Barclaycard Arrival Plus: excellent for travel redemptions, terrible for cash back

Update: This card now earns a 5% point rebate when redeeming miles.

In the recent post “The single best credit card and why my favorite cards didn’t make the list,” I made a mistake.  I originally said that the Arrival Plus card earns 2.2% towards travel and 2% towards everything else.  Well, not so much.  Readers promptly corrected me and I edited the post.  Yes, when redeeming for travel, the card effectively gives you 2.2% now 2.1% rewards as follows:

  1. All purchases earn 2 points per dollar.
  2. Points can be redeemed for statement credit against travel expenses at a rate of 1 cent per point.
  3. When you redeem for travel expenses, you are given a 10% 5% point rebate.

So, if you spend $10,000 on the card, you’ll earn 20,000 points.  Those points can be used to pay for $200 worth of travel, and then you’ll get 1000 points back, which in turn can be used to pay for $10 worth of travel (which would then earn a rebate of 50 points good for $0.50 worth of travel, etc).  However, keep in mind that the minimum number of points that can be used for a redemption is 10,000 — meaning that you must redeem points for travel expenses totaling $100 or more.

What if you prefer cash?  In that case, you can redeem points for half a cent each.  If you do that, the card gives you only 1% cash back for your purchases.  Given that there are no-fee cards that offer 1.5% cash back, that’s a really terrible redemption.

The morals of the story are:

  1. Always use the Arrival Plus card points for travel redemptions.
  2. Always do research before writing a blog post.  I’m not promising anything though…


About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. I’ll be canceling my Arrival card at the end of its first year for this very reason. Yes, it’s a great redemption rate toward travel (since I don’t book aspirational trips) but that means using the Arrival to pay travel expenses in the first place. The opportunity cost of not using my Sapphire Preferred on those means giving up the included travel insurance/protections on flights, so be careful on which travel expenses to put on Arrival and then redeem toward.

  2. We’re going to Yellowstone next summer for a week. There’s not a lot of Hyatts, Hiltons, etc in that neck of the woods…so Arrival is a good fit for that kind of trip. I’m keeping it in my wallet.

  3. The combination of Chase Freedom + Sapphire or Ink will earn you 2+ points per dollar on average, considering all the bonus categories, and with a 25% booking bonus you can get 2.5% cashback on travel if you just “waste” the points and book through the travel portal directly. Why would anyone waste time with these lesser cards?

  4. Lesser cards? I’d rather maximize my Freedom and Ink averages at 5x and my Sapphire average at 2.14x. Earning 2.2% on non-bonused spend sounds like a much better prospect to me than bringing down those averages with 1x spend. It’s amazing how resistant people are to the prospect of earning a 2.2% instead of 1x on non-bonused spend. Using a 1x card on that spend sounds like more of a waste to me.

  5. The other big advantage of Arrival is you can effectively juice all spend, not just 1x spend. For example, I can use my flexperks at grocery to get 2x. But I can’t juice that grocery spend with AMEX GCs because it would only get me 1x + juice. When TCB offered 2% CB on AMEX GCs I was getting 2.2% from Arrival plus another 2% juice from buying AMEX GCs.

  6. The sign-up bonus on the Arrival card is great to use toward miscellaneous travel expenses like rental cars, Priceline rooms, and checked luggage fees. I have gotten a lot of travel value out of $440!

  7. Chase points are worth 2 cents at least, when redeemed on United. I’ve been able to get over 3 cents of value on international economy.
    2nd, you’re spreading yourself too thin with all these cards. You’ll probably find a few grand a year at best of non-bonus spend, so that’s $20-30 worth in your Arrival account, which is more headache to manage than it’s worth.

  8. If you think UR are worth purchasing speculatively at 2 cents, I’d be the first in line to sell them to you if it were allowed. Would you rather have 1 UR or be able to buy 2 US miles? I’ll take 2.2% and buy the US miles. If your annual non-bonused spend is only $1K you must not be doing much manufactured spend. I average that per day.

  9. I’m talking about normal spend. I manufacture $50-60k a month on my Citi TY preferred for a $2.5k/mo profit 🙂
    And your logic is flawed, would you buy the Arrival points for 2 cents? Probably not speculatively. I’d definitely buy 60k United points for $1200 if I could turn around and get a ticket that same day. I reliably can get that value out of them, at the right time, just like you need to wait until you need a flight before you get 2.2% value.
    Keep generating your Arrival points, less competition for the rest of us.

  10. I know credit card rewards are not considered taxable since they are considered to be rebates on items you buy. But will the rewards you earn on ‘manufactured spend’, say by buying VR and Visa gift cards, be taxable, since there are no tangible goods being bought?

  11. Frequent Churner, yes, I would buy Arrival points at 2 cents since I can cash them out for a 2.2 statement credit. That’s cash equivalent, not some arbitrary value assigned to an award flight you can book with miles. I suspect you currently have surplus miles to book awards, so the miles you earn today are a speculative purchase. Even if you you don’t have surplus miles, you could purchase US miles today for 1.1 cents and manufacture the equivalent award. If you actually have a way to convert miles to 2 cents cold hard cash I’m all ears. As far as manufacturing 50-60K per month on TYP, that’s a great option if you have it. Not much different than uncapped 6% BCP. Those are not sustainable options. Fast forward and ~2% cards will still be around.

  12. Is it possible to use Barclaycard Arrival points to pay fees for buying or transferring miles, like the current US Airways and Avianca/Taca transfer miles promotions? Also, if you don’t have enough points to cover the entire fare for an itinerary, then can you pay partially with Barclaycard Arrival points and partially by credit card? Anyway, this Barclaycard Arrival is a great example of why never to use Ultimate Rewards points for plane tickets directly.

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