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SPG Amex vs. Barclaycard Arrival: Which Points Are Worth More?

by on May 11, 2014 · 9 comments

in American Express, Barclays, Credit Cards, Starwood, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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Update: The offers mentioned below for the Chase Ink credit cards has expired. View the current offers here – Ink Plus, Ink Bold, Ink Cash.  

TPG Reader Vick recently tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy Help! Should I use my SPG Amex or my Barclaycard Arrival for fixed monthly costs like cell, cable etc.? Which card’s points are worth more?”

TPG reader Vick Tweets: “@thepointsguy Help! Should i use SPG Amex or Barclaycard Arrival for fixed monthly costs like cell cable etc. which pts are worth more? Thx.”

The real answer is neither, but let me answer first and then  provide a card that will get you more value than either of those options.

Starwood Preferred Guest points are really valuable and I tend to use my SPG Amex for purchases that won’t be banking me a bunch of points in bonus categories on other cards in my wallet. I value StarPoints at about 2.2 cents each conservatively and what’s great is they can be transferred to several airlines partners. I love using my SPG points for hotel bookings, especially when Cash + Points is available, but the downside is if you’re going to a location where Starwood doesn’t have a presence you will be out of luck in terms of accommodations.

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SPG also has a SPG Flights program where you can redeem StarPoints with no blackout dates, but in general StarPoints are not going to cover a lot of your travel expenses.

Alternatively, BarclayCard Arrival miles are treated like currency since you can redeem them for statements credits and receive a 10% mileage refund on travel redemptions. In that case you’re getting a return on your spending of just about 2.2% since you earn 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. While the value of Arrival miles is very similar to StarPoints, you have more flexibility in redeeming Arrival miles since you can use them to cover travel expenses like travel agencies, hotels/motels/resorts, cruise lines, passenger railways and car rentals.

If you’re going to stick with just these two cards, I would recommend mixing up your spending so you’re diversifying your point portfolio.  If you’re trying to book Starwood hotels or first class award tickets on partners like British Airways, Alaska or American I would use your Starwood Amex more, but if you want to earn points that will cover more general travel charges, use the Arrival card.

Earn5x on cable, phone and internet charges!

Earn5x on cable, phone and internet charges!

Instead of using either of those cards I would suggest opening up a Chase Ink Bold or Ink Plus card if you find yourself spending a lot on cable, internet and phone charges. Right now there is a limited time bonus for 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after $5,000 spent within the first 3 months for both the Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards. That sign up bonus alone is worth about $750 in travel and the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. In terms of spending, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar on hotels and gas purchases and 5 points per dollar on cellular, landline, internet and cable TV services. Earning 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent is worth far more than one StarPoint or 2 Arrival miles.

The no brainer here would be to go get one of those business cards as long as you have a qualifying business. Keep in mind, even if you don’t have a major business you can still qualify for business cards. Most issuers will let you get a business credit card by applying with your own social security number if your business is a sole proprietorship (a business run by one person).

For more information see these posts:

Top 10 Reasons to Get a Business Credit Card
Top 1o Ways to Maximize Barclaycard Arrival Miles
Detailed Look at the Benefits of the Ink Bold and Ink Plus Cards
Top 10 Benefits of the Ink Bold and Ink Plus Cards,
A Detailed Look at Ink Bold Benefits You Might Not Know About,
Maximizing Chase Ink Bonus Spending Categories
Maximizing the Ink Office Category Bonus Spending
Maximizing the Ink Bold’s 5X Spending Bonuses With Gift Cards
Maximizing Ultimate Rewards With the Chase Ink Cards
Chase Ink: Which Card Is Best For You
Can You Get Both The Ink Bold and Ink Plus?
Ranking the Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Top 10 Ways To Maximize Each Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partner
Why I Love Chase Ultimate Rewards

Let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on FacebookTweeting me 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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  • DonaldHBrown

    I love using my SPG points for hotel bookings, especially when Cash + Points is available, but the downside is if you’re going to a location where Starwood doesn’t have a presence you will be out of luck in terms of accommodations. http://qr.net/yNRI

  • johnny five

    I’m not sure if it’s cool to post someone else’s blog, but I read the following post (http://bit.ly/1ojva32) a while back that show’s the math why a Barclay Arrival point can be worth more than a Starwood Point. I think you’re under-rating the Arrival card.

  • http://creditcardjoint.com Credit card Joint

    Everyone values points and miles according to their use. A person that travels frequently and likes booking via points, then the 5k bonus points from SPG may be worth more. There is no “best card”. We value the arrival card better, as it has no blackout dates, and gives access to the Boost Portal. There is no definite answer.

    The best thing is to have a few cards, and split up your spending so you maximize your 5X cats, and have an arsonal of points.

  • ABC

    Interestingly that never tends to be the case with cash.

  • Daniel

    There are no “versus” — the only limit is how many annual fee cards one can have before the extra rewards are no longer worth the cost. In the limiting case, someone with almost no spend would be silly to get *any* fee-paying card.

    That said, I’ve never seen a convincing argument for the Arrival card (except for the sign-up bonus) because at 2.2% return, it’s only 0.2% better than the free, 2%-back Fidelity Amex, which isn’t even restricted to travel expenses. To be worth the $89 fee, you need to be willing to put more than $45,000 in spend a year on the Arrival, which means $45,000 that is not spent on restaurants, travel, groceries, or other categories that can get better bonuses. Moreover, even the redemption has an opportunity cost, since one could have bought the ticket with a travel rewards card …

  • http://creditcardjoint.com Credit card Joint

    Access to the Arrival RewardsBoost Portal can be well worth the $89 AF.

  • guyver2077

    Nice suggestion for the Ink cards.
    So I read the separate article about applying for business cards,, and not actually need to be a business owner, etc.
    I’ve never applied for a business card and just want to make sure I am doing it right. Anyone else here been approved for one of those INK cards without an actual business and used for personal? How did you fill out the application? Specifically the ‘Tell us about your business’ part.

  • Daniel

    Agreed — if it’s worth it to the individual (if one saves >$89 on items you would have bought anyway), it certainly would be worth it. But there are a number of Rewards portals/malls (Chase UR, e.g.), and one may get diminishing returns on multiple malls. It’s one reason first-year fee waivers are valuable.

  • Pasquale Ranalli

    These are the two cards I had to decide between, as I don’t feel like having multiple fee-paying cards is worth it. I ended up going with the SPG Amex, and so far I’m extremely pleased. You value Starpoints at approximately 2.2 cents per dollar, but I find that to be extremely conservative. If you shop around for hotels, you can often get upwards of 5 cents on the dollar and that is not counting the fact that you still get SPG points back for the stay, even when you use points to pay for it fully or partially. Once you use the Amex to get SPG gold (spend 30k in one calendar year), the SPG card becomes even more insane since you start racking up 3-5 points per dollar at SPG hotels.

    The downside to the SPG card is that Amex is not accepted everywhere and there are foreign transaction fees, which the Barclay’s card waives. You mentioned that you’re out of luck if there are no SPG hotels where you want to go, but I have to say that the options are pretty darn solid. I’m taking a trip to Peru and Chile later this year and I found plenty of options in the big cities (and even in some small areas like the Sacred Valley, Peru!). The cool thing as well is that they aren’t all “big box” Sheratons, many of them are completely unique, luxury resorts. I booked a hotels in Cusco and Santiago that are normally $500 per night, but got them for 6,000 points + $75 instead. That’s 7 cents on the dollar!

    Anyway, good article just wanted to add my 2 cents in :)

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