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

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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]

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