2/20/2014 Update: The terms of this offer were changed today. In order to earn the 40,000 bonus points, you must spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening the card.
Is Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® the Best Travel Rewards Credit Card for General Spending?
Over the last couple of months, my family has had a number of major expenses pop up some of which may resonate with you:
- the check engine light came on in my 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid: $5000 repair bill
- ditto for my husbands 2003 Volkswagen Passat: $3800
- my daughter got braces: $4650
- the heat pump finally gave out: $6995
Granted it is unusual to have so many large, chargeable expenses totaling $20,000 in a two month period. But it it is easy to anticipate similar health, home maintenance, and auto repair expenses over the course of a year.
In our case, the car mechanics, the orthodontist, and the HVAC installer all accepted credit cards for payment, but only MasterCard or Visa, not American Express. That mirrors my experience with other small business vendors where we have regular large expenditures, such as the dog kennel or the vet.
None of these household expenses are considered “bonus” categories with any credit card product that I am aware of. Except the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, that is.
(There is a Fidelity credit card that pays 2 times points, but it is an American Express card, which is not accepted everywhere. There is a Capital One Venture card that pays 2 times points; the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® effectively pays out 10 percent more than that — 2.2 percent.)
Earn 2.2 Points on All Charges, if Redeemed for Travel Expenses
In my case outlined here, with $20,000 in expenses we could earn 4o,000 points. 40,000 points can be redeemed for $400 worth of travel expenses (the points are worth half that if redeemed for cash). You earn a ten percent bonus on redeemed points, so 4,000 points are redeposited in your account, worth another $40 toward travel expenses, for a total of $440. The ten percent bonus provides an incentive to keep using the card in order to redeem all your points.
How Much Travel Can You Buy for $440?
Exactly $440 dollars worth! Depending on your bargain hunting skill and preferences, you can use this money for budget hotels, rental cars, train tickets and airfare.
You can travel when you want, and where you want, without worrying about limited award availability or blackout dates.
What’s more, you will earn frequent flyer miles and loyalty program points on your purchases!
I was an early adopter of the Barclaycard Arrival — I received a targeted offer and opened the card a year ago. I have written about it on and off, but I wanted to share my experience with the card one year out.
By comparison, with a miles earning credit card, my recent charges would earn 20,000 miles — perhaps enough for a one-way ticket on Southwest Airlines or two roundtrip tickets on Amtrak, but hard to redeem for much else.
Get a Sign-Up Bonus Worth $440 Towards Travel
Some credit cards are good for everyday spend, others provide generous sign-up bonuses.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® does both!
Beyond the 2.2 percent payout rate for general expenses, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® offers an excellent signup bonus.
If you spend $3,000 within three months of opening the card, you get a bonus of 40,000 points, which can be redeemed for $400 worth of travel. Furthermore, you earn 10 percent back on all redemptions for travel expenses, meaning another 4,000 points are awarded, making the initial bonus worth more than $440.
Redeem Points for Statement Credits on Priceline Purchases
As a budget traveller, I frequently rely on Priceline or Hotwire to book hotels and car rentals. Unlike most other travel rewards cards, with Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® you will earn 2x points on purchases from travel agencies (as well as all other purchases) and points can be applied as statement credits to offset charges with Priceline and Hotwire.
Bonus points on purchases post immediately.
There is no limit on the number of points you can earn, and points never expire as long as you make a charge once every six months.
Redemptions are really, really simple to do online.
Partial redemptions toward travel expenses are possible. As long as you have 2,500 points in your account, you can get statement credit for $25 off of travel expenses. In other words, if you have a $100 travel charge, you can get a $25 statement credit.
Free Credit Score
My favorite perk of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is the offer of a free FICO credit score from Transunion every quarter.
If you are opening credit cards to earn cash back or travel rewards, you definitely need to stay on top of the impact on your credit score. Some commercial services such as Credit Karma or Credit Sesame provide approximate scores known as FAKO scores, but the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® offers the official FICO score from Transunion. This is the same credit score that FICO sells on their website for a subscription fee of $14.95 per month.
Money Saving Features
An additional factor: there are no foreign transaction fees.
You are entitled to a one-year free TripIt Pro subscription, valued at $49. To be frank, I have not used this travel tracking service, so I cannot comment on its utility.
The annual fee is waived the first year.
There is a 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 12 billing cycles after the account is opened.
Barclaycard Rewards Boost Online Shopping Portal
Barclays has an online shopping portal for this card which allows you to earn extra points if you make purchases or book travel through the portal. There are numerous online travel agencies, hotel chains, and car rental companies participating in the portal, so if you make your travel reservations online, you have the opportunity to earn lots of extra points, which translate into an additional one to four percent off the purchase price, depending upon the vendor.
If you make most of your bookings online like I do, this offers the potential for more than 6 percent off from hotel chains like Crown Plaza, Holiday Inn Express, Red Roof, and Staybridge Suites, as well as reservations made on Hotels.com. You can save over 5 percent on car rentals from Avis, and on rooms at Country Inn and Suites. You can save over 4 percent on Westin, Ramada, Radisson, Wingate, Marriott, and Choice Hotels, as well as Dollar, Thrifty, Budget, National and Alamo rental cars. You can save over 3 percent at Orbitz, Expedia, Hotwire, and Priceline, and over 4 percent at Travelocity, Southwest Vacations, and American Airlines Vacations.
These payout rates vary all the time so be sure to check the latest values at the Barclaycard Rewards Boost website. You can make purchases for general merchandise through the shopping portal as well, doubling your payout rates in many cases, while building up a “travel savings account.”
What’s more, if you like to share your travel stories and deals, you can earn extra points through the Barclaycard online travel community.
World MasterCard Premium Travel Benefits
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is a premium offering in the MasterCard portfolio. It comes with with a number of perks for travelers, including:
- $200,000 Worldwide Automatic Travel Accident Insurance
- Reimbursement for expenses if your baggage is delayed or misdirected
- Trip cancellation/interruption coverage
- MasterCard® Global Service with 24-hour emergency assistance
- $0 fraud liability
With this string of financial and travel benefits, it’s no surprise that MONEY Magazine named Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® the ‘Best for Travel Rewards’ in October 2013.
Lest you think I am gushing, let’s consider the cons.
What’s the Downside?
There are a number of important disadvantages to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.
1. If you are not redeeming your points for travel expenses (something I do not recommend), the points are worth half the value, comparable to 1 point per dollar spent. This means the 40,000 bonus points would be worth $200 in cash back. Nevertheless, it is good to know that you could get cash back on your purchases if you find you do not have any travel expenses.
2. The annual fee of $89, due after the first year, is quite steep. You would need to spend more than $4000 in year two before you began to earn rewards over and above this fee. If you expect to charge $500 per month on this card in year two, 2.2 percent of that would be $132. $132 minus $89 equals just $43. If your monthly charges are more like $1000 per month, the calculation is $264 minus $89 equals $175 — perhaps enough for a weekend getaway! Do your own calculations to determine if it makes sense to hold this card beyond the first year.
3. After the first 12 billing cycles, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® has very high interest rates. At the end of the introductory period, the APR for all purchase balances will be either 14.99% or 18.99%, determined at account opening based on your creditworthiness. This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. You should only consider this card if you pay your balance in full and on time each month.
4. You need a credit score in the excellent range to qualify for this card.
5. You may have to call customer service and ask to speak with a supervisor to process redemptions if they are not coded properly.
Why Do I Say the Barclaycard Arrival is the Best Travel Rewards Card for Everyday Spend?
I love the idea of earning 2.2 percent cash back towards travel expenses, with all my household expenses.
The nearest competitor to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is the Capital One Venture card. Like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, the points can be redeemed for any travel expense and there are no foreign transaction fees.
If your style is budget domestic travel, the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases may well be worth your consideration.
If you prefer an no annual fee version of the card, check out the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®. This card pays 2 times points on restaurant and travel charges, and 1 point on everything else. It offers a 20,000 point initial sign-up bonus. This is actually the version of the card that I have, and it has enabled me to enjoy lots of free travel!
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