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Update: Some of the offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: BarclayCard Arrival Plus.
In our newbie question for today, TPG reader Jessica asks on Facebook:
“Can I book any airline with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Barclaycard Arrival?”
The basic answer is yes. If you’re looking to book any airline, use the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, because that card allows you to pay for the actual flight no matter what airline it is. Even the tiniest, most most far-flung, third rate operation qualifies so long as the merchant code correctly designates it as an airline. With Arrival, you pay for airfare using your card as you normally would, and then use your miles to erase the charge from your statement. You don’t have to book through any particular portal, and Arrival gives you a 10% miles refund for travel redemptions.
Chase Sapphire Preferred, on the other hand, offers two different ways to book airlines. First, there are 11 different transfer partners, including 6 airline partners that let you transfer your Ultimate Rewards points into their frequent flyer programs, like British Airways Avios. You can then book if award seats are available on that airline – for example, if British Airways releases award seats – or on its partners like LAN, South America, American Airlines.
Transfer partners can be confusing, but if you can learn the system, you can actually get much more than one cent per point in value from your Ultimate Rewards. If you book first class awards, you can get 5, 6, or even 7 cents per point in value. That’s why a lot of people in the points and miles world love transferability. You have to learn which airlines tack on fuel surcharges, and how and where to find availability, but once you figure it out you can get huge value.
Chase will also let you book any flight just like Barclaycard Arrival, but you have to go through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, where they’ll give you 1.25 cents per point towards flights, hotels, and certain other travel expenses. I think a majority of commercial flights will show up in the Ultimate Rewards portal, but some of the more obscure airlines may be unavailable. Nonetheless, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus does have the edge there, since you can book whatever you want, pay for it, earn miles on the purchase, and then simply erase it from your statement.
For more info, check out these posts: