It’s been a busy couple of months in the credit card world, with sign-up bonuses increasing across the board. Amidst all this excitement, TPG reader Ignacio tweeted me to ask: “@thepointsguy Between two credit cards – Arrival Plus World Elite (4o,ooo-point sign-up bonus, $89 annual fee waived in the first year) OR Southwest Premier Rapid Rewards Visa (50,000-point sign-up bonus, $99, non-waived annual fee) – which is a better value?”A comparison between these two cards depends largely on whether or not you fly a Southwest on a regular basis. The Southwest Premier Rapid Rewards card - even with its $99 annual fee – can provide an incredible value over time, with a 50,000-point bonus (after a $2,000 spend in the first three months) that is not only worth over $750 in Wanna Get Away fares, but also counts towards the 110,000 Rapid Rewards points required to earn the lucrative Southwest Companion Pass. The card gives you 2 points for every $1 you spend on Southwest and AirTran travel, as well as partner hotels and rental cars, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
The 40,000-point bonus for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus isn’t as high, but it’s still really valuable. In addition to an $89 annual fee that’s waived for the first year, the bonus points are worth $440- those Arrival Plus points can be redeemed for travel at 1 cent apiece, plus you get a 10% rebate for travel reimbursements. The key advantage of Arrival Plus points over other types of loyalty currency are that they’re basically the same as cash. They allow you to book the airfare you want from anywhere, without having to redeem them at a portal or jump through any hoops. You just make your travel purchase, log into your Arrival account, and report any charge (over $25) for reimbursement – effectively wiping the charge off your statement. In addition, Barclays just added Chip and PIN capability to the Arrival Plus, which was personally helpful to me on my most recent trip to Europe, allowing me to easily purchase tickets at train kiosks.
Note that these two cards are offered by different banks. Southwest is from Chase, which does not limit the number of cards you can get, unlike Barclays, which offers Arrival Plus. If you’re interested in getting more than one card from Barclays – like the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard, the US Airways Premier World MasterCard or the Wyndham Rewards Visa - it might be a good idea to focus in and get a little picky. Overall, both of these cards have solid offers, but again, I’d lean towards the Southwest Premier Card only if you’re a Southwest frequent flyer. If you don’t fly Southwest often, definitely go with the Arrival Plus. I hope that answers Ignacio’s question.
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