As airlines continue to clamp down on their frequent flier programs, the biggest trend over the past few years has been general travel reward cards that aren’t affiliated with a specific airline. The most popular examples are the Capital One Venture and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
In 2012, Barclays decided to join this party with their Arrival World MasterCard. But how does it really compare?
To clear up the confusion…
You’ve probably only seen the fee-based version advertised, but it actually comes in two versions:
- Arrival World MasterCard with no annual fee
- Arrival World MasterCard with $89 annual fee
That’s right, the names are the same so it can be confusing (there’s not the usual “Preferred” or “Premier” descriptor added to the $89 version).
Obviously the creators took a cue from the Sapphire and Sapphire Preferred. Compare them side by side, as well as their best bonus offers as of March 2014:
Chase Sapphire® Card
Barclaycard Arrival (regular)
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Barclaycard Arrival World 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||20,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in first 3 months||40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in first 3 months from account opening||40,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in first 3 months (This is a limited-time offer)|
At first glance, the no-fee Arrival versus the Sapphire and $89 version 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 Arrival.
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 and the $95 Sapphire Preferred.
- Barclays gives 10 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.
Hotel loyalty programs don’t have the greatest value, so I’d advise against transferring to them.
On the other hand, with Southwest, 6,000 Rapid Rewards points gets you a $100 credit for “Wanna Get Away” fares (that’s going to increase to 7,000 points after March 31, 2014). That means if you transferred 50,000 points over from your credit card, in theory you could use them for more than $800 in airfare (after March 31, those points will still be worth more than $700 in airfare).
But guess what? The $89 Barclaycard Arrival is still more likely to beat Chase.
Why? Because 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 10 percent of them back to use again (which nets you a whopping total of 2.2 percent rebate on your spending). Simply put, you can’t beat this offer from Barclay.
2nd difference: World MasterCard vs. Visa Signature
Both of these are almost the same. They each offer:
- Concierge service
- Purchase protection
- Extended warranty
- Roadside assistance (only arranging, not paying for it)
- Secondary collision coverage on eligible car rentals
- Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
- Baggage delay insurance
- Price protection
- Travel accident insurance
- Travel assistance services
You should 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 than the comparable World MasterCard versions.
Let me give you an example, or should I say horror 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 MasterCard with its 2.2 percent return on spending is more valuable than the slightly better T&C’s on Visa Signature benefits.
3rd difference: The customer service
Now in defense of Barclays, I don’t have the Arrival card myself, so I can’t personally review the quality of their customer service.
But based on advertising, I do have a question about it…
They’re obviously trying to replicate the Sapphire cards, but if that’s the case, why is the talk of getting instant customer service reps not mentioned in Barclay’s advertising?
Chase heavily promotes that you can reach a live rep without ever pressing a button. But there’s no such talk of that, or even anything about customer service, on the Arrival World MasterCard application.
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.
However I heard from many who prefer the carbon black design of the Arrival World MasterCard because they feel it looks more prestigious.
Whichever you prefer, one thing is for sure… don’t choose your card based on looks. Even though I like blue, I would much rather earn 2.2 percent with Barclays!
And what’s the verdict for February?
Unless you specifically want loyalty points for your frequent flier or hotel program, I would go for the Arrival.
In fact the only reason I don’t have it myself is because I’ve already applied for several credit card bonuses within the past two months. When I apply for my next card this month, I’m definitely going for Arrival.
Right now is an excellent time to apply for it because of the limited-time 40,000-point bonus they’re running (and it has a much lower spending requirement than Sapphire Preferred’s bonus). However I’m not sure how long Barclays limited-time offer will last so I would advise against procrastinating.
Written or last updated March 4, 2014