Call it a perk, bonus, enticement or reward, onboard credit  is essentially free money you can spend during your cruise holiday.

Because it is free, it’s worth making the effort to research the various options so you can make the most of it.

Generally, onboard credit can be used for nearly every purchase you make on a cruise ship – from a spa treatment, shore excursion, specialty restaurant or that Oroton handbag you have been eyeing for a while.

Here are eight ways to earn Onboard Credit.

Cruise Lines Promotions

One of the ways cruise lines attract passengers is to offer various cruise deals and onboard credit. Go to the homepage of any major cruise line’s website and more often than not, you will be enticed by an offer. The amount of credit will vary depending on the size of the cabin you book. The bigger the cabin size or suite, the more onboard credit you will be get. For instance, luxury French cruise line, Ponant, has an onboard credit of $400 for each new passenger who signs up for a cruise.

You can also receive OBC for booking by a specified date. The amount varies quite a bit from $1000 per couple on a luxury line to an average low of $25 for an inside cabin on a megaship.

Booking with Travel Agents

Cruise Lines are not the only ones who offer onboard credit as promotions to book with them. Travel agents also do so, offering OBC as an incentive if you book with them. They also reward loyalty and will increase the OBC amount, the more you book with them. Often, the larger the travel agency, the deeper their pockets.

Booking a future cruise while still on a cruise

Cruise lines will often do what they can to entice a cruiser to sail with them again. Head to the booking desk to check out available offers. Many seasoned cruisers say this is an easy way to notch up onboard credit for your next sailing. Norwegian offers US$100 onboard credit to spend instantly on the cruise you are currently on and up to US$500 if you make a deposit of US$1000 on a future cruise.

Loyalty program offers

On airlines, you earn frequent flyer miles, cruise lines also have loyalty programs, offering repeat guests generous OBC as a perk. Lines such as Oceania, Crystal and Viking also offer discounts on future bookings such as cabin upgrades, free specialty dining, complimentary WiFi package which are equivalent to onboard credit.

Referral bonus

Many cruise lines offer referral bonus for cruises booked by first-timers so you can get bonus credits by referring friends who have never cruised before. If you intend to go on cruise with a group of friends, get your friends to sign up and you will receive $25 for each referred cabin booked.

If your cruise price drops

If you have booked and paid for your cruise and subsequently noticed that the cruise fare has fallen, get in touch with your booking agent and more than often than not, the line will make up the price difference with an onboard credit offer within a 90-day window.

Become a shareholder

There are advantages if you become a shareholder of a cruise line. You need to hold a minimum 100 shares in the company to qualify for onboard credit offers and have to book at least two weeks prior to your sail date.

For instance, P&O offers $100 onboard credit per cabin if you book a seven-night cruise while Norwegian Cruise Line has an offer of US$100 onboard credit per cabin for shareholders cruising seven days or more and US$50 per cabin for cruises six days or less.

When something goes wrong on your cruise

If something does go wrong on your cruise such as the ship has a major malfunction or the ship is stranded, one way of getting compensation is through a future credit offer. The amount will vary depending on the severity of the situation.