cruise life is all fun and temptation & it’s very easy spend with a cruise card!

This is why many people choose to pay their on-board account with cash, maybe adding only what they have budgeted each day to stay accountable.

It is easy to keep a track of your account (if you want to).  Self-serve kiosks, guest services, in-room tv screens and some new ship ‘apps’ can all be accessed to show you a statement of your spending whenever you want.

We make a habit of checking our on-board account each day just to make sure it is accurate (and we are not going too crazy).  Sometimes mistakes do happen with charges appearing on your account that do not belong to you.  If you notice a discrepancy go straight to guest services, they are always very good at sorting these small issues out.


There you Go – It’s as Easy as:

1: Set up your on-board account

2: Select how you will pay

3: Spend away using your Cruise card!