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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
Transferable points, along with airline miles and hotel points, can unlock truly incredible experiences for a relatively low rewards investment. However, with the proliferation of fees and surcharges, “free” trips are anything but. Ever travel to a place with no chain hotels? Be prepared to cough up. Wanna catch that train in Europe? Good luck using your airline miles. How about the high taxes and fees levied on many award flights? Cough up the cash.
However, there are several overlooked credit card currencies that can cover these costs and drastically reduce your out of pocket cash expenses when traveling on miles and points.
One of these credit cards, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, is a great option because you can use the miles to cover many expenses that traditional miles won’t cover. Plus, for just a short while longer, this card offers a 70,000-mile sign-up bonus if you make $5,000 or more in purchases in the first 90 days after account opening. The card earns 2x miles on all purchases, and you can redeem those miles at a rate of 1 cent each toward statement credits for travel expenses. There’s an $89 annual fee, but this fee is waived the first year.
How to Use Arrival Miles
Log in to your account on barclaysus.com and click on the “Rewards & Benefits” tab from the Account Summary page. There you’ll see options, instructions and information for redeeming your miles.
You can redeem Arrival miles for travel and cash-back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise. You’ll get the best value from travel statement credits and account annual fee redemptions, since both of these choices value your miles at 1 cent each. You won’t want to redeem your miles for cash back statement credits or gift cards since these redemptions only value your miles at half-a-cent each.
Travel statement credit redemptions for the Arrival Plus card start at 10,000 miles for $100, and redemptions can only be made toward a qualifying travel purchase of $100 or more made within the last 120 days. If you have the no-fee Arrival card, you may have a lower minimum redemption, but in this guide, we’ll assume you have the Arrival Plus since the Arrival card isn’t currently open for sign-ups. The one exception for the Arrival Plus card is account annual fee redemptions within the travel statement credit category, where the minimum redemption is 2,500 miles for $25.
If you decide to use your miles for a travel statement credit, you’ll see a list of all of the eligible “Purchases Available For Redemption” along with how many miles each redemption will require. These purchases will fall under the travel merchant category code Barclaycard assigns merchants. Whether a merchant is included in the travel category will vary depending on the specific vendor, in general, these categories include:
- Travel Agencies and Tour Operators (including online agencies such as Expedia and Priceline)
- Hotels, Motels and Resorts
- Cruise Lines
- Passenger Railways
- Car Rental Agencies
You then add the charge to your “cart,” confirm your order and then the final screen will show you what your 5% miles refund will be. Credits usually take 1-2 weeks to post after you redeem, and the 5% mileage refund on travel redemptions will be credited back into your account one business day after the redemption is processed.
Travel Redemptions With Arrival Miles
Now that you know how to actually make a redemption, it’s time to consider what kinds of useful travel redemptions you can make using your Barclaycard Arrival miles.
1. Award Ticket Taxes and Fees
Let’s say you redeem airline miles for an award ticket. You might still have to pay a ticketing fee, taxes and fuel surcharges on that ticket, which can all run you in the hundreds of dollars. If the award ticket taxes and fees are less than $100, use a co-branded airline miles credit card that offers additional earning for purchases made on the airline or a credit card that provides trip protections when you pay only the taxes and fees with the card. But, if the award taxes and fees are more than $100 and you have enough points to offset the purchase using your Arrival miles, using your Arrival Plus card will reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
2. Incidental Hotel Charges
Just like with airline travel, hotel charges can include a lot more than your room rate, such as taxes, resort fees, room service, restaurant bills, spa tabs and more. if you use hotel points for your stay, you’ll get your award nights for free, but you’ll still be on the hook for these other charges. Or if you use your hotel points for a cash and points award, you’ll still need to pay a cash copay that’s usually more than $100 for high-end properties or multi-night stays.
Remember, you’ll only be able to offset purchases of $100 or more, so you’ll want to start a tab for room charges at check-in as opposed to paying for each on-site expense as a separate transaction. Some cobranded hotel credit cards offer category spending bonuses when you use them at their hotels — such as the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express that earns 14 points per dollar at participating Hilton properties — so do the math for yourself and see if it makes more sense to use your Arrival Plus card to offset the purchase using your Arrival miles.
3. Online Travel Agencies
One drawback to traditional frequent flyer miles and hotel points is that redeeming them is dependent on award availability for the flights and/or nights you want. But with Arrival miles, you get to redeem for any seat or room that’s available since you’re paying for it like normal, but then using your Arrival miles to offset the purchase. Many people prefer to book through online travel agencies, which are generally classified in the travel merchant category by Barclaycard. So, if you use an online travel agency like Expedia or Priceline, you’ll be able to use your Arrival miles to offset purchases over $100.
This can come in handy for those itineraries that include multiple airlines, where you might not have all the kinds of miles you’d need to redeem for an award ticket. You can also use your Arrival miles for car rentals and pretty much anything you can buy through these sites since they’re classified as travel merchants, which really opens up a lot of possibilities to put your miles to use.
4. Regular Travel Agencies
Although most of us seem to be using online travel sites and booking directly with airlines and hotels these days in order to get the most competitive fares and rates as well as racking up bonus miles and points, some folks still use traditional travel agents not only to book their day-to-day travel, but also to book special trips like luxury packages, cruises and more. One of the great things about Arrival miles is that when you pay for these charges through a travel agent that codes in the travel merchant category, you can redeem your miles to offset expenses that are greater than $100.
Although there are cruise line cobranded credit cards out there, most don’t provide great value unless you sail frequently on one particular cruise line. So, another great way to put your Arrival miles to use is redeeming them for your cruise packages and/or expenses on board like bar or restaurant tabs, spa treatments, onshore excursions, and so on. Just be sure to charge all of your onboard expenses to one tab so the purchase will be greater than $100 and hence eligible to be offset with your Arrival miles.
6. Bed & Breakfast, Vacation Rental and Non-Chain Stays
Although hotel loyalty is part of any successful points and miles travel strategy and sticking to a brand usually makes sense, you won’t always find a property wherever you’re going. Whether it’s just in a city you don’t often visit, an idyllic retreat to a beach or country destination, or you just want a change of pace, at one time or another all of us have to (or get to!) spend a few nights at an independent property or unfamiliar brand.
While you can’t redeem your hotel points for these stays, you can use your Arrival miles on them as long as the lodging is classified in the travel merchant category and your stay costs more than $100. So, this is a great way to put your miles to use while getting to experience something new and different lodging-wise.
7. Car Rentals
Although most of the major car rental agencies have loyalty programs where you can earn free rental days, it can take a long time to earn these free rental days and it’s often difficult to use these free days when traveling abroad. So, you may need to find a cheap rental using AutoSlash and simply pay for your car rental. That’s where fixed-value currencies like Arrival miles can be useful since the charge should be listed as a travel expense on your statement. This means the expense can be offset using your miles as long as the rental cost is at least $100.
8. Train Tickets
Although it’s possible to transfer hotel points from various brands to Amtrak, this generally won’t provide good value, and it won’t help if you’re looking to book train travel outside the US. You may want to use a card that provides travel protections when purchasing your train tickets, especially when your purchase is less than $100. But for purchases over $100 — which is common for cross-country Amtrak tickets and long-distance European trains in premium cabins or during peak travel periods — you may want to use your Arrival miles to offset your train travel purchases.
Want to take a tour of Tuscany’s farmers markets or a wine-tasting trip in Bordeaux? You’re not going to be able to use your points or miles to book those, but if the tour operator is categorized under “Travel” with Barclaycard’s code system and the experience costs more than $100, you can redeem your miles toward the cost of your tour package and save some of your cash to buy more wine.
10. Theme Parks
While your actual ticket to a park like Disneyland or Universal Studios might not code in the “Travel” category, if you buy a Disney package, for example, which includes flight and/or hotel, or you are staying at the Universal Studios resort in Florida and your charges were billed to your hotel room, these should qualify in the travel category and would be redeemable for miles — so you’d have more money left over for souvenirs and family fun during your trip.
Know before you go.
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