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UPDATE: You can find details on the new Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card here.
Barclaycard stopped accepting applications for the Arrival Plus Card this week, which has long been one of the most compelling travel credit cards out there.
The card offers two “miles” per dollar spent, and then a 10% refund when you redeem miles. Each mile could be redeemed for one cent towards the cost of a travel purchase. In practice that meant it was basically the equivalent of a ~2.22% cash back travel credit card, which is rather compelling… especially as airlines devalue award charts and keep making the programs more complicated.
Well, it seems that the Barclaycard Arrival Plus is undergoing some changes, and they’re not positive. Travel Codex has the details on what the changes supposedly entail, which haven’t yet been officially confirmed. It’s worth noting that these changes seem to only apply for new cardmembers as of now.
So what are the supposed changes?
10% mileage refund reduced to 5%
As I explained above, you presently get a 10% refund on redeemed miles, which essentially makes each mile worth ~1.11 cents. Rumor has it that this will be reduced to 5%.
Given that you earn two miles per dollar spent, in practice this would mean you’d really be earning a ~2.11% return on everyday spend. That’s still quite good, though not as good as the equivalent of ~2.22%.
Minimum redemption value of 10,000 miles
Presently when you redeem points towards the cost of a travel purchase, you have to redeem a minimum of 2,500 miles. In other words, you can redeem for as little as a $25 travel purchase. That threshold will apparently be quadrupled to 10,000 miles, which equates to a $100 purchase.
Personally I don’t view that as a huge deal. It’s certainly inconvenient not to be able to redeem towards smaller purchases, but it doesn’t fundamentally alter the value of points, in my opinion. Clearly this is designed to get people to spend more on the card, so they accrue more points.
Elimination of TripIt Pro subscription
One of the cool perks the card offers is a free TripIt Pro subscription, which otherwise retails for $49 per year. Apparently that benefit will be eliminated.
Changes in what counts as travel purchase?
I’ve explained in the past how different credit cards define the “travel” category. Barclaycard Arrival Plus miles can be redeemed towards travel purchases, which include the following as of now:
airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, trains, buses, taxis, limousines, and ferries
While the exact details haven’t yet been announced, apparently the categories which qualify as travel might be narrowed a bit.
What I make of these changes
I’d like to once again stress that these are rumored changes. They haven’t been officially announced, and it seems like the changes might not apply to existing cardmembers, at least initially.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus was a great card, though I’m kind of surprised to see these changes. That’s because there are some cash back cards which offer much more flexibility and only a slightly lower return.
For example, the Citi® Double Cash Card has no annual fee and offers 1% cash back when you make a purchase and then 1% cash back when you pay for that purchase. So that return is only marginally less than what you’d get on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, except the card has no annual fee and accrues “true” cash back, and not just cash back towards a travel purchase.
Let’s keep in mind that credit card companies rely largely on marketing to sell cards, as opposed to a strict comparison of benefits (otherwise I don’t think Capital One would be in business!). In other words, the folks at Barclaycard aren’t going to view the Citi® Double Cash Card as their competition, given that it’s targeted at a different kind of consumer. Instead they’d view another travel credit card as their competition.
Of course most of us are (hopefully) savvier than that!
We’ll want to wait until the changes are officially announced, both to confirm that they’re accurate, and also to see the impact this has on existing cardmembers. If these changes are true they’re certainly negative, and would make me much more likely to pick up a Citi® Double Cash Card in place of a Barlcaycard Arrival Plus.
If these changes are indeed accurate, what do you make of them? Will it impact your willingness to acquire/use the Barclaycard Arrival Plus?