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The past few years have seen a number of fixed value credit cards unveiled in the market. With the recently increased signup bonus for the Capital One Venture Rewards card (from 20,000 to 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months), it’s now neck and neck with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Mastercard at the front of the pack. While the cards are similar in many ways, there are some important differences. This post will help you distinguish between them and decide which one is right for you.
Why Have A Fixed Value Credit Card?
Fixed value cards offer greater flexibility in redemption, since you can use your points on any airline or at any hotel, as well as on other travel expenses. On the other hand, credit cards that are tied into a specific airline or hotel brand often come with limited award availability and the threat of devaluation.
Best of all, travel paid for with points from fixed value cards is eligible to accrue mileage and earn status, since your credit card company is effectively paying for the flight and being reimbursed with the points you redeem.
Some disadvantages do exist. Fixed value points don’t offer the sweet spots that can be found in most award charts. Also, you miss out on perks like early boarding, free bags, or lounge access that come with many co-branded cards.
Let’s begin a side by side analysis of two of the best fixed value cards on the market: the Capital One Venture and Barclaycard Arrival Plus.
Both offer 40,000 miles after $3,000 spent within 3 months, but as I’ll outline below, the Arrival Plus miles are worth 10% more when redeemed for travel. After spending $3,000 at 2x points per dollar, the 46,000 points will be worth $460 in travel, but you’ll get 4,600 points back ($46). Say you redeem those 4,600 for a $46 charge, you’ll get 46 miles back, and so on. So you’re looking at ~$510 in value from the initial 46,000 points earned from spend and bonus.
The 46,000 points earned on the Capital One Venture card are worth $460. Additionally, when you apply for a Capital One credit card, Capital One will generally pull your credit from all three reporting agencies, whereas Barclaycard only pulls one report (depending on which state you live in), so there’s another advantage to Barclaycard.
Winner: Barclcaycard Arrival Plus
Both cards offer 2 points earned on all purchases. The Venture Card is a Visa Signature and the Arrival Plus is a World Elite Mastercard (though many original Arrival cards are World Mastercards that will be upgraded over the next year).
Both cards offer signup bonuses of 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. As indicated in my recently updated monthly valuation chart, Arrival miles are worth slightly more than Venture Rewards miles when redeemed for travel expenses, since Barclaycard refunds 10% of miles used for such purchases. Venture Rewards miles are fixed at 1 cent each for travel purchases. You can also use your Arrival Plus miles for statement credits, though at less than 1 cent per point, so while this isn’t a good redemption value compared to travel, you still have the option. The main downside is that Barclaycard has a minimum $25 redemption level (2,500 points), though you can use points for a partial credit. For redemption purposes, Arrival recently expanded the categories that are classified as travel, which currently include airlines, rental cars, hotels, motels, resorts, subways, ferries, passenger railways, steamships, cruises, travel agencies, buses, campgrounds, and timeshares.
Venture doesn’t define travel that clearly- most of the same expenses will qualify and both of the programs offer easy redemption via “statement erasing”- meaning you pay for the travel with your card and then go in and decide which purchases you want to wipe from your statement using points. Capital One has no redemption limit, but they don’t currently allow you to redeem points for a partial purchase- you need to be able to cover the full amount.
Winner: Barclaycard Arrival Plus
Both cards waive the annual fee for the first year. Afterwards, Arrival Plus carries an annual fee of $89, while Venture Rewards charges only $59. So while the Barclaycard Arrival Plus offers a 10% rebate on travel, you have to decide whether that is worth paying $30 extra dollars a year. Redeeming 30,000 points a year ($15,000 spent) will net you a travel rebate of 3,000 points ($30), so if you spend at that level or more, it may make sense to go for the more expensive card that offers a 10% rebate.
Winner: Capital One Venture
While both cards have no foreign transaction fees, Arrival Plus recently added chip and pin technology, which allows you to use the card in many locations abroad that don’t accept the swipe-and-sign style of credit card common in the US. The Capital One card doesn’t even have Chip + Signature yet (like many other travel cards), so they’ve got a way to go here.
Winner: Barclaycard Arrival Plus
Overall, the best card is the one that works best for your needs. For being a relatively new entrant to the marketplace, I’m impressed with the value proposition and chip+PIN capability of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus and would give that card the overall edge if you could only have one or the other. Another thing to take into account is that Barclaycard has a bevy of other really valuable rewards cards (like the US Airways Premier Mastercard, Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard, Frontier, Lufthansa, Travelocity and Priceline cards to name a few), whereas the Venture card is by far the most lucrative Capital One product.
I recently got the Venture card and also actively use my Arrival Plus primarily abroad (love the chip+PIN) because both cards offer unprecedented value in the first year. I plan to see which gives me the best customer service and technology before making a final decision on which to keep as my long term, fixed-value workhorse card, but I think Capital One will have to add some more benefits and features for them to truly surpass the Arrival Plus card.
What have your experiences been with either card?