NOTE: The offers for the Arrival and Arrival Plus are currently unavailable. The information below is for reference only.
As airlines continue to lose rewards altitude on their frequent flier programs, a trend has developed over the past few years toward generic travel reward cards that are untethered to specific airlines. These programs can be quite lucrative and provide a level of redemption flexibility not afforded with cards co-branded with major air carriers. However, the downside is that any “miles” earned with these cards can’t be combined with branded airline frequent flier miles. The most popular examples are the Capital One Venture and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Last year, Barclays decided to join this travel rewards party with the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard. There are two versions of the card, and they were upgraded to offer new benefits in May 2014. The two cards are:
- Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® ($0 annual fee)
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® ($89 annual fee)
So how do they compare?
Obviously the reward design team took a page from the Sapphire and Sapphire Preferred playbook. Compare them side by side, as well as their best current bonus offers to see how similarly they stack up:
|Chase Sapphire® Card||Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® - Earn 1x on All Purchases||Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®|
|Annual Fee||None||None||Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95||Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $89|
|Restaurants||2 points/dollar||2 points/dollar||2 points/dollar||2 points/dollar|
|Travel||2 points per dollar on air/hotel booked through Ultimate Rewards||2 points per dollar||2 points per dollar||2 points per dollar|
|All Other Purchases||1 point per dollar||1 point per dollar||1 point per dollar||2 points per dollar|
|Bonus Offer||10,000 bonus points after you spend $500 in first 3 months from account opening||Unavailable||50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in first 3 months from account opening||Unavailable|
At first glance, the no-fee Arrival versus the Sapphire and $89 Arrival Plus versus Sapphire Preferred appear to be almost the same… until you get to that line about all other purchases.
Because the bulk of your spending probably falls under “all other purchases” this is a huge advantage for the Arrival Plus.
Here’s a closer look at how the cards differ:
1st difference: The value per point
There’s not much of a difference between the miles on the no-annual-fee Arrival and the basic Sapphire. These are not true frequent flier miles.
Both offer a value of exactly 1 cent per mile when redeemed for travel and statement credits. So thinking of these “miles” as cash back might be a simpler way to think of them.
However there’s a BIG DIFFERENCE between the point value on the $89 Arrival Plus and the $95 Sapphire Preferred.
- Barclays gives 5 percent of your miles back when you redeem for travel. Chase gives 20 percent off on travel you book through Ultimate Rewards (their travel booking website).
- Only the Chase Ultimate Rewards found on the Sapphire Preferred (and the Ink Bold and Ink Plus business cards) also offer the option of converting points to participating frequent flier and hotel loyalty programs on a 1-for-1 basis.
While it’s true some travel loyalty programs are less than rewarding (like Spirit Airlines) the ones that are transfer partners with Chase are some of the better ones:
With the Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer to any of the above programs at 1-to-1 ratio. That means you might be able to get more value per point when you do this, if you transfer them to the right place and redeem them strategically.
For example, with Southwest, 7,000 Rapid Rewards points gets you a $100 credit for “Wanna Get Away” fares. That means if you transferred 50,000 points over from your credit card, in theory you could use them for more than $700 in airfare.
But guess what? The $89 Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard is still more likely to beat Chase.
Why? Even though Chase allows you to convert points to frequent flier programs on a 1- for-1 basis, it’s highly unlikely that your airline frequent flier miles will be worth 2.2 cents each. But that’s the value you ALWAYS get with spending on Arrival, since you earn an unlimited 2 miles on everything PLUS you get 5 percent of them back to use again (which nets you a 2.1 percent rebate on your spending).
2nd difference: World Elite MasterCard vs. Visa Signature
These two tiers of benefits have some similarities. They each offer:
- Concierge service
- Purchase protection
- Extended warranty
- Secondary collision coverage on eligible car rentals
- Trip cancellation insurance
- Travel accident insurance
- Travel assistance services
World Elite cards have some additional luxury benefits, however, including the ability to upgrade to business class on certain flights and discounts on chauffeured car service. Keep in mind that only the Arrival Plus is a World Elite MasterCard — the no-annual-fee version is a World MasterCard.
Consult the respective issuer for the rules and restrictions surrounding each benefit, but based on my personal experience, the Visa Signature benefits seem to have fewer exclusions when it comes to trip cancellation insurance.
Let me give you an example, or should I say sad luck story.
Last Christmas I broke my foot just a couple days before I was about to head home. A broken bone was something you would except to be a qualifying circumstance under the trip cancellation/interruption coverage. Or so I thought.
Interestingly enough, I had purchased my departing and return flights separately for this trip. One flight was paid for with a Visa Signature card, the other with a World MasterCard.
Guess which one refused to pay up on the claim?
My Citi (which has since been canceled) was a World MasterCard and, at $125 per year, certainly not a cheap one. Yet they denied my claim on the basis that I didn’t pay for both flights with the card. That’s nonsense because I was making only a claim for one flight with them — the one I paid for entirely with their card which was a completely separate transaction.
Meanwhile my Chase Visa Signature didn’t have an issue with this.
In all honesty, my predicament was an anomaly. Let’s face it, we rarely use benefits like that anyway. I think the Barclaycard Arrival World Elite MasterCard with its 2.1% return on spending is more valuable than the possibly better T&C’s on Visa Signature benefits.
3rd difference: The customer service
Now in defense of Barclaycard, I don’t have the Arrival card myself, so I can’t personally review the quality of their customer service.
But from the customer feedback I’ve heard thus far, Arrival comes with excellent customer service, even though they don’t play it up in their ads.
4th difference: The aesthetics
Because blue is my favorite color, I’m a big fan of how the Sapphire looks. But that’s just a personal preference.
Whichever you prefer, one thing is for sure… don’t choose your card based on looks. Choose it based on the value of its rewards to you.
What’s the verdict for 2016?
Unless you specifically want loyalty points for your frequent flier or hotel program, I would go for the Arrival. Now that it has an EMV chip, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard is an even more competitive offer for travelers.
The chip is PIN-capable, too. Most U.S.-issued EMV cards require a signature for verification, meaning they won’t work in some unmanned payment terminals overseas. But the Barclaycard Arrival Plus allows you to set a PIN, just in case. That benefit is rare among EMV cards issued by U.S. banks – and makes it fully EU-compliant.
As we enter the holiday season it’s an excellent time to apply for it because of the 50,000-point bonus currently being offered on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard after spending $3,000 on the card in the first 90 days after account opening. If you use the card on some or all of your holiday spending it shouldn’t be difficult to hit this spending threshold. The Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard card (the non-Elite, no annual fee version, has a 20,000-mile bonus if you spend $1,000 on the card in the first 90 days after account opening.
Written or last updated January 2016