Sapphire Preferred vs. Arrival Plus: Which Is Best Abroad?

by on May 18, 2014 · 19 comments

in Barclays, Chase, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Credit Cards, Europe, MasterCard, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post, Visa

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TPG reader Tammy recently asked on Facebook:
“I’m traveling overseas and looking for the best credit card with no foreign exchange fees. I’ve read about Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Chase Sapphire Preferred on your FB page. Both have no annual fees, so which one do you recommend, or is there another, better option?”

When traveling abroad, especially to Europe or Asia, having a Chip and PIN card is convenient because many self-service machines (and even some restaraunts) only accept credit cards with PIN technology. Most PIN cards in the US require a signature, so if you’re at a vending machine that requires a 4-digit PIN, you’ll be out of luck. I was recently at a gas station in Iceland at 5 in the morning as I was rushing to make my flight, and it required a PIN, so I had to use my debit card. Aside from the injury of incurring foreign transaction fees, I suffered the insult of not earning any miles or points! So, in general you definitely want to have a Chip and PIN credit card.

This week Barclaycard announced that their Arrival card – which will now be called Arrival Plus for the $89 annual fee version – will come with PIN capability, which is great news! I’m going to France next week and am looking forward to getting my new snazzy Arrival Plus PIN card is in the mail before I leave.

TPG reader Tammy told us that she’s going to be traveling overseas a lot; both the Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Chase Sapphire Preferred have excellent perks, so which one should she get?

I have both cards, and I would rather use my Sapphire Preferred overseas when paying for hotels or dining, because you get 2 points per dollar plus a 7% bonus at the end of the year, meaning 2.14 valuable Chase points per dollar spent. However, the Arrival is great for everything else, because you get double points on all other purchases.

I value Chase points more than Arrival points. Barclaycard Arrival points are good for about 1.1 cents each (because you get a 10% rebate on travel redemptions). Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth more because you have so many valuable transfer partner options. As I always say, though, it’s all about diversification.

You can transfer Ultimate Rewards to airline and hotel partners, including Hyatt.

You can transfer Ultimate Rewards to airline and hotel partners, including Hyatt.

If I could only have one card, I would probably get the Barclaycard Arrival until the Sapphire preferred gets PIN capability, which I hear (unofficially) through the grapevine, that it will happen later this year. Having that ability is key, especially when you’re in a rut and need to pay with a card, so for now the advantage goes to Arrival. However, once Sapphire Preferred gets PIN capability, I’d give the edge to Sapphire, but it is always good to rack up points on both cards so you can redeem for a wide variety of travel expenditures.

What to Do Right Now?
Both cards have no foreign transaction fees, and come with a 40,000 point bonus after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months as a cardholder. The annual fee is waived for the first year for both Sapphire Preferred and Arrival Plus, so I would get both if possible, but if you want to spread out your applications, you could get the Arrival Plus now and then Sapphire Preferred next year when it hopefully has PIN capability as well.

Hopefully that answers your question, Tammy. As always, let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on FacebookTweeting me @ThePointsGuy, or emailing me at [email protected]

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Diotallevi

    I used my CSP in Japan last month and fortunately had no issues with chip/signature, but chip/pin would be nice.

    Strangely, I just received my new United Mileage Plus Club card, and it has no chip at all. I called Chase and asked them about it and they told me that no United cards have chips and they don’t know when they will get them. It seems to me a little odd to offer a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, but no chip.

  • BobChi

    I have traveled extensively in Europe in recent years and only a couple of times have had trouble using a card without chip and pin. Of course, those couple of times make you wish you had it, so it’s good to see the Arrival come out with that, and your grapevine is pretty good, so it will be nice to see that on CSP too. I have both and carry both when I travel. I spend enough on travel on the Arrival to use up my points as I get them, but put most of my travel expenses on the CSP. Two UR points are worth about 4 cents to me.

    I notice that with the enhancement of the Arrival card, some point redemption niches have been added which will be redeemable via Arrival points, but will not earn double value on the CSP. Tourist attractions is one. The uncertainty with these categories is what counts as a tourist attraction. A national park or monument? A museum? Theme parks? An old cathedral? Do you have more details on this? Maybe Barclay’s tossed in such a hard to define category to get people to use their card at all sorts of places, even though they may not count.

  • Tyler Brown

    I think the bigger question is what point system works best for them. I’m finding it so hard to compare a mileage earning card to a cash-back/fixed-point card these days.

    The value is almost always better with a mileage earning card on a per-point basis, but having to deal with selective award availability, hours of research, searching, calling, paying fuel surcharge fees, etc. makes me pull out the Arrival card every time.

  • Diotallevi

    I hear ya on the effort it takes to use points for award tickets, specifically business class seats. It took me 1.5 hours three nights ago on the phone with a very pleasant US Airways manager to book two business class ticket from JFK to Rome this fall for 100K/ticket. Ended up on Iberia connecting in Madrid. I was lucky to get a pleasant/experienced customer service agent. Definitely not for everyone.

  • Yu-chung Lin

    I apply for my Chase Sapphire Preferred and it came with the PIN chip, so I guess they already update the card.

  • thepointsguy

    That is chip and signature- not PIN. There are big differences

  • Brian C. Lee

    When Chase introduced the UA Club card in 2012, they said it would get a chip “soon.” Since then, crickets.

  • Yu-chung Lin

    Oh I see. Sorry about the confusion.

  • Ed

    Strawman argument.
    You can use CSP UR points for cashback as well. And that would still make CSP the better deal.

  • dd

    Disagree. For travel, arrival is better for the 10% back on miles redeemed. Value, CSP for transfer

  • shay peleg

    I think worth it for a 3-5k ticket lol

  • Tyler Brown

    Not just 10% back, but 2pts/2% per dollar in EVERY category – much better than the CSP if we’re comparing cash-back.

  • Paul

    Out of curiosity, which Chip + PIN debit card do you use? USAA has updated their CC’s to include chip+pin as you know, but I’m bummed that they’re still lagging on their debit cards.

  • justthebest

    I use a Schwab debit card overseas. I’ve been very happy with their service and exchange rate.

  • justthebest

    Especially a “travel card!”

  • NewBee Trvlr

    Is Sapphire Preferred Card churnable? If I cancel it today, when can I re-apply and qualify for new sign-up bonus?

  • Marion

    Thank you for the useful info about using US credit cards overseas. From the Chase website( it looks like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has the chip/PIN and signature enabled.

    A question, please. Your site mentions that Mastercard, rather than Visa, is available on this card. In the online application process, I saw no option for either. My application was approved. Would you have a phone number I could call to request Mastercard? Where I’ll be traveling, merchants use Mastercard most often.

    Many thanks for your help and the great information!

  • radrat

    I’m a big fan of the CSP which I’ve used for a couple of years. I considered applying for the Arrival Plus, but I am worried that splitting my spending across two travel rewards cards (excluding groceries, for which I use the AmEx BCP) would significantly affect my ability to accumulate UR miles.

    I am curious about your strategy to get the most of both worlds. How do you decide which card to use, if you hold both?

  • pdas82

    CSP is making a series of changes to the rewards program – no more earning points when making purchases through the ur site. using points in the ur site will now have cost based redemption, like you used to be able to get a $400 trip for 30,000 points. but now they will charge 40,000 points. i think the only advantage is that you can transfer 1 to 1 to partners and you have added flexibility with redemption options.

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