The Arrival Plus: More than just a new name

UPDATES: Since this post was written, Barclaycard has made a few significant changes to the Arrival Plus card: The 10% rebate has been reduced to 5%; TripIt Pro is no longer included; and point redemptions now start at $100 (previously $25).

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard was already a terrific card, but it has recently become even better.

A new name

To understand why I think the new name is an improvement worth talking about, consider the situation prior to the name change:

Barclaycard offers two versions of the Arrival card.  One, with no annual fee, offers 2 points per dollar for travel and dining (like the Sapphire Preferred card) and the other, with a $89 annual fee, offers 2 points per dollar for all purchases.  Before the recent name change to the latter card, both cards had the same name.  In my blog and in conversations, I would differentiate them by writing/saying things like “the Arrival card (the one that earns 2 points per dollar everywhere)…”  Then, Barclaycard helped this issue a bit by calling the second card “Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard – Earn 2x on All Purchases”.  That was certainly descriptive, but it didn’t exactly roll off the tongue… or the keyboard.  I like that we can now refer to the Arrival and the Arrival Plus as separate products.  I know it seems silly to care about a minor name change, but I do.  I like it.

Already one of the best

Allow me to quickly review some of the Arrival Plus’ original features:

  • Earn 2 points per dollar for all purchases
  • Redeem points for travel related purchases at a value of 1 cent per point
  • 10% rebate for points redeemed for travel (update: the rebate has since been lowered to 5%)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Free subscription to Tripit Pro (update: this offer has ended, but some people may receive a targeted offer for a free one year subscription. See this post for details.)

The fact that this card earns two points per dollar for all purchases makes it a very good choice for everyday spend.  You can still do better by selectively using cards that earn 3X to 5X at certain merchants, but for non-bonus spend, this card is hard to beat.

You do need to redeem points for travel to get the most out of them.  If you redeem for cash or other prizes your points will be worth only about half a cent each.  At that rate, you’d be much better off with a no fee 1.5% cash back card.  When points are redeemed for travel, though, points are worth 1.1 cents each, thanks to the 10% rebate.  That means that this card earns approximately 2.2% back, towards travel, for all spend (see “What is the Barclay Arrival card’s rebate really worth?”).

Another nice feature of the card is how points are redeemed for travel.  You do not need to worry about award availability or which airlines or hotels you stay at.  You can book travel in any way you want and simply pay with the Arrival Plus card.  Once the charge shows up on your online statement, you can pay all or part of that expense with points, online (as long as the expense is $25 or more).

The fact that this card has no foreign transaction fees makes it a good choice for international travel.  Those who do not travel often internationally may be better off with the no fee Fidelity Investment Rewards card that earns 2% cash back for all purchases.

As a long time fan of TripIt, I see the free subscription to TripIt pro as a nice to have perk.  The free version of TripIt already did what I needed without hassle, but now with TripIt pro I don’t have to click through an ad for TripIt Pro each time I log in.  It’s almost worth it for that feature alone Smile.

Now with Chip & PIN

The Arrival Plus card is, as far as I’m aware, the first mainstream card in the US to offer Chip & PIN capability.  When using credit cards internationally, you may occasionally run into situations where cards with chip & PIN capability are required (automated train ticket kiosks are an often cited example).  So, it’s great to see that the Arrival Plus card now has this feature.  For some reason, that’s beyond me, Barclaycard describes the feature as Chip and Signature with PIN capability, rather than simply Chip & PIN.  Fortunately, The Points Guy has already proven that the Chip & PIN capability works as advertised (see “Using the Arrival Plus Chip+ PIN to Buy Train Tickets at CDG”).

When I learned of this new feature, I called the number on the back of my card to ask for the new version and to set my PIN.  They readily offered to send out my card in the next week or two and then directed me to an automated system to set my PIN.  I don’t know if I’ll really need it when I next travel abroad, but its great to know that its there, just in case.

Other new features

In addition to adding Chip & PIN capabilty to the card, Barclaycard threw in a few other small improvements:

  • Expanded definition of “travel”:  Previously, travel was defined as “Airlines, Travel Agencies & Tour Operators, Hotels, Motels & Resorts, Cruise Lines, Passenger Railways and Car Rental Agencies.”  Now, they’ve added the following to the list:  “Timeshares, Campgrounds, Tourist attractions, Discount travel sites, Buses, Taxis, Limousines, and Ferries.”
  • Longer time to redeem points:  Previously, you could redeem points for any travel that occurred in the last 90 days.  Now, you can redeem points for travel that occurred in the last 120 days.
  • Improved card design:  According to Barclaycard, the new card is sleeker and more durable.

Vs. Sapphire Preferred

For the past few years, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card has been my go-to card for international travel.  It has no foreign transaction fees and it offers 2 points per dollar for travel and dining, which tend to be the bulk of my expenses when traveling anyway.  Plus, the Sapphire Preferred offers a 7% annual dividend on all points earned, so it really earns 2.14 points per dollar for travel and dining and 1.07 points per dollar everywhere else.

As a travel card, the Sapphire Preferred has two weaknesses.  One is that, even though it now comes with a Chip, it only offers Chip & Signature, not Chip & PIN (but I’m sure that will change sometime soon).  Second, the card is useless in situations where merchants use the old fashioned credit card imprint devices.  The Sapphire Preferred does not have raised numbers, so imprints of the card are useless.

Weaknesses aside, I would personally prefer to earn 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for travel and dining than 2 Arrival points per dollar.  Unlike the Arrival card points, the Sapphire Preferred card’s Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to airlines and hotels (and even to Amtrak) for the potential of outsized value from those points.  So, as long as I have both cards, I’ll continue to use the Sapphire Preferred for travel & dining (as long as a PIN or imprint isn’t needed).  And, I’ll use the Arrival card everywhere else when traveling abroad.

The real question, though, is whether it is worth paying the annual fee for both cards.  For most people, the answer is no.  If you need a good card for international travel, they’re both good choices, but the incremental value of using one or another for specific purposes is unlikely to be worth the additional annual fee.  In my case, when my Arrival Plus annual fee comes due I’ll probably call to see if they’ll waive the annual fee.  If not, I’ll see if I can downgrade to the no fee Arrival card.   Hopefully, by then, the Sapphire Preferred will have full Chip & PIN capabilities and can go back to being my single go-to international travel card.  The right strategy for you, though, will depend on your preference for easy to use Arrival points vs. potentially more lucrative (but more complicated to redeem for maximum value) Ultimate Rewards points.  Another factor will be whether you already pay an annual fee for an Ink Plus or Ink Bold card.  Since the benefits of those cards largely overlap the Sapphire Preferred card, it might not make sense to pay the annual fees for both.

Summary

Barclaycard has made the already excellent Arrival Plus card even better.  For now, it is my top pick for the single best travel credit card.  The Sapphire Preferred is really close, though, and may edge ahead in my opinion once Chase delivers true Chip & PIN capability.

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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53 Comments on "The Arrival Plus: More than just a new name"

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Gary
Guest

What about splitting up your foreign travel card from your everyday non-bonused spend card at least for folks who don’t do a ton of international travel…

Now, I don’t think Barclaycard Arrival Plus is the most rewarding card out there. Leaving aside no foreign transaction fees I’d take the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express after the first year (or in any year the annual fee isn’t waived, rather). I’d take 2% cash back over 2.2% travel credit anyway, but treating 2.2% as actual cash the breakeven point factoring the annual fee on Arrival Plus is $45,000 in spend.

You can then get the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card which has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees for your international spend. It’s not the most rewarding card for non-US spend, but it’s got no annual fee and then you are freed up to do the analysis separately of most rewarding for everyday spend vs most rewarding for everyday spend THAT ALSO has no foreign currency fees.

And when you do that you also compare, in addition to Fidelity Investment Rewards, cards like SPG Amex (I value Starpoints about the same, YMMV), and Amex Everyday Preferred… 50% bonus on all spend if you make 30 transactions in a month which is pretty easy to generate. I’d rate 1.5 Amex points as worth more than 2.2 cents (an Amex point needs to be worth 1.5 cents apiece in order to support that claim).

Just a couple of examples.

I think that the Barclaycard Arrival Plus is a good product, with a worthwhile bonus, and some nice features bundled in. But I have a hard time rating it as #1 in any standard category.

Points with a Crew
Guest

Great post. I’ve been away for a few months so this was good news. I was already talking about this being pretty much the best card out there – my dad emailed me the other day asking which card he should get and my suggestion was this one.

The other bonus for “normal” people that maybe aren’t like you or me is that if you’re just going to get one card, this one works pretty well without having to remember to churn them regularly

Takhliq Khan
Guest

I think one has to consider the added benefit of the reward boost shopping (in regards to MS) as well. Current promotion of 4 reward points for AGC purchases makes it 6.6% back to be used for travel charges.

jim
Guest

The biggets problem with this card is the rewardboost online portal. IT HAS BEEN 50 DAYS AND i Never received the miles for my amex gc purchases. been contatcing them and keeps giving me new different case numbers. Keeps telling me they have zero to do with the online shopping portal and all they can do is ask the rewards department to look. But they told me the same thing too many times.

They are not Chase or Citi when it comes to customer service. Since I never earne dmiles from their portal, for me this card is not as good as SP. There are so many reports of people not getting the miles even after 60 days and they were told they are not responsible.

Nicole
Guest

Hi Greg – I skimmed through this quickly, so hopefully I’m not pointing out something obvious, and perhaps most readers know already, but it seems worth pointing out that with the travel redemptions using Barclay Arrival, it’s one redemption per travel event – in other words, as I’m sure you know, if you redeem $25 in rewards towards a $500 purchase, you can no longer redeem against that charge again. I’m not seeing that this has changed (this is far less frustrating than the capital one redemptions, though). Just wanted to point this out for the readers, as it was something I did not realize at first. May be worth waiting to redeem against a travel charge if you are still accruing points and won’t have upcoming travel charges for a while.

Nicole
Guest

I also second Jim re the boost portal – I also am not getting the amex card points, though I’ve only contacted them once so far. Will be interesting to see if I also get the runaround on that.

Gary
Guest

The shopping portal is hardly a unique benefit of the card, except to the extent that it is offering a better rate of return than other portals.

Shannon
Guest

The Barclay’s reward site does work for AMEX gift cards. Mine posted last week. It does take a long time.

Anita
Guest

The best feature of the Arrival Plus is the simplicity.

Instead of coding various cards for my husband’s benefit, I gave him the Arrival Plus and told him to use it for everything.

I continue to optimize my own card usage by bonus category, but am thrilled to be able to simplify his card management.

Steve
Guest

I understand you write about what’s on your mind, but is this post really something people expect when coming here? Another credit card pushing post from someone who used to have creative points-earning strategies? Why are all BA bloggers resorting to this?

sam_goh
Guest

@Greg – it’s described as chip and signature with pin capability because it defaults to C&S when it’s run. Pin is the fallback apparently. All my transactions in Europe so far have required signatures, I don’t get prompted for a pin.

Ron
Guest

I don’t see where this card is as good as a 2% cash back card WITHOUT an annual fee … unless you do a LOT of annual spend on the card.

Ron
Guest

Excluding the initial bonus.

Jonathan
Guest

Saverocity recently convinced me that Amex is much better to keep around instead of paying the annual fee on the arrival (unless you are huge MS’er).

.
http://saverocity.com/travel/best-credit-cards-low-spenders/
.

Sure it has its draw backs, but if we are taking about every day spend, for the average person it seems clear that the Amex is the more lucrative option.

Max
Guest

I requested the upgrade to Arrival-Plus a few weeks ago, when they first started offering them. The PIN can be set through the automated activation process by phone. I already used the new card online, but unfortunately the magnetic stripe was dead on arrival (pun intended). Store terminals could not read it at all. Barclays is sending me a replacement, so hope the 2nd time will be a charm.

William Charles
Guest

Remember that mastercards zero fraud liability doesn’t count towards PIN based transactions.

Stephen B
Guest

I just got back from Paris and had no problem with my chip & signature Sapphire Preferred card. I tried it on a lark at the train station at CDG and had no problem. I was able to use it other merchants throughout Paris without difficulty. Also of note was one merchant who had me use the chip reader instead of the mag stripe on the back when both were available.

Jack C
Guest

I have used the Barclay shopping portal three times when they offered 4X Boost points for AMEX gift cards. I used a promo code to waive the card fees but paid the $8.95 shipping fee for each order. Since I used my Arrival card I have always received the 2X points per transaction within a few days. The boost points though have always been short. The CSR reps at Barclay cannot answer my question as to why I am not receiving the full amount other than to say they will file a claim with the operators of the Boost portal. I was informed that with Boost any card fees or shipping charges were not eligible for the Boost points but I still should receive the extra boost point for the amount of the item purchased.

For example on my last order for four $1000 AMEX gift cards Boost gave me 15937 points instead of 16000 shorting me 63. That number doesn’t represent anything I can figure or the Barclay rep can explain. As I said the boost points on every order has been reduced some from the 4X points promised.

I am not letting Barclay get away with this and file a claim each time my points are less than what was offered. Whoever runs the Boost program for Barclays are sure casting a bad light on them in my eyes.

JustSaying
Guest

Great post…..as I approach traveling more across Europe I want the ability stay at boutique properties and this seems to be a great card for that option……or have I missed something else?

Mike
Guest

Yes in that case you would get the full 16,000. But are the extra 63 points worth the $15.80 in card fees? Obviously not, so it still makes sense to use promo codes.

Mike
Guest

huh, I know I hit reply to Jack C’s last comment, but the above posted as a new comment. Perhaps because I mistyped the capcha on the first attempt?

JustSaying
Guest

I am using my Sapphire Preferred on trip in Europe but it makes me wonder whether I could have brought 5X gift cards with me?

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[…] I’m fond of the Arrival Plus card, I tried to think of other ways to justify paying the annual fee.  What if I redeemed enough […]

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[…] Bank offers two versions of its Arrival card. (The Arrival & the Arrival Plus.)  The Arrival Plus is the interesting version as it gives you two miles per dollar for all purchases.  If you use […]

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[…] offers two versions of its Arrival card. (The Arrival & the Arrival Plus.) The Arrival Plus is the interesting version as it gives you two miles per dollar for all purchases. If you use […]

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[…] If you want a card that retains its value past the first year (unlike the Discover It Miles card), you travel internationally, you do not have a ton of money invested in Bank of America or Merrill Lynch, and you want to earn rewards that can be used for any travel purposes, then this is your card.  It earns 2 points per dollar for all purchases; points can be redeemed for any travel purchases; you get a 10% rebate on all points redeemed for travel (making this effectively a 2.2% rebate card); and it has no foreign transaction fee.  Pretty much the only downside is the $89 annual fee.  See also: The Arrival Plus: More than just a new name. […]