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If you’re a Mastercard account holder, you may have noticed the label “World” or “World Elite” just above the two globes of the Mastercard logo. If so, you might have wondered what these terms mean, what differences there are between the two and whether it’s worth paying extra for a rewards card that is part of either program. In this post, I’ll answer those questions and give an overview of which cards I think are the best for those interested in these Mastercard benefits.
The Standard Mastercard Program
The standard benefits of a plain old Mastercard that is not part of the World or World Elite program will vary based on the card issuer and the product. However, these benefits can include:
- Zero Liability — Waives the $50 maximum liability to card holders under the Fair Credit Billing Act for fraudulent charges.
- Mastercard Global Service — Provides emergency assistance including card replacement, cash advance, and ATM location.
- Identity Theft Resolution Services — Includes an ID theft resolution kit and access to specialists.
- Fuel Rewards Network — This is a discount program that works at gas stations, grocery stores and even restaurants. This benefit allows you to link your Mastercard to your Fuel Rewards Network account and earn additional rewards, rather than carry a separate discount card.
- Price Protection — You can be reimbursed if an eligible purchase experiences a price drop within 60 days of purchase.
- Extended Warranty — Doubles the manufacturer’s warranty for periods of up to 12 months on eligible purchases.
- Masterpass electronic payments
The World Mastercard Program
World Mastercards can come with the following additional package of benefits on top of the standard ones:
- Concierge Services — Phone representatives can assist you with gift buying and delivery, event tickets and other personal services.
- Enhanced Price Protection — World Mastercard holders receive this protection for up to 120 days, as opposed to 60 for standard Mastercard customers.
- Mastercard Airport Concierge — This is a paid meet and greet service that assists passengers with arrivals, departures, or changing planes at over 450 airports around the world. Card holders receive a 15% discount.
- Mastercard Travel Services — This service, operated by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, makes travel arrangements for card holders.
- World Luxury Hotels & Resorts — Offers room upgrades, free breakfast, early check-in and late checkout and special welcome amenities to card holders who book their stay through this hotel benefits program.
- Mastercard Priceless Cities — Offers discounts and exclusive offers for luxury goods and services in select cities around the world.
- ShopRunner — When you order from over 140 online stores using ShopRunner, you’ll receive unlimited free two-day shipping and return shipping on purchases. Eligible retailers include Saks Fifth Avenue, Brooks Brothers, Tory Burch, Staples and 1-800-Flowers.com.
This program includes popular travel rewards cards such as:
- Frontier Airlines World Mastercard — $79 annual fee; 5x miles on Frontier purchases, 3x at restaurants and 1x elsewhere
- CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard — $99 annual fee, waived the first year; 2x miles on American Airlines purchases, purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and gas stations and 1x elsewhere
- Allegiant World Mastercard Credit Card — $59 annual fee; 3x points on Allegiant purchases, 2x on dining and 1x elsewhere
- Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard — $79 annual fee; 3x points on Amtrak purchases, 2x on other travel and 1x elsewhere
- Spirit Airlines World Mastercard — $59 annual fee, waived the first year; 2x miles on everyday purchases
The World Elite Mastercard Program
World Elite card holders enjoy all of the standard and World Mastercard benefits listed above, plus the following:
- World Elite Air Program — Card holders receive discounts of 10-25% off qualifying fares with several different travel providers, including Austrian, Brussels, Cathay Pacific and Etihad.
- World Elite Cruise Program — Card holders can receive shipboard credits when they book a cruise through this program. Credits tend to be $150 – $500 per room, and the cruise lines offered tend to be higher-end luxury and boutique lines around the world.
- World Elite Tours & Vacations Program — Card holders can receive significant savings and credits when booking tours and vacations around the world (generally $100 – $250 or 5% off the standard price).
- World Elite Car Rental Program — This program offers discounts of 15% – 25% when renting a car with Avis, National or Sixt. Upon request, card holders can also receive elite status with these programs, such as National.
- World Elite Chauffeured Car Service — This program features savings on limousine services around the world, generally around 15% – 25% off the standard price.
- World Elite Private Jet Program — When first class just doesn’t cut it, this program offers discounts from select private jet charter operators.
- Personal Travel Advisor and Mastercard Global Service Premium — These appear to be the same as the benefits offered by World Mastercards, but purportedly come with more personal service.
- Mastercard Priceless Golf — These are golf offers and experiences with the PGA Tour for World Elite cardholders, as well as a Golf Concierge Service to access other golf benefits available.
- Mastercard Hotel Stay Guarantee — If you book a 3-star or higher rated hotel, and you aren’t satisfied, Mastercard says that it will have a Lifestyle Manager work with you to make it right.
- Mastercard Lowest Hotel Rate Guarantee — If you find the same exact prepaid hotel stay for less, Mastercard will refund the difference.
Popular travel rewards card that are part of the Mastercard World Elite program include:
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard — $89 annual fee, waived the first year; earns 2x miles on every purchase and a 5% rebate when you redeem your miles
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard — $99 annual fee, waived the first year; earns 2x miles on American Airlines purchases, at gas stations and at restaurants, offers a first bag checked free
- Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard — $450 annual fee; includes Admirals Club membership, earns 2x miles on American Airlines purchases
- Citi Prestige — $450 annual fee; earns 5x points on air travel and at restaurants and 3x points on hotels and cruise lines, up to $250 in travel credits each year, a 4th Night Free on hotel stays
- Lufthansa Miles & More World Mastercard from Barclaycard — $89 annual fee; earns double miles on all Miles & More partners and two free Lufthansa Business Lounge Vouchers annually
- Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard from Barclaycard — $89 annual fee; earns double miles on all Hawaiian Airlines purchases and 2x miles on gas, dining and grocery store purchases
- Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard from Bank of America — $90 annual fee; earns 3x miles on Virgin Atlantic purchases
Are World Elite benefits worth the annual fee?
The easiest World Elite benefits to utilize (among those not included with World Mastercards) are the rental car program benefits National. I’m a big fan of National’s Executive status, as I love choosing my own car from their Emerald Aisle, and families can often find a minivan there for the price of a midsize car.
Where the World Elite benefits also shines is for those who travel on paid tickets. One of the most valuable World Elite benefits (for most people) is the airline discounts that are part of the World Elite Air Program. Although no domestic carriers are represented, the opportunity to receive discounts on paid tickets can save you money. Likewise, those who find themselves paying for cruises, tours and limousines might find this program to be easier than trying to negotiate savings directly with travel providers. And if you rent private jets, there are some savings to be had there, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that this benefit is of the “if you have to ask, then you probably can’t afford it” variety.
Which is the best card to get for World Elite benefits?
If we’re only considering World Elite Mastercard benefits and not other card perks, the best option is the Arrival Plus, which has an annual fee of just $89 that is waived the first year. The White version of the Virgin Atlantic credit card from Bank of America is the least expensive World Elite Mastercard that I could find, with an annual fee of just $49, but Arrival Plus card holders will come out ahead for the first two years of card membership (until the annual fee for the third year is due).
With no annual fee for the first year, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus is a great way to sample the most accessible World Elite Mastercard benefits, such as rental car elite status and discounts. Otherwise, travelers who can realize just one of the other tour, cruise, or limo discounts will find the Arrival Plus, Hawaiian Airlines card or the Virgin Atlantic card to be well worth the annual fee.
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