Another Reason To Use Barclays Arrival Miles

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The Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® is arguably the most lucrative travel cash back rewards card, and I’ve written previously about how to maximize earnings and using Barclaycard Arrival miles to subsidize fuel surcharges, but I’ve never really talked about the card in comparison to other bank rewards cards.

The Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® offers:

  • two miles per dollar spent on all purchases
  • a 5% refund on miles when you redeem them
  • Each mile can redeemed for one cent towards the cost of travel, meaning you’re getting a return of ~2.1 cents per dollar spent

There are lots of points currencies out there that can be redeemed as cash back towards travel, like FlexPerks Points, Capital One Venture Points, ThankYou Points, etc, and many of them have lucrative earnings rates as well. When it comes time to redeem the points though, I think the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ really stands out.

One thing that makes Arrival Miles particularly useful is that you can redeem points for even part of a travel purchase. In other words, you don’t need enough points to rebate the entire travel purchase, but instead can select how many points you want to redeem for that particular purchase.

For example, say you spend $500 at a hotel. You can redeem up to 50,000 Arrival miles to pay for the entire purchase. But you can also redeem enough miles to pay for only part of the purchase. In other words, you can redeem 20,000 miles to take $200 off the purchase (and then get a 2,000 point refund).

Being able to receive credit towards even a partial amount of a purchase is actually pretty unique among bank rewards currencies. Typically the “cash back” style bank rewards programs have at least one of the following restrictions:

  • a specific travel portal you have to purchase your tickets through in order to redeem your points
  • a requirement that you have enough points in your account to “fully” rebate the cost of a given purchase
  • a “tiered” structure where in order you achieve the best possible return you have to redeem at certain threshold amounts

For example, with FlexPerks points you can redeem 20,000 points for a $400 purchase, but if the airline ticket you’re looking at costs $401 then you need to redeem 30,000 points. You can still get good value out of a bank rewards program like this, but it takes more work.

Similarly, with Capital One points, you have to have enough points to pay for 100% of a transaction in order to receive a credit for that purchase. So if you have 30,000 Capital One points you can reimburse yourself for purchasing a $300 airline ticket. But if that ticket was $301, or if you wanted to purchase two tickets in the same transaction, the purchase wouldn’t be eligible.

So I do think it’s worth understanding both how straightforward and practical miles earned using the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® are to redeem. There aren’t strings attached in the same way as with some other currencies, which I think has a value in and of itself.

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  1. It is worth noting that with Capital One, you are correct that on some purchases like hotels and rental cars, you do have to have 100% of the amount of points to cover the purchase. But for airlines and a few other transactions, Capital One asks you how many tickets were in the transaction (1-10) and how many you want to redeem. So, you can redeem with as little as 1/10 of the total (if you are willing to lie about the structure of the transaction, which is never followed up on or checked in any way).

  2. It’s so funny how you and Gary dutifully and immediately post when prodded to hit a minimum number of conversions (I assume that’s what’s happening in this instance?) or when incentifized with a new or higher payout (e.g., Marriott).

    I’m not one of these people who’s too idealistic to accept that you earn a living through this blog or too naive to understand that incentives influence content. But for the love of god can’t you and Gary at least stagger your sponsored posts!?

  3. It’s arguable whether Arrival’s partial redemptions are a feature or a bug. Sure, you can redeem for less than the full charge, but there’s no going back later to redeem for the rest. Partial redemptions remove the charge from your list of eligible charges, unlike Venture which will allow you (oddly) to redeem for the same charge over and over again.

  4. Why no love for the Virgin American credit card, which earns 1 mile ( = 2.2 cents or more ) / $ spent?

  5. I think the one thing most people miss is that you can use these to buy hotel rooms on Priceline, Hotel Tonight, Expedia, etc. So, if you’re like me, a traveler who is flexible in where they stay, and not loyal to one brand, this card becomes an even more exceptional value… I frequently stay in $300 dollar hotel rooms for $75-100 a night thanks to Priceline, so let’s see… For every $3750 I spend I can get a free hotel night on Priceline (approximate). That same room would require me to rack up 30,000 Marriott points, 25,000 Hyatt Points, etc. You get the idea.

  6. @Gene — because the 2.2 cents you earn with this card can be spent anywhere your heart desires, whereas the 2.2+ cents you earn on the VA card can only be used on VA flights.

    @stvr — no, they’re not total crap or even partial crap. Each is worth one cent so long as you have (or open) any type of Fidelity deposit/brokerage account. The Fidelity Amex is an incredible card that is rarely mentioned in these channels because the issuer (FIA Card Services) doesn’t offer compensation for conversions. In any event, once you hit 5,000 points (or more), they just direct deposit $50 (or more) into your Fidelity account. It’s a straight 2% cash back card with no annual fee.

  7. Keep in mind that the Arrival card also “rounds up” when redeeming points for the full amount. If your purchase is $50.01, you can use 2500 points for $25, 5000 points for $50, or 5100 points for the entire thing. I know we are talking about little amounts here, but if you consistently redeem points in this fashion (for cab rides, small award ticket taxes/fees, etc.), you could wind up hurting your overall redemption averages.

  8. @ Lucky

    Can barclaycard arrival miles be transferred to a frequent flyer program, like BA Executive Club? I don’t believe so (based on my research), but I wanted to confirm. Thanks

  9. @ Gene — Because at the end of the day it’s only worth 2.2 cents or so towards revenue redemptions on Virgin America. For a vast majority of people that’s not useful, given their limited route network.

  10. @ David — First of all, I haven’t been “prodded” and there’s no quota. I wrote this post on Saturday for today. I don’t write all my posts same day, especially since I just landed in Iceland today so have been away from the computer for much of the day.

    I saw that Gary also had a post about the Arrival Card yesterday. That’s a coincidence. Should I not make my post because coincidentally someone else had a post about the same travel credit card?

  11. For nonbonus spend, it’s curious that all the blog discussion focuses so much on Arrival and Sapphire. Other than a bit of discussion when it was first unveiled, we have heard nothing but crickets on the Amex Everyday, which gives 1.5 Membership Rewards points per $1 of spend in the nonbonus categories if you meet the minimum transaction per month requirement. It would be really nice to see a comparison of the best nonbonus spend options. I assume that most people value 1.5 Amex at more than 2.2 cents, which is what you get for spending the same $1 on Arrival. Yes, there are arguments to be made for Arrival that give it more value — for example that if you use it for air fares you actually earn miles and EQM. I know that many are cynical about all this and assume the reason we’ve not really seen an in depth comparison like this for nonbonus spend has more to do with how bloggers and compensated than anything else. I’m not really sure I believe that. Arrival is a great card, especially if you value chip and pin and no forex. But the absence of any real discussion whether it truly is the best card for nonbonus spend is, I guess, slightly troubling.

  12. Lucky – good information but why does anyone want to fool around with all these different cards with different rules, spend amounts, etc. It seems much easier to max out the flex cards (Sapphire) then distribute points/miles where/when you need them?

    Also Lucky would you please comment on revenue based v mileage based frequent flier plans. Your favorite and why?


  13. I’m a Barclayscard Arrival accountholder and read many similar gushing reviews of the Arrival Rewards Program and have been surprised that nobody has mentioned the following side benefit: when you pay for a travel expense with the Arrival World Elite Mastercard you’re provided an invoice that gives you full credit for the purchase … a paid-in-full document you can submit to an employer or client for reimbursement.

    Conversely, if you purchase an airline ticket with miles/points via most other reward programs (e.g. Chase Ultimate Rewards) your receipt will reflect that no cash changed hands. Try getting an employer or client to reimburse you for business expenses paid for via reward points. The IRS will never approve such a transaction and neither will your employer and/or client.

  14. Barclaycard Arrival has a silly minimum redemption of $25. I purchased NYC subway passes recently for $21. Had I used my Sapphire card, I would have earned 2 UR points per dollar, which I value at nearly $.04 per dollar. Instead, using the Barclaycard, I earned 2 points towards “travel” but I could not redeem them even though it was clearly “travel”. That kind of silly requirement makes me prefer the Sapphire card since I don’t have to do any calculations. Moreover, I think that the Sapphire is ALWAYS a better deal for travel expenses. For its $89 annual fee, this ain’t a keeper for me..

  15. @ bobbieddie — I almost always prefer mileage based vs. revenue based programs, since you can get a lot more high end aspirational redemptions out of it.

  16. I love this card with the exception of the second year annual fee being difficult to outweigh. (Of course that depends on how much you spend), but bank of Americas Travel rewards card is a great alternative as it gives 1.5% and a annual 10% bonus, no foreign transaction fees, and BoA deals offers even more cash back at select locations. Redemption options work the same as well starting as low as 2500 points for $25.

  17. @ Lucky: I’ve asked you many times for your opinion or advice, and have only followed you for about 6 months at this point. Sometimes I take it and sometimes I use the information to help me make an informed decision on my own. It appears to me that you have several readers that enjoy wasting time “moaning” about what they feel is the best credit card for everyday purchases. It is also glaring that most don’t have the ability or lack the tenacity to spend over $40,000 a year on credit cards. Regardless, I would like to thank you for your opinions, advice, and updates on existing and new products. In addition, I would also suggest ways to remove aggressive posts so that I don’t have to waste my time reading non-essential blunders. Thanks!

    @ all readers: People change plans for credit card strategy constantly. If you don’t, then you may lead a one-direction life. All of the products that are discussed serve their own purpose based on each individual’s strategy. For this reason, I haven’t seen LUCKY twisting anyone’s arm for not applying for a card on his site. for those of you who don’t like that this is a blog/business opportunity, then go follow another. OR better yet, go start your own blog and see how easy/hard it is to be successful. I’m not saying that no one should point out a mistake as challenging is good, but to be overly opinionated or just plain abrupt is no better or worse than getting spam emails from idiots looking for money!

    Have a fantastic day!

  18. @Andrew M: I certainly don’t blame Lucky or Gary, or anybody else for posting what are essentially informative ads for credit cards. On the whole, they are more honest than the ads you might see on Facebook, TV, or in print. Full time bloggers aren’t in it for their health, after all.

    I’d also note that Lucky’s plug doesn’t seem to be suggesting that you should get AND KEEP, the card. It may be at a disadvantage compared to the Fid. Amex in year two, but it’s a pretty good card (particularly for manufacturing spend) in year one.

  19. @andyandy The thing is it’s not just this post. He’s posted about 5-6 times about how good this card is and how he keeps it in his wallet after the first year without ever mentioning it’s drawbacks relative to other cards. I agree it’s not a terrible card after the first year but there are definitely better.

    Lucky purports himself to be an expert on cards. Why would he keep recommending a card when there are obviously betters, as has been pointed out to him numerous times? It’s like he’s asking his readers to give free money to Barclays each year.

  20. Just booked round trip suites class on Singapore for mostly UR miles and a few Membership rewards miles. 297,500 miles for two tickets. That comes to about 8 cents a mile when fuel surcharge and taxes are considered. Barclay’s can’t come close.

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