The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is a travel rewards credit card with an $89 annual fee (waived in the first year) and a generous, straightforward rewards program that rewards you for virtually any type of travel and transportation: airfare, car rentals, taxis, buses, hotel stays, incidentals, bookings made through discount travel sites (such as Expedia) and more. It also has a very generous sign-up bonus, a redemption bonus on all mileage redemptions, and some additional benefits for frequent travelers.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus plays in a very crowded travel rewards niche. Its closest competitors are other general purpose cards that allow cardholders to redeem accumulated points or miles on a wide range of travel types, and without regard to specific airline or hotel brands: Expedia+ and Expedia+ Voyager, Capital One Venture Rewards, Citi ThankYou Premier, BankAmericard Travel Rewards, and Chase Sapphire Preferred. Others are branded cards that favor specific hotel and airline brands, and are therefore a bit less versatile: Hilton Honors Surpass from American Express, the Citi/AAdvantage credit card family, United MileagePlus Explorer, Gold Delta SkyMiles, and IHG Rewards Club Select. Many competing cards, especially more generous ones, have annual fees ranging from $50 (sometimes less) to $100 or more.
- Sign-up Bonus: When you spend at least $3,000 within 90 days of opening your account, you get 50,000 bonus miles. That’s worth $500 when redeemed as a statement credit against prior travel purchases.
- Earning Travel Rewards: This card earns an unlimited 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases, with no caps or restrictions. As long as your account remains open and in good standing, your miles don’t expire.
- Redeeming Travel Rewards: You can redeem your accumulated miles for statement credits against a wide range of already-made travel purchases: car rentals, hotel stays, airfare, taxi fares, bus fares, incidentals, discount travel site bookings, and more. Purchases must have been made within 4 months (120 days) of the redemption date. When redeemed for travel, miles are always worth $0.01 apiece. The redemption minimum for travel redemptions is $100, or 10,000 miles, and the purchase against which the redemption is made must be $100 or greater. It’s worth noting that this minimum is far higher than many competing cards’, and can cause problems for lighter spenders who take many months to build up the requisite number of miles. However, you can make partial redemptions for larger purchases – for example, if you have 10,000 miles ($100 value), you can redeem them to offset half the cost of a $200 flight. You can also make non-travel redemptions, including general statement credits and gift cards. However, these redemption methods offer a poor value: they generally value points at $0.005 apiece, or half the value of points redeemed for travel.
- Redemption Bonus: Every time you redeem your accumulated rewards, you get a 5% bonus deposited back into your travel rewards account. This essentially boosts the value of your earned points by 5% – so, if you redeem 20,000 miles ($200 value), you get a bonus of 1,000 miles ($10 value) back.
- Important Fees: There is an $89 annual fee, waived in the first year. There is no foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3%, while cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%. Late and returned payments cost $37.
- Intro APR: This card has a 12-month 0% APR balance transfer promotion (as long as the transfer is made within 45 days of account opening).
- Additional Benefits: This card’s additional benefits include insurance for lost and delayed luggage, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, 24/7 emergency traveler assistance, and travel accident insurance. You can also access your FICO credit score at no charge through your account dashboard.
- Credit Required: This card requires excellent credit. Any notable credit dings are likely to disqualify your application.
- Very Good Point Earning Rate. This card earns points at an impressive clip: 2 points per $1 spent on everything, with no caps or restrictions. That’s better than Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee), which only earns 2 points per $1 on select spending categories, and earns just 1 point per $1 on everything else.
- Expansive Definition of Travel. Barclaycard Arrival Plus’s rewards program allows you to redeem your accumulated rewards for virtually any type of travel, including local transportation (such as taxis). By contrast, hotel- and airline-branded rewards cards such as Marriott Rewards Premier ($85 annual fee), United MileagePlus Explorer ($95 annual fee), and IHG Rewards Club Select ($49 annual fee) all restrict redemptions by requiring cardholders to redeem for stays or flights with specific brand families, or require cardholders to transfer their miles or points (sometimes at highly unfavorable ratios) to partner brands.
- Nice Redemption Bonus. This card’s redemption boosts the value of all redeemed miles by 5% – so, if you redeem 10,000 points ($100 value), you get 500 points ($5 value) deposited back into your account. This is a relatively rare perk among travel rewards cards, with only a handful (even those with higher annual fees) offering anything similar.
- Great Sign-up Bonus. This card’s sign-up bonus is worth $500 when redeemed for travel purchases, besting the Expedia+ Card (less than $200 in most cases). Some branded travel rewards cards have potentially more valuable sign-up bonuses, but they restrict how and (and sometimes when) you can redeem those miles or points.
- Nice Balance Transfer Promotion. Barclaycard Arrival Plus has a 12-month 0% APR promotion on balance transfers for new cardholders (within the first 45 days) – another relatively rare perk in the travel rewards universe, and great news for new cardholders with high-interest balances on existing credit card accounts.
- No Blackout Dates. This card doesn’t have any blackout dates because it doesn’t require cardholders to book travel during the redemption process. Instead, redemptions come after the fact – so any travel purchase you’ve already made is fair game. This is a big advantage over branded cards that often restrict travel during periods of high demand.
- Charges an Annual Fee. Barclaycard Arrival Plus has an $89 annual fee. That’s $30 more than Capital One Venture Rewards, which earns points at the same rate and has other similarities. If you don’t spend heavily enough (and thus earn rewards quickly enough) to justify an $89 fee, consider Venture Rewards – or opt for an annual-fee-free travel rewards card.
- Miles Always Worth $0.01 When Redeemed for Travel. When redeemed for statement credits against travel, Barclaycard Arrival’s miles are always worth $0.01 apiece. That’s a big drawback relative to branded travel rewards cards from major airline and hotel brands, such as American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles ($95 annual fee). These cards’ points and miles can be worth far more than $0.01 apiece at redemption, particularly when redeemed at higher-priced hotels or on longer-haul flights.
- High Threshold for Travel Redemptions. Barclaycard Arrival Plus has one of the highest redemption minimums of any general purpose travel rewards card – 10,000 miles, equal to $100 in travel purchases. What’s more, you can’t redeem your miles against purchases of less than $100, and you can’t redeem miles for purchases older than 4 months. For people who don’t spend heavily or travel frequently, this is a high bar to clear, and can lead to wasted or long-unused rewards. Other cards let you redeem much faster and more frequently.
- Non-travel Redemptions Have Poor Value. Though you can redeem your accumulated rewards points for gift cards and general statement credits, these cash equivalent redemptions offer a much poorer value than travel redemptions – usually $0.005 per point, compared with $0.01 per point on travel redemptions. This contrasts unfavorably with Chase Sapphire Preferred, whose non-travel redemptions (including cash) fetch up to $0.01 per point.
- Few Luxury Benefits. This card doesn’t offer much in the way of fringe benefits for frequent travelers – no complimentary room upgrades, in-flight discounts, airport lounge access, or the like. When used regularly, these perks can substantially increase the value of a credit card (and offset any annual fee). Many branded credit cards, including some with comparable annual fees, offer such benefits.
If you’ve ever had an airline rewards or hotel rewards credit card tied to a specific hospitality or transportation brand, you probably know how complicated branded travel rewards programs can be. Major airlines and hotels, such as United Airlines and Marriott, devote pages of text and detailed charts to explaining and quantifying their programs’ benefits. If you have the time and brainpower to familiarize yourself with these programs, you can use all this explication to your advantage – determining the most effective (and financially savvy) ways to earn and redeem points for air travel and hotel stays.
If you don’t have the time or mental energy to devote to complex branded rewards programs, a simpler, more generalized travel rewards card such as the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is probably more your speed. With a flat-rate rewards program and a simple, straightforward redemption scheme, this card doesn’t offer the possibility of eye-popping redemption values. But at least it’s easy to understand.