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Barclays Announces New Arrival Premier Credit Card With Transfer Partners

April 04, 2018
9 min read
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We often say here at TPG that the most valuable points and miles are flexible points and miles. That is, we prefer a rewards program that lets you transfer points to multiple airline and hotel partners in addition to using them to purchase travel directly.

On Wednesday morning, Barclays — which recently re-branded from Barclaycard — announced its brand new Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard, which offers transfer partners for the first time and 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. But this new card also doesn't have the typical sign-up bonus or transfer ratios of other cards with flexible miles, so let's take a look at all the details.

Arrival Premier vs. Arrival Plus

First, let's get one thing out of the way — the Arrival Premier is a new card in what Barclays calls its "Arrival suite of products," but it doesn't replace the existing Arrival Plus. If you already have the Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, you can continue to use it the way you always have. However, the Arrival Plus has not been available to new applicants since late March.

Current Arrival Plus customers are free to apply for the new Arrival Premier and can conceivably hold both cards, but about 30 days from now (early May), Arrival Plus customers will be able to request a product change to the Arrival Premier. Like the Arrival Plus, the Arrival Premier offers you double miles on all purchases, and miles can be redeemed for 1 cent each as statement credits against travel purchases you make with the card, such as airfare, hotels and car rentals. Note, however, that the Arrival Premier doesn't return 5% of your redeemed miles the way the Arrival Plus does.

Annual Bonus Opportunities

The new Arrival Premier also offers two key benefits that the Arrival Plus doesn't have. First, you can earn bonuses each account year based on your spending:

  • You'll earn 15,000 bonus miles when you use your card to spend $15,000 in a cardmember year.
  • You'll earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles each cardmember year that you spend another $10,000, for a total of 25,000 bonus miles after $25,000 of spending.

As a result, you can earn the equivalent of 3x Arrival Premier miles for your first $25,000 in spending on all purchases each cardmember year.

Surprisingly, the Arrival Premier offers no initial sign-up bonus in the traditional sense. According to the Barclays executives I spoke with, the bank did extensive research with their cardmembers and found that most were looking for loyalty in the long term. The bank told me they believe that cardmembers want to receive a bonus each year, not just the first one — hence the spending bonus you can earn each year you have the card.

Airline Transfer Partners

The other major new feature of the Arrival Premier is the ability to transfer miles earned with the card to nine airline frequent flyer programs:

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  • Aeromexico
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • China Eastern
  • Etihad
  • EVA Air
  • Japan Airlines (JAL)
  • Jet Airways
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas

The transfer ratio for all of these programs is 1.4 Arrival Premier miles to 1 airline mile, with the exception of Japan Airlines, which is 1.7 to 1. Since the card earns 2 miles per dollar spent, that means you're effectively getting a net of 1.42 transferred airline miles per dollar with most airlines, and 1.18 net miles for JAL. Furthermore, the 15,000 mile bonus for spending $15,000 in a cardmember year is worth 10,714 airline miles (or 8,823 JAL miles).

The transfer ratio from the Arrival Premier to JAL is 1.7 to 1. Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy.

Barclays told me they expect this list of partners to "grow and evolve" over time with more airline transfer options, but the company doesn't really consider transfers to airlines to be the point of this card. In a statement, the bank said...

"While miles transfers are a useful benefit of the Arrival Premier card product, they are not one of the core card benefits. Barclays research found that consumers, and the target audience for this card, are looking for a card that makes it easy for them to earn and redeem points on purchases they’re already making. ... Miles transfer partners are offered as an additional perk and are ideal for those cardmembers who may need to bump their mileage supply with one of our partner airline programs. For these individuals, using Arrival Premier miles as a 'top off' might be the best way for them to achieve a specific redemption goal."

My takeaway is that Barclays feels most of their cardmembers will redeem their miles for travel statement credits at a fixed rate of 1 cent each, which is easier then trying to transfer their rewards and redeem them with one of these exotic foreign frequent flyer programs. But many TPG readers are award travel enthusiasts who want the opportunity to earn more than 1 cent per mile, and even relish the challenge of receiving extra value from the awards available with these frequent flyer programs.

When it comes to transferring miles, note that the reward programs for the Arrival Plus and Arrival Premier are entirely separate — you cannot move your existing rewards from the Arrival Plus to an Arrival Premier account the way you can with cards that are part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

Other Benefits

The annual fee on the Arrival Premier is waived for the first year then $150, and as a premium rewards card, the Premier offers the usual multitude of travel insurance, purchase protection and other travel benefits. As with many cards these days, it offers no foreign transaction fees and a $100 credit toward the application fee for the Global Entry program, which includes TSA PreCheck. However, it doesn't appear to offer a credit toward the $85 application fee for the PreCheck program alone, which has a faster enrollment process. See terms.

You also get a Lounge Key membership, which lets you visit over 850 airport lounges for the discounted price of $27 each. This group of independent lounges is operated by the Collinson Group, the same company that operates the Priority Pass Select network. But since Priority Pass Select boasts over 1,000 airport lounges (and restaurants), the Lounge Key program appears to include only a subset.

The Plaza Premium Arrivals lounge at London Heathrow is one of 800 lounges in the Lounge Key network. Photo courtesy of Lounge Key.

Travel benefits include baggage delay and trip cancellation insurance, while your purchases are covered by an extended warranty policy, return protection and a damage and theft protection policy. As with all other Barclays products, the card is compatible with terminals that require Chip and PIN authorization, which is common at train stations and other unattended kiosks in many countries. And as part of the World Elite Mastercard program, it also features numerous travel and shopping discounts.

Finally, the card also includes two-day free shipping at many retailers through the ShopRunner service and a free monthly FICO credit score.

Bottom Line

Without a traditional sign-up bonus or bonus categories, the Arrival Premier is not a card you would use to earn a big bonus and then only for certain purchases. Barclays is trying to get customers to use their card for most of their spending. Thus if you used it to spend an average of just over $2,000 a month, you'd earn both the 10,000 and 15,000 mile bonuses, and receive a total of 3x points on your first $25,000 of spending each cardmember year.

This is a decent way to earn points toward travel statement credits, though you definitely need to factor in the $150 annual fee. But the option to transfer your rewards to miles creates some challenges. Just as when Citi started its airline mileage transfer option for its ThankYou points program, Barclays' roster doesn't initially include any domestic carriers. In fact, six of the nine transfer partners are the same as Citi's — Etihad, EVA, Flying Blue (Air/France KLM), Jet Airways, Qantas and Malaysia. Also interestingly, the list of Arrival Premier transfer partners doesn't include any of the airlines with which Barclays currently offers co-branded cards, such as American, Hawaiian, Lufthansa or Frontier. See terms.

Of the list of launch partners, the most attractive appear to be JAL, EVA and Flying Blue, though note that Flying Blue has recently made major changes to its program. Transfers to the other programs are probably best for those who are just topping off existing balances. Thankfully, TPG already has some fantastic guides to help you with these three programs:

We'll have a complete review of the Arrival Premier in the next few days with an in-depth analysis of all the positives and negatives, along with the value proposition.

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