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As much as we like to think that points and miles are the be all end all for traveling for free, they’re not. It often takes a lot of time, organization and flexibility to maximize how you earn and redeem points and miles. And even once you master the ins and outs of each rewards program, you may still find yourself stuck in situations where you’ll have no choice but to fork over hefty fees and surcharges to book your “free” trip.
To prevent situations like these, it’s a good idea to have a fixed-value point credit card in your arsenal. There’s been a lot of activity in the fixed-value credit card space recently, so today I want to take a closer look at one of our longtime favorites, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, and see how it stacks up. The Arrival Plus isn’t a glamorous card by any means, but it offers a good return on your everyday spending and allows you to redeem miles for any travel expense without jumping through hoops. It also has several less-common, useful benefits for traveling internationally.
Who Is This Card For?
While just about anyone should be able to get value from the Arrival Plus, it’s best for those who like simplicity. The card earns the same amount of miles for every dollar you spend, everywhere, everyday, so you won’t be needing to swap credit cards in and out for different types of purchases. And since miles have a fixed value, meaning you’ll get the same value per mile no matter what travel purchase you use them toward, it’s also great for economy-cabin travelers who don’t want to deal with the hassle of transferring miles and scouring for saver award availability.
Barclays doesn’t have any hard-and-fast rules or restrictions like Chase’s 5/24 when it comes to applying for new cards, though there are still some general guidelines you should follow. For instance, if you already have the Arrival Plus, but are thinking about reapplying in order to get the welcome bonus again, you need to cancel your existing card and then wait for a period of time (the recommendation is six months) before doing so. Also, Barclays has been known to look at prior spending on existing cards to determine approval for a new card. So, if you’re looking at applying for the Arrival Plus and already have another card with the issuer, such as the JetBlue Plus Card, and haven’t spent much (or anything) with it, wipe the dust off and use it for a few months before applying.
The Arrival Plus is currently available with a best-ever welcome bonus of 70,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in the first 90 days. Miles are worth a flat 1 cent apiece when redeemed toward travel expenses, meaning this sign-up bonus worth $700. In reality, though, it’s slightly better than that as the card offers a 5% rebate on redeemed miles, making the 70,000 miles worth $735. That’s the highest bonus of any fixed-value point credit card. Plus, since the card’s $89 annual fee is waived the first year, you can effectively try out the card for a year and get the bonus without paying anything at all.
Earning miles on the Arrival Plus is very straightforward, ideal for those who like to have as few credit cards in their wallet as possible. You’ll earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend with the card on every transaction with no annual cap. This gives you a 2% return on all your spending, but when you factor in the card’s 5% rebate on redeemed miles, the return on your purchases effectively jumps to 2.11%.
Arrival miles can be redeemed at a fixed value of 1 cent apiece as a statement credit against travel purchases of at least $100 made within the last 120 days. This includes many expenses that traditional miles won’t cover, including purchases made with airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, trains, buses, taxis, limousines and ferries. Unlike traditional airline miles or hotel points, when you redeem Arrival miles for airfare and hotels, you generally still earn miles and points on flights and stays as you’re paying for them with your card and then getting reimbursed using miles after the fact.
Alternatively, you can use your miles to cover the card’s annual fee and maintain the same value of 1 cent per mile, which is a nice option to have. Miles can also be redeemed for straight cash back or gift cards, but you wouldn’t want to go that route as the value of your miles will drop to half a cent apiece when doing so.
The Arrival Plus offers valuable, though fairly modest, benefits that are geared primarily toward international travelers. The card has no foreign transaction fees, meaning you can make purchases overseas without accumulating extra charges. More interestingly, the Arrival Plus is one of very few US-issued credit cards to have chip and PIN capability, making it an excellent choice to use overseas where chip and PIN cards are the standard. As a point of comparison, the Chase Sapphire Reserve will allow you to enter a random four-digit PIN in some credit card terminals, but the Arrival Plus is one of the few that will work in any of these terminals. This benefit is especially useful at unmanned kiosks in train stations.
The card also comes with the standard suite of World Elite Mastercard benefits. This includes travel benefits such as baggage delay protection for when your baggage is delayed by 12 hours, trip cancellation and interruption protection, travel accident insurance and secondary rental car collision damage waivers, as well as several travel-related perks that many consumers might not know about like discounts on certain international airfares and luxury hotel benefits similar to the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts Program when booking through Mastercard.
For everyday purchases, the Arrival Plus offers a selection of shopping benefits like extended warranty, purchase protection, return protection and most notably, price protection, a valuable benefit that issuers have been eliminating from many credit cards, including all but one set of Chase cards.
Which Cards Compete With the Arrival Plus Card?
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has long been the most direct competitor of the Arrival Plus due to the similar annual fee ($95 and waived the first year vs. $89 and waived the first year for the Arrival Plus) and same earning rate, but that’s no longer the case now that Capital One added airline transfer partners.
Now, a much closer comparison to the Arrival Plus is the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card. It earns 2 points per dollar on travel/dining and 1.5 points per dollar on everything else (plus 25-75% bonuses for Bank of America Preferred Rewards customers), but points are worth the same no matter what you redeem for, so you have slightly more flexibility with them. The card comes with more perks than the Arrival Plus, including a $100 airline incidental credit and Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit, but its $95 annual fee isn’t waived the first year.
There’s also the no-fee Citi® Double Cash Card, which basically earns 2% back on all purchases (1% when you make purchases, 1% when you pay your bill), but I don’t see it as a competitor because it doesn’t offer any travel-related benefits.
The Arrival Plus isn’t the best mid-tier credit card on the market — depending on how much money you have in your Bank of America or Merrill Lynch account, it might not even be the best fixed-value card. However, if that doesn’t apply to you and you’re looking for a simple product that’ll help you diversify your points and miles, the Arrival Plus’ 2.11% return on spending and increased sign-up bonus is quite attractive. Plus, having chip and PIN capability and no foreign transaction fees can be very useful for travelers.
Know before you go.
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The Barclaycard Arrival Plus is one of the best travel credit cards on the market right now because you can use the miles to cover many expenses that traditional miles won’t cover.
- Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
- Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
- New - Control Your Card - Instantly secure your accounts by locking your cards with Barclays SecurHold™, plus set transaction limits and block certain purchase categories for you or your authorized users. Available only on the Barclays mobile app.
- Book travel your way—no airline, seat or hotel restrictions—and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
- Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
- No foreign transaction fees
- International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
- Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
- See Rates & Fees