Part of having a smart miles and points strategy is diversification- you never want to put all of your miles and points in one basket, because then you can’t leverage different programs for their strengths and weaknesses. For example, I love my Chase points (transferred usually to Hyatt or United), but they don’t run transfer bonuses. I love my Amex points because they often run transfer bonuses (like the current 35% to British Airways), but their hotel transfer partners are not great.
For years I’ve focused mainly on these transferable points and airline miles/hotel points because they can unlock truly incredible experiences for a relatively low amount of points. However, with the proliferation of fees and surcharges “free” trips are anything but. Ever travel to a place with no chain hotels? Be prepared to cough up. Wanna catch that train in Europe? Good luck using your airline miles. How about that $75 close-in booking fee for awards booked within 21 days on many airlines? Cough up the cash. However, there are several overlooked credit card currencies that can cover these costs to drastically reduce your out of pocket cash expenses when traveling on miles and points.
The New Kid on the Block: Barclaycard Arrival
The Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard version with the $89 annual fee (waived for the first year) is one of the best travel credit cards on the market right now because you can use the miles to cover many expenses that traditional miles won’t cover. Plus, the sign-up bonus right now for a limited time is 40,000 bonus miles if you make $1,000 or more in purchases in the first 90 days after account opening – which equates to over $440 when you use them for travel expenses. The card earns 2X miles on all purchases, and you can redeem those miles at a rate of 1 cent each towards travel. But you also get a 10% mileage refund on travel redemptions, bringing the return on your spending to around 2.2%. Plus, when you redeem Arrival Miles for airfare and hotels, you generally earn miles and points on those flights since you are paying for them with a credit card (and then getting reimbursed using points after the fact).
Check out this video with details on just what makes the Barclaycard Arrival such a great product and then read on below for details on how to maximize your Barclaycard Arrival miles and the top travel expenses to use them for.
How to Use Arrival Miles
With the Barclaycard Arrival card, you log into your account on barclaycardus.com.
Then click on “Manage Rewards.”
That will take you to a screen with a few different options, but the one you want is: “Redeem Now” line that says “Pay yourself back for travel.”
That will send you to the next step which explains that starting at 2,500 miles you can redeem your miles to pay yourself back for travel purchases from within the last 90 days. This also means that even if you don’t have enough points to cover the full expense of a charge, you can still cover a portion of it in 2,500-point ($25) increments. The statement will also show you how many days you have left to redeem points for each charge.
Below that will be listed all the “Purchases Available For Redemption” from your statements within the last 90 days along with how many points each one will require. These purchases will fall under the travel merchant category code Barclaycard assigns merchants. Although whether a merchant is included in the travel category will vary depending on the specific vendor, in general, these categories include:
Travel Agencies and Tour Operators (including online agencies such as Expedia and Priceline)
Hotels, Motels and Resorts
Car Rental Agencies
You then add the charge to your “cart,” confirm your order and then the final screen will show you what your 10% points refund will be.
So now that you know how to actually make a redemption, it’s time to consider what kinds of redemptions Barclaycard Arrival miles are best for, and here’s my list of the top ones.
1. Online Travel Agencies: One drawback to traditional frequent flyer miles and hotel points is that redeeming them is dependent on award availability for the flights and/or nights you want. But with fixed-value points, you basically get to redeem for any seat that’s available, just like you would as if you were paying for it with cash, only you’re paying for it using points instead. Where this comes in handy in terms of flight redemptions is for inexpensive economy tickets – the kind we all use online travel agencies such as Expedia, Travelocity or Orbitz – to search for since if there’s a seat on the plane available for purchase and you want it, you can use your Arrival card to buy it and then redeem your points for the value of the ticket. This can also come in handy for those itineraries that sites like these pull in that include multiple airlines where you might not have all the kinds of miles you’d need to redeem for an award ticket. You can also use your Arrival miles for hotel purchases, car rentals, and pretty much anything you can buy through these sites since they’re classified as travel merchants, which really opens up a lot of possibilities to put your miles to use.
2. Incidental Airline Fees: A lot of travelers tend to forget that airline charges can include a lot more than just the airfare, and that’s where Arrival miles can also be a big boon. For example, let’s say you need to check a bag for $25, have to change your ticket and pay a (now higher!) change fee, or you want to buy some food onboard. That’s all money you have to spend out-of-pocket, but if you use your Arrival card to pay for it, you can then redeem your miles for those fees once they hit your statement. Not only that, but let’s say you redeem airline miles for an award ticket. You might still have to pay a ticketing fee, taxes and fuel surcharges on that ticket, which can all run you in the hundreds of dollars. Just using airline miles, you’d have to pay those fees. However, since these are airline charges, if you used your Arrival card to pay for them, they’d count as travel expenses and you could redeem miles for them, reducing your out-of pocket costs. One thing to consider is that many airline co-branded cards offer category spending bonuses on purchases made on the airline, but remember, you earn 2X miles per $1 with the Arrival, which could outweigh those bonuses.
3. Incidental Hotel Charges: Just like with airline travel, hotel charges can include a lot more than your room rate, such as taxes, room service, restaurant bills, spa tabs and more. Using just hotel points, you’d get your award nights for free, but you’d still be on the hook for these charges. Or if you use your points for a cash & points award like at Starwood, you’re still stuck paying that cash co-pay. But if you used your Arrival card to pay your bill, you could then redeem your miles to pay for these incidental charges. As with airline cards, many hotel co-branded cards offer category spending bonuses when you use them at their hotels – such as 2 SPG points per $1 at Starwood – but do the math for yourself and see if it makes more sense to use your Arrival card so that you can use those miles to cover the extra costs.
4. Regular Travel Agencies: Although most of us seem to be using online travel sites and booking directly with airlines and hotels these days in order to get the most competitive fares and rates as well as racking up bonus miles and points, a lot of folks still use traditional travel agents not only to book their day-to-day travel, but also to book special trips like luxury packages, cruises and more. One of the great things about Arrival miles is that when you pay for these charges through a travel agent that is coded as in the travel merchant category, you can redeem your points for these expenses as well, which you can’t use your airline miles or hotel points for.
5. Cruises: Although there are cruise line co-branded credit cards out there, if you’re just an occasional cruiser, or you don’t give one particular line your loyalty, or you take cruises on lines that don’t have loyalty programs, another great way to put your Arrival miles to use is redeeming them for your cruise packages and/or expenses onboard like bar or restaurant tabs, spa treatments, onshore excursions, etc.
6. Bed & Breakfast or Non-Chain Stays: Although hotel loyalty is part of any successful points and miles travel strategy and sticking to a brand makes good sense, you won’t always find a Westin wherever you’re going, and Hyatt, for instance, doesn’t have any properties in Spain, where I love to travel. Whether it’s just in a city you don’t often visit, an idyllic retreat to a beach our country destination, or you just want a change of pace, at one time or another, all of use have to (or get to!) stay in great little one-off boutique hotels. While you can’t redeem your hotel points for these stay, you can use your Arrival miles on them as long as the lodging is classified in the travel merchant category, so this is a great way to put your miles to use while getting to experience something new and different hotel-wise.
7. Car Rentals: Although most of the major car rental agencies have loyalty programs where you can earn free rental days, if you’re just an occasional renter who hasn’t racked up enough rentals for a free day, if you rent from all different agencies without much of a plan, or if you hope to use points for free rentals in foreign countries where earning and redeeming opportunities don’t always match up to US programs even within the same company (for example even if you have Hertz free rental days, it can be impossible to redeem them in other countries), you might just have to end up paying for your car rental as usual. That’s where fixed-value points like Arrival miles come in since the charge should be listed as a travel expense on your statement, and thus redeemable using miles.
8. Train Tickets: Those of us with Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards can transfer our Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak and use them for award tickets, but that won’t help you much if you’re trying to catch a train from Milan to Florence, I like I just did last week. That’s why it’s great that the Arrival card lets you redeem your miles for passenger rail tickets, so if you’re training around in another part of the world, you can still use your miles to save some cash.
9. Tours: Want to take a tour of Tuscany’s farmer’s markets or a wine-tasting trip in Bordeaux this summer? You’re not going to be able to use your airline miles or hotel points to book those, but if the tour operator is categorized under “Travel” with Barclaycard’s code system, you can redeem your miles towards the cost of your tour package and save some of your cash to buy more wine.
10. Theme Parks: A lot of people use summer vacation as an opportunity to take their families to theme parks all over the country, and while your actual ticket to a park like Disneyland or Universal Studios might not be classed in the “Travel” category, if you buy a Disney package, for example, which includes flight and/or hotel, or you are staying at the Universal Studios resort in Florida and your charges were billed to your hotel room, these should qualify in the travel category and would be redeemable for miles – so you’d have more money left over for souvenirs and family fun during your trip.
Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.
Previous post: The Best Current Citi AAdvantage Credit Card Offers