Who Should Get The Barclaycard Arrival Plus?

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Update: This offer for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus(TM) World Elite Mastercard® is expired. Learn more about the current offer here.

UPDATE: The offers and terms of the Barclaycard Arrival & Arrival Plus have changed. You can find the best current offers here.

Readership continues to grow exponentially, and often I forget to go “back to the basics.” There are those that have been reading for eons that know the details of every credit card offer out there. And then there are always the newer readers that are completely lost.

So today I figured I’d answer a question that may be obvious to many of you, but I’m sure reader Karin isn’t alone in her confusion. She sent along the following question:

I know I sound totally stupid but could you please explain the Barclay rewards card to me and why you love it so much and how to use it to get the most out of it?

I looked it up and found nothing and then called and talked to a young woman who was actually telling me how to calculate percentages which is not what I needed.

I even read your post on it and I STILL don’t get it (maybe because they use the term, “miles” when it’s really points or somesuch.) and maybe I don’t spend hundreds of thousands on non-bonused stuff.

So what are the perks of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard®, and who should pick it up?

Big picture on Barclaycard Arrival Plus

To give the five second summary of why you should consider the Barclaycard Arrival Plus:

  • It has a great sign-up bonus
  • It’s one of the most rewarding credit cards for non-bonused everyday spend (~2.22%)
  • It has no foreign transaction fees
  • The card accrues cashback towards travel, so there are no confusing mileage programs to learn

Barclaycard Arrival Plus sign-up bonus

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus offers a sign-up bonus of 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first 90 days of card membership.

Up front it’s worth explaining what Barclaycard Arrival “miles” are. These aren’t miles that can be transferred to any airline currency. Instead each mile is a cent that can be redeemed towards the cost of travel, from airline tickets to hotels to cruises to car rentals. That means a $400 airline ticket would cost you 40,000 “miles.”

Furthermore, you receive a 10% refund on redeemed miles.


Put another way, the 40,000 mile sign-up bonus will get you a $400 travel purchase. Then when you redeem those miles, you’ll receive 4,000 miles back, which you can apply towards a $40 travel purchase. And then you’ll get 400 miles. And then 40. And then 4.

So the sign-up bonus alone is worth $440+ towards the cost of travel, which is great for a card with the first year’s annual fee waived.

Everyday spend on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus

As I explained above, you basically earn a return of ~2.22% on everyday spend. That’s because the card accrues two miles per dollar spent, each mile can be redeemed for one cent towards the cost of travel, and you receive a 10% refund on redeemed miles.

As far as I’m concerned, one of the other cards which is most valuable for everyday spend is the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. That’s because I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each, so the return is roughly comparable.

I tend to think cash is more valuable than miles, all else being equal, but it all depends on your redemption patterns. And there are certainly cards with lucrative category bonuses.

But for non-bonused, everyday spend, it’s tough to beat a return of ~2.22% that’s basically “good as cash” for most of us.

Comparing this to a cashback credit card

There are some no annual fee credit cards which offer 2% cashback, like the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express Card. Then there are cards like the Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers 1% cashback when you make purchases, and then 1% cashback when you pay for those purchases.


The Barclaycard Arrival Plus has no annual fee the first year, and an $89 annual fee after that. But before assuming that one of the other cashback cards that accrues 2% cashback is better since they don’t have annual fees, keep in mind that the Barclaycard Arrival Plus has no foreign transaction fees, a return that’s ~0.22% higher, and some other great perks. If you travel internationally with any frequency, having a card without foreign transaction fees is vital.

On top of that, keep in mind this is a Chip & PIN card, not a Chip & Signature card. That’s what many cards in Europe are, so that’s great news when traveling abroad, since it means you can use the card at many automated machines, like at train stations.

So, who should get the Barclaycard Arrival Plus?

Big picture, who do I think this card is great for?

The average semi frequent traveler

This is a card I frequently recommend to friends that aren’t true hobbyists but still like to travel.

The average traveler isn’t aspiring for a first class ticket to Bali and a stay at a St. Regis, but rather for a domestic economy ticket and a stay at a 3-4 star hotel.

Furthermore, there’s a learning curve to redeeming traditional mileage currencies. It’s the same reason we hire tax accountants, personal trainers, consultants, etc. — because we realize we’re at an information disadvantage.

With Barclaycard Arrival miles, no one is at a disadvantage when it comes to redeeming. A cent is a cent. Now of course for some people a cent goes further than for others, but that’s a whole different story.

Redeem your miles at hotels which don’t participate in loyalty programs, like Amankila

The idea is that it’s tough to beat a return of 2.22% combined with waived foreign transaction fees, a great sign-up bonus, and no information disadvantage on the redemption front.

People that make a lot of non-bonused purchases

If you’re a big credit card spender, it’s really useful to be able to diversify the rewards you get for your spend. Rather than putting hundreds of thousands of dollars on one card per year, spreading around spend can be useful.

An increasing number of airlines are imposing fuel surcharges on award tickets, so for example, a cashback card is a great complement to a mileage earning card, since you can use those points to offset the fuel surcharges.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus bottom line

To me this is one of the of the simplest, most rewarding credit cards out there, without much of a learning curve on the redemption front.

So while it might not be the most useful card for the extreme hobbyist that spends a moderate amount on credit cards, I find that this is one of the best cards to recommend to friends, given how simple the rewards structure is.

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  1. What about advice on “how to get the most out of it’? I look at it as a savings account to help keep costs down on routine travel expenses. Taxes on award fees? Apply a travel credit. Find an inexpensive airline ticket? Apply a travel credit and accrue miles,segments, etc. on your “free” ticket. $213 for the rental car? Apply a travel credit. Or, wipe away the incidental charges (bar, room service, etc.) from an award stay at a hotel.

  2. Hi Ben,

    I don’t disagree with you but I couldn’t justify it when accounting for the opportunity cost (of a Citi double cash). When using 2% cashback as the benchmark, the break-even annual spend would be 89/0.22% =40K. Unless I need it for international travel, I just don’t get it, either.
    Maybe it’s b/c I am among the ‘extreme hobbyists’.

  3. Don’t forget that you also get access to the Arrival shopping portal, which typically has some high payout rates.

  4. The bonus points + my spend points got us a “free” 7 day first class German rail pass for two. Also, as mentioned, it’s great to have a real chip and pin option for those pesky unmanned kiosks and gas stations around Europe (get stuck at a French toll booth once and you’ll really appreciate chip+pin).

  5. I had this card….loved it….recommended it to all my relatives. They loved it. Such a nice simple straightforward card with excellent features. Wish Barclay had a business card like the Arrival +.

  6. I don’t disagree completely. After year 1 there’s no reason to keep the card. You’d downgrade to the no fee which will be getting the chip and pin. Also no FTF and 10% rebate and 2x on travel and dining.

    The Arrival is just a cash back card earning 2.2%. If cash back is what you’d like to earn, the BofA Cash Reward card gets 3.3% in gas. The BCP gets 6% on groceries and 3% gas. DiscoverIT offers 5% rotating categories. Double cash 2% all purchases. If you maximize your cash back with those cards and book with the no fee arrival you’d earn 2.2% for travel and cash in on your miles as well.

    I’ll be earning 4.15% in gas this year. Earning just about $249 from gas. If I used only the arrival of earn $132. That’s a big difference.

    The arrival is great for people who want an easy way to earn 2.2% but with other cash back cards you can really increase the money you’d have.

    As far as portals. There are plenty of cash back portals to earn even more.

    But again it’s great for someone who doesn’t want international travel or 5 star hotels. Also who don’t want to juggle 3-4 cards. To me juggling them is worth it.

  7. My understanding is that most savvy people don’t pay the $89 annual fee. But maybe Barclays is cracking down on their retention spend.

  8. Get AmEx Serve and you can run $1,000 a month which is ~$22.22 in rewards (so around $266/year) easily with this card.

  9. “Readership continues to grow exponentially”… great… soon there will be no award seats left at all.

  10. I am confused. You say that the Arrival is better than Fidelity Amex because of no FTF but then you say that the Arrival is best for people looking for “a domestic economy ticket and a stay at a 3-4 star hotel” which means that no FTF has limited value.

    To me, the Arrival+ is only good for people who do A LOT of foreign spend. Otherwise, the Fidelity Amex for domestic spend and a No Annual Fee card with no FTF for foreign spend is a better combination.

  11. If the lack of foreign transaction fees is a bullet at the top, Chip + PIN should be too, IMHO. It is so freaking annoying to have to find humans to help complete transactions with an American credit card (I can think of at least 6 in my last trip). I find actual Chip + PIN cards rare so it’s worth highlighting.

  12. LindaK – so you got stuck at French toll booths too?? I thought I got all the tolls paid, but after I got back home I got a letter from Avis charging me a 35 Euro admin fee for non-payment of toll. Still waiting for the French authorities to catch up with me. 🙁

    Folks – if you’re driving in France, and you don’t have a chip and PIN card, have plenty of cash available, and be sure you’re wide awake when approaching the toll plaza. 🙂

  13. I think one of the biggest benefits that you neglect to account for is that with arrival and other cash back/travel credit cards is that you are still able to generate airline miles or hotel points/stays, where you aren’t for the most part on award stays/flights.

  14. Great card! I have it and got thousand of $$$ in reward with the card. Don’t use it now because I got the Bank of America Travel Rewards card that give me as a Platinum member 2.62% cash back and not annual fee

  15. Hi Ben–I have the Barclays USAir card and am thinking about asking them to convert it to the Arrivals card–any thoughts on that or knowledge of whether they’ll do that? With no earning bonuses on the USAir card, it seems to make a lot more sense for me to earn the 2.2% than 1% back in American miles.

  16. @ UAPhil – Ha, and don’t forget, have exact change, or at least a lot of coins, for the French toll booths! The poor tourists in front of us stopped, got out, and were going car to car to see if anyone had change for a 10 EUR bill. 🙁

  17. Hey Ben
    A question from left field… as an Aussie resident (aussie and Brit citizenship), what good US credit cardas are available? I tried for the CITI AAdvantage, but that along wih some other US cards requires either a Social Security or Tax number, neither of which I have. I use CITI and AMEX issued in Aussie, however the returns appear not as good as some of the US cards

  18. The Arrival + is my ultimate backup card while on the road internationally. If a vendor won’t accept my CSP or Amex, they will nearly always accept the Arrival +. The signup bonus was nice, but I don’t put any more spend onto this card than I need to.

    True Chip and PIN at kiosks makes the card worth it’s weight in gold to me. It’s a godsend when filling up a rental car from the pump on the way back to the airport in the way early morning or at an unattended station.

  19. @ Jay — In my opinion it seems silly to convert it since you won’t earn the sign-up bonus that way. I think you’re much better off applying for the card and getting the sign-up bonus.

  20. @ PeteyNice — I’m saying it’s good for the “average,” non-aspirational traveler as well. Whether that’s an economy ticket to Europe and stays at bed & breakfasts, or wahtever…

  21. @ Terence — Right, but with at least some international travel, there’s a ton of value to Chip & PIN and no foreign transaction fees. Some value has to be placed on that.

  22. Thanks Ben – pity. BTW, just getting an award EY First Apartment SYD-AUH – looking good for early August 128k round trip. Thanks for the tip!

  23. Another relevant question — given you have Sapphire Preferred, is it worth it to have the Barclays one too?

    89/.022 = 4045

    So only if +EV if spending >~$4000/year not in travel/restaurant/bonus spending

    I suspect that I’d be about breakeven, which probably makes it smarter to reapply for periodically than to hold onto

  24. @ MC — All depends on specific patterns, but in general for someone that’s not a huge spender I’d only keep one or the other long term.

  25. I was recently made aware of just how clueless an average person is regarding credit cards sign ups and bonuses. I found out that my wife signed up for a Gap credit card…yes the clothing store Gap. When I asked her why she signed up for this card, she said “the lady told me I would save 55% on my purchase.”. I guess for an average person, that’s a good enough reason to sign up for a new credit card….

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