Chase Sapphire Reserve℠
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Question

Which Credit Card Is Best for Economy Awards to London?

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here –  Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

TPG Reader Steven tweeted me to ask:

@thepointsguy: “I value free/low-cost economy flights to London Heathrow. On which credit card should I concentrate my spending? I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, and the Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard.”

I usually use my miles and points to book business class flights or expensive hotels; however, the value proposition does change if you really value economy flights.

TPG reader Steven prefers inexpensive or free economy flights to London Heathrow, and is wondering which of the following three cards would be best to focus his spending on: the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Barclaycard Arrival Plus or Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard.

With so many options, figuring out which credit card to use can be complicated. Shutterstock.
Which credit card you use depends on what you want to get out of it. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

Consider a scenario where you spend $50,000 on each of those cards. The Chase Sapphire Preferred will get you a minimum of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points; if you spend a lot in the travel and dining categories, you could easily bump that to 60,000. This could get you an economy award on a transfer partner like United with relatively low fees IF you find a saver level award.

The AA Executive card has a $450 annual fee, which could easily be more than half of an economy award ticket to Europe (of course, if you value lounge access that value proposition changes a bit). With this card you would get 50,000 AAdvantage miles, which is enough for an off-peak award to Europe if you can find partner availability. If you prefer the nonstop flights, you’ve got American or British Airways to LHR, but keep in mind that you’ll be looking at hefty fuel surcharges even on economy awards, so this option often doesn’t make sense. Due to the high annual fee, this card probably isn’t the best option if your main interest is in saving money.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus will get you 100,000 miles for $50,000 in spend, which is worth about $1,100 in flights. That could easily get you a New York-London Heathrow economy ticket. You can actually wipe out the entire cost of the trip just by using Arrival miles, and you get 10% back when you redeem Arrival miles for travel. On top of that, you earn miles with whichever airline you choose, since Barclays effectively buys the ticket for you.

If you’re most interested in economy awards, I think the Barclaycard Arrival Plus works best.

Of course, there are other calculations you can do and ways to look at it; for example, you could get both the Sapphire Preferred and Arrival Plus, and use the Arrival Plus to pay for any taxes and fees you have to fork over when getting award tickets using Ultimate Rewards. It’s worth running the numbers for some different scenarios, but I think putting most of your spending on the Barclaycard Arrival is a solid decision.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.
Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®