With my new goal of traveling at least 10 weeks a year, I’ve come to the realization it’s wise to get a credit card whose primary design is to rack up maximum travel rewards points so I can travel even more. I’ve found the card in the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.
Before publishing this post, I had a grand total of one personal credit card – the Citi ThankYou card. I’m not a believer in getting multiple credit cards because I’m all about simplifying my finances. I also pay my credit card bill off in full every single month, so there’s no need to take advantage of those 0% introductory rates. But with my new mission to travel post retirement, it’s only prudent to take advantage of great benefits.
If I got the Barclaycard Arrival before my four week trip to Europe this summer, I would have been able to accumulate over 18,000 awards points! Better late than never because I’m going on another two week trip to attend the US Open tomorrow in NYC. The last time I went to the US Open was twelve years ago and I can’t wait to return!
WHY THE BARCLAYCARD ARRIVAL IS A GOOD FIT FOR TRAVELERS
Barclays background: Barclays is a British multinational bank and financial services company that was founded in 1690. In 2004 Barclays bought Juniper Financial Corporation in an effort to expand their U.S. reach. Barclays now has 48 million customers in four dozen countries and territories.
1) Flexibility: The most significant difference between the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard® and other travel credit cards is the way miles are used. A typical travel reward credit card such as the U.S. Bank FlexPerks card partners with 150 airlines, and you must make your travel arrangements through U.S. Bank and one of their partners. You redeem your points to “pay”. With Barclaycard Arrival, you are not restricted by partnering companies. You chose any airline or cruise company you would like, any hotel you would like, etc. and pay for your travel arrangements on your Barclaycard Arrival card.
Because you’re booking your travel as someone would who is not using rewards, you’re not confined by blackout dates or participating airlines. This is the ultimate in flexibility. You are free to book your travel plans through Expedia or other travel sites to try to find the best deals.
Once you have your arrangements in place, you can choose to redeem your miles for statement credit. Simply put, use your credit card to pay for your travel, redeem your miles, and watch your balance disappear. Rather than having you use your miles to pay for your arrangements upfront, Barclaycard credits the money you spend on the backend as a statement credit for the travel arrangements you already paid for.
According to Barclaycard Arrival, travel expenses include airlines, travel agencies, tour operators, hotels, motels, resorts, cruise lines, passenger railways, and car rental agencies. The only caveat here is that you must redeem miles for travel purchases within the last 90 days, so don’t dawdle.
2) Bonus Miles: When you redeem miles to cover travel expenses, you get 10% back. Let’s say you redeem 25,000 miles. You’ll automatically get a bonus of 2,500 miles toward your next trip. Keep in mind you’ll get 1 cent per mile, so redeeming 25,000 miles will be worth $250.
3) No Limit: There’s no limit on the number of miles you can accrue, and they don’t expire. Of course, your account must be in good standing, and it can’t have more than 13 consecutive months of inactivity.
4) Insurance: Barclaycard offers other benefits such as $200,000 in automatic travel accident insurance, reimbursement for expenses if your bag is lost or delayed, trip cancellation coverage, and $0 fraud liability.
5) Double Miles: You earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend. This can be for purchases you or your authorized users make. Given I spent $9,200 on my four week Euro trip, I could be halfway to a round trip ticket to Hawaii already if I got the card before I left.
6) Sign Up Reward For New Members: Barclaycard is currently offering 40,000 miles to new members (that equates to $400 for travel), assuming you use your card for at least $3,000 in purchases within 90 days of sign up.
HOW MUCH ARE THE FEES?
There are minimal fees with the Barclaycard Arrival as long as you use your credit card responsibly and pay it off each month, which we all do. Let’s review.
What You’ll Love – No Foreign Transaction Fees
As I mentioned before, there are no foreign transaction fees when you make a purchase in another country. While the friends you are traveling with use their card and pay a 3 or 4% transaction fee, you can use yours and pay no fees. (Again, folks, research your cards. Choosing the right card makes a difference.)
Potential Fees You Won’t Like
There is an annual fee of $89 (waived for the first year). Some might balk at this, but considering how quickly you can accrue points and the flexibility of the rewards program, this shouldn’t be a deal breaker. To put it another way, $89 dollars is equivalent to roughly 8,900 points. You get 40,000 points for signing up and spending $3,000 within 90 days so you’re already way ahead.
The APR is on the high side and ranges from 14.99% to 18.99%. It continues to amaze me how much credit card companies can charge consumers despite the 10-year bond yield hovering at only around 3%. If you goodness forbid want a cash advance, the APR is 25.24%.
Hopefully nobody reading this post ever carries a revolving credit card balance. Use a credit card to your advantage, and don’t let credit card companies earn money off you because you are spending more than you can afford.
A No Fee Alternative to the Barclaycard Arrival
If you’d rather not pay an annual fee, Barclaycard Arrival offers another version of the card by the same name: BarclayCard Arrival™ World MasterCard® – No Annual Fee Card. As a trade off, rather than earning two miles for every dollar you spend as you do on the Barclaycard Arrival with an annual fee, you’ll only earn two miles for every dollar spent on two categories–travel and dining.
For every dollar spent on everything else, you’ll earn one mile. I this this is a fine alternative, especially for folks who aren’t super avid travelers who aren’t focusing all their money on just one card to earn double the points. However, if you can focus your spending on a card that offers 2X the miles, the annual $89 is pretty low.
You also get a signup bonus with the no annual fee version – charge $3,000 in 90 days and get 20,000 miles added to your account. Like the Barclaycard with an annual fee, this card does not charge foreign transaction fees.
ADDING BARCLAYCARD ARRIVAL TO MY WALLET
Based on my renewed desire to travel for 10 weeks a year with a travel budget of $2,500 each week, I should be able to rack up around 50,000 miles a year just on travel if I use my Barclaycard Arrival. I will easily spend another $1,000-$2,000 a month on expenses on the card, providing a total of around 100,000 rewards points every year thanks to earning 2X points for every dollar spent. 100,000 rewards points is equivalent to $1,000 and can be used to buy at least two round-trip tickets to Honolulu or NYC from SF every single year. Perfect!
GREAT CREDIT CARD ALTERNATIVES
The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard® – Hawaiian Airlines is hands down the best airlines in America. Their service is impeccable, they provide food, snacks, and drinks included in your air fare, and each seat comes with a USB charger. This Hawaiian Airlines card gives 35,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days, gives you one complimentary bag to check-in, and a one-time 50% off discount off your companion’s air fare! Round-trip ticket prices range from $450 – $1,200, so that’s a $225 – $600 savings right there to paradise! You also get $100 off a companion tick for roundtrip coach travel between Hawaii and North America each year, 1 point for every $1 spent, and 5,000 annual bonus miles after $10,000 in annual spend. The annual fee is only $89. Oahu is my home state and it is the most beautiful place to vacation!
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Updated for 2015