Barclaycard Arrival Plus: An Easy Way To Cover Travel Expenses

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In March 2018, Barclays stopped accepting applications for the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® (see terms). This coincided with the ramp up to the launch of the Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard® (see terms) and Barclays’ foray into the flexible points world.

In June, we learned that the Barclaycard Arrival Plus would be making a return. Barclays started with direct mail offers and has now released online applications. With all the recent talk about the card, I figured it’s a good time to review what it has to offer and whether it’s worth a spot in your wallet.

Biggest bonus we’ve seen on the Arrival Plus

If you were to relaunch a card, I think offering the biggest welcome bonus ever is a great way to go about it. Currently, the Arrival Plus is offering 60,000 Arrival miles if you spend $5,000 within the first 90 days. Recently, the card has offered bonuses of 40,000 and 50,000 Arrival miles so this is a solid increase.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus 60K

Unlike previous offers, the $89 annual fee is NOT waived the first year, and the minimum spend has been bumped up from the previous $3,000. The increased minimum spend requirement is an important consideration but I don’t think the $89 annual fee, alone, needs to scare you away.

Simple earning structure: 2X on all purchases

While American Express, Chase and Citi offer cards with a variety of bonus categories to fit just about anyone’s needs, Barclays has chosen to keep things very simple. With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, you’ll earn 2X points per dollar on all purchases — this is also the case with the Barclays Arrival Premier.

Redeem points for travel purchases after the fact

While you earn “miles” with the Arrival Plus, you won’t be earning miles that can be used to book award flights. Arrival miles are really points that can be redeemed for a statement credit when you pay for travel at a rate of 1 cent per mile.

All you have to do is use your Arrival Plus card to pay for a travel purchase — it must code as travel — then go to the Rewards & Benefits Center when your purchase posts to redeem for a statement credit. Basically, it erases the purchase you have already made with the card.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus Homepage

The most inconvenient part of this benefit is that you can only redeem Arrival miles for purchases of at least $100 (10,000 miles).

It reminds me of the unnecessary complexity of the airline fee credits that come with The Platinum Card from American Express. I’d like to see Barclays change the redemption requirements to something more like the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit which reimburses all travel expenses of any amount up to $300 per cardmember year.

If the Barclaycard Arrival Plus still allowed us to redeem Arrival miles for all travel purchases including those less than $100, I think that would be a big improvement. Just think of all those one-night hotel stays that could be covered.

On the flip side, however, you don’t have to have enough Arrival miles to cover the full cost of your purchase. So you can take $100 off a more expensive travel purchase rather than trying to get the exact amounts.

Get 5% of your Arrival miles back when you redeem for travel

One aspect I really do like about redeeming Arrival miles is that you get 5% of your miles back when you redeem for travel. Let’s say you earn the welcomesi bonus of 60,000 Arrival miles. You’d also have an additional 10,000 miles from hitting the minimum spend so you really have 70,000 miles.

If you book a $700 flight or spend $700 on a hotel stay (or a few stays), you could redeem your Arrival miles for these purchases. Once you do so, you would then receive 3,500 miles back into your account. Now, I realize 3,500 miles probably isn’t that exciting but, if you’re shooting for a $100 redemption, you’re already 35% of the way there.

With this rebate, you might have noticed that you’re really earning about 2.1X Arrival miles per dollar. I’m not over the moon about this, but it’s a solid return, particularly for everyday spend.

What counts as travel when redeeming Barclaycard Arrival Plus miles?

Obviously with a 5% rebate on travel rewards, that’s where you’re going to want to use these miles. Fortunately the definition of “travel” on the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® includes quite a few categories:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels/Motels
  • Timeshares
  • Campgrounds
  • Car Rental Agencies
  • Cruise Lines
  • Travel Agencies
  • Discount Travel Sites
  • Trains
  • Buses
  • Taxis
  • Limousines
  • Ferries

In practice, you likely won’t be using your Arrival Plus miles for many bus trips, given the $100 minimum, but the range of options here is quite nice otherwise.

International chip and pin capability

Besides the welcome bonus, I think the Arrival Plus‘ chip and pin capability is my favorite part of this card. While the vast majority of American credit cards are chip and signature, the Arrival Plus at least provides the option for chip and pin when a point of sale requires it — think train stations in Europe.

Personally, I really enjoyed being able to use my Arrival Plus on train tickets in Munich during Oktoberfest last year. In fact, I was able to help friends who didn’t have a chip and pin card and needed train tickets as well — don’t worry, they reimbursed me.

Free shipping with ShopRunner

I think most people are used to getting a free ShopRunner membership with an American Express card. However, as a World Elite Mastercard, the Arrival Plus also provides this benefit which provides free 2-day shipping from 100+ merchants.

Free TransUnion FICO Credit Score

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your credit score — and credit report for that matter. With the Arrival Plus, you’ll have access to your TransUnion FICO credit score and it will update monthly so you can track it easily.

This is similar to the benefit provided by many American Express cards which provide your Experian FICO score and many Citi cards which provide your Equifax score.

When you consider last year’s Equifax data breach issues and the chance for other similar issues, I won’t complain about having access to any of my FICO credit scores.

Is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus right for you?

If I had to answer this simply I’d say it’s definitely a maybe. How’s that for clarity?

But, seriously. If you’re newer to the miles and points world, I’d say ignore this offer and focus on earning Ultimate Rewards points before you max out with the Chase 5/24 rule. Beyond 5/24 is where things aren’t quite as clear.

If you’re exclusively focused on earning miles and points for business and first class awards, perhaps Amex Membership Rewards points and Citi ThankYou points are more of a priority. However, I know many people — myself included — often book cash fares for domestic flights or hotel stays when the price is right. This is where the Barclaycard Arrival Plus can really come through big for us.

Additionally, I’ve seen tons of people use Arrival miles to cover the cost of park tickets when visiting Disneyland or Disney World by using the card to purchase with Undercover Tourist, Expedia and Orbitz. If you have kids or are just a Disney fanatic, this could help save you a nice chunk of change.

You can also use Arrival miles to pay for stays outside of chain hotels, like Airbnbs and boutique properties — or anything that codes in one of Barclays’ travel categories.


Even swanky Aman hotels are more accessible with Arrival Plus miles

Similarly, if you have constraints on your travel schedule that make finding award seats challenging, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus can help you purchase some flexibility. Making the tradeoff between a less-direct routing or paying fuel surcharges is a bit easier if you can use Arrival miles to pay the taxes and fees on award tickets!

Bottom line

Even with the great bonus of 60,000 Arrival miles, I just can’t bring myself to call this card a first-tier priority if your goal is international premium cabin flights. However, this isn’t a big knock on the card, I just think you can get more value by starting with Chase Ultimate Rewards — and then possibly Amex Membership Rewards points.

I also think it’s a solid second-tier card for any style of traveler once you’ve taken advantage of Ultimate Rewards opportunities. The welcome bonus alone can easily help you take care of some economy flights and possibly a few hotel or Airbnb stays.

If you’re looking to redeem for economy flights, however, this is a great card, particularly for domestic flights with limited award availability.

And as I mentioned earlier, the Arrival Plus can really help with the additional costs that you might incur while traveling, such as ground transportation, park tickets, and even those pesky fuel surcharges.

Who has the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® already? How have you used your Arrival miles?

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Comments

  1. After spending a very frustrating 2 weeks buying metro tickets in Europe I am tempted to get this card just to have a pin card. On this topic, are there any other cards available in the US with the ability to get a chip + pin? I don’t recall any other posts on this topic.

  2. @Mary: several Barclays cards offer secondary chip+PIN, including no-fee ones such as Uber.

    However, I travel with a First Tech FCU Platinum card, because it is true primary chip+PIN (even here), as my European fallback card. It has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee, so it’s a winner for this.

  3. Spencer, apart from the signup bonus, is there any benefit to this card versus a combination of a Citi Double Cash and a Barclays Uber? Seems like you’d get a higher percentage back with more flexibility that way, while still having a chip+PIN option when traveling.

  4. You wouldn’t want it to be like the CSR and reimburse $300 worth of travel automatically. First the annual fee would have to go up substantially, and second, it’s possible to get a lot more than $300 rembursed as it stands now. I do think that by excluding purchases under $100 they drive usage to other cards and negatively impact incentives for renewal.

  5. Jesus, can we call this card for what it is. It’s crap, it sucks. Spencer, don’t sit here and pretend like this card would actually make your wallet. Please, this is painful to read.

  6. @stvr – Not a travel blogger. I don’t take nice enough photos.

    @Ivan X – The sign-up bonus is the big selling point for me. I generally focus on flexible points.

    @James – I consider it a second-tier card. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with getting $600 in travel expenses covered from a sign-up bonus. Were you hoping to see a video of the card being set on fire?

  7. Were you hoping to see a video of the card being set on fire?

    THANKS FOR THE LAUGH!!!!!1!!!!! TROLLS WIILL TROLL THAT IS HOW THEY ROLL KEEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. @Spencer: but @James is so correct!

    A Chase Freedom Unlimited + Chase Sapphire Reserve is minimum (if you are so lazy as not to use CSR for restaurant and travel) 2.55% cashback (1 Chase points @ 1.7 cents, per evaluation here). And, you get value upfront. And, you get more sign-up bonus ($500 + $150).

    So, yes, this is crap.

  9. @magice – I mentioned that people who can get UR cards should ignore this one and pointed out that it’s not a first-tier card. I get that big statements are all the rage but there’s a vast middle ground between offensively bad and star-spangled awesome.

    Not being as good as a CSR + CFU combo for ongoing spend doesn’t make a card awful. Personally, I won’t dismiss $600 for cruises, Airbnb, award ticket taxes/fees, cheap flights, etc. so easily. I think plenty of people would like to save $600 on travel expenses.

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