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Anyone new to the miles and points game will quickly realize that there are several types of ‘travel rewards’ credit cards---airline mile, bank-point travel rebate, and flexible-point credit cards. Each type of card holds its own purpose and in all reality if you are serious about reaping maximum benefits from miles and points you should have at least one of each kind of card.
Where airline miles that are great for award flight redemptions, especially long-haul international and premium cabin flights, you won’t get the same value per point redeeming, say United miles for a domestic flight that costs ~$100. In fact it would make little sense to redeem airline miles at such a low value per mile redemption when you can redeem them for international flights and easily get upwards of 3.0+ cents per mile. This is where bank-point travel rebate cards come into play.
One of the most widely talked about cards in this category is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. It stands alone as one of the highest earning ‘travel reimbursement’ type of credit cards and earns 2.2 cents per dollar spent when the miles are redeemed for travel. It’s important to mention that the Arrival card should strictly be used for travel redemptions since that will yield the highest value per mile.
When Arrival miles are redeemed for travel you will earn a 10% mile rebate that instantly posts to your account. So even when the card is marketed as earning 2 miles per dollar spend on all purchases, when you redeem those miles you will earn another 10% (hence the 2.2 cents per dollar spent).
Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card - 40,000 Bonus Miles & 2X Earnings
The Arrival Plus card is offering a 40,000 miles welcome bonus after spending $3,000 within the first three months. You can get $440 worth of travel when you redeem the 40,000 miles for statement credit to cover travel costs.
One of the perks of using bank-point reimbursement miles is that you can use them to cover any type of travel. You simply purchase a flight, hotel, etc. using your Arrival card and you can redeem miles at a value of 1 cent per mile through you online Barclays Arrival account.
One of the reasons I like the Arrival Plus is that it earns 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases, and while its miles have a set value, they can still be useful. The high earning rate of this card is perfect for non-bonus spending categories offered through other cards. It may also be a good strategy to just use the card to build up and keep a balance of Arrival miles in your account to cover unexpected travel costs that cannot be covered by normal airline miles and hotel points.
Best Use of Arrival Miles
Among the best uses of Arrival miles is to cover the cost of cheap airfare, non-brand hotel stays (AirBnB, guesthouses, etc), award booking fees, and rental cars. This is where diversifying your points strategy can come into play, and by having the right rewards points and airline miles can help you stretch them further.
Low-cost flights. On my recent travel across Southeast Asia I used 40,000+ Arrival miles to cover four low cost flights. Arrival miles are great for covering the cost of cheap airfare and even routes that are not bookable using traditional airline miles. I paid for several JetStar and AirAsia flights during my trip that cost around ~$60 each and simply logged into my account account and used my Arrival miles to cover the travel purchase.
Accommodations. Another good strategy for getting cheap stays is to use Arrival miles for alternative accommodations such as AirBnb and smaller guesthouses and hotels. Say for instance you don’t find the value in spending a large amount of hotel points for a stay in a larger city, but you can find accommodations on AirBnB for $20 per night. You can get a free night with only $1,000 of everyday spending on the Arrival Plus card (2X $1,000 = 2,000 miles/$20 in free travel)! The point to make here is that you can earn free stays at a much lower total everyday spending than other hotel credit cards.
The trade off of course is that this is not for everyone, but it is possible to find great accommodations for $40 or less in many cities around the world. Not to mention it would cost MUCH more in everyday spending to earn a free night at a low-tier loyalty brand hotel.
Rental cars. The Arrival card is among the only cards that will cover the cost of rental cars. So if you frequently use rental cars during your travels, the Arrival card might be a good option to cover those costs by using points.
Award booking fees. In a perfect world we could always avoid high taxes and fees (or close-in booking fees) when booking award tickets, but when it’s all but impossible, using Arrival miles can be used to cover these fees---keeping award tickets completely free. The 40,000 miles from the welcome bonus can be used to cover $400 in award taxes and fees on a traditional airline award ticket.
Barclays Arrival Vs. Other Cards for Everyday Spending
The high earning potential of the Arrival Plus is likely the most attractive aspect of the card and sets the it in front of it’s rivals. You’ll earn two miles per dollar on all purchases, so whether you use it for gas, grocery, or personal shopping you will earn 2X miles.
There are no bonus categories and you will earn miles that can only be used for travel reimbursement, but earning 2.2% back on every purchase in enticing. Almost all airline earning credit cards will earn you a flat 1X mile per dollar outside of purchases of their own airline.
The question is ‘in what ratio do you want to earn travel reimbursement type points vs. traditional airline miles?’ Likely if you are serious about earning miles and points you are using credit cards for every purchase possible. Choosing a mix of cards that earn rewards to fit your travel needs will result in maximum travel rewards.
An example of a good mix of card for spending categories could include:
Ink Plus/Bold: 5X at office supply stores, telecom and television expenses.
Co-branded airline credit cards (United, AA, UA Airways, etc): Earn extra bonus miles for airline purchases.
Co-branded hotel credit cards (IHG, Marriott, SPG, etc): Earn extra bonus points for hotel stays and maximize bonus categories (e.g. Hilton Amex Surpass’s 6X points per dollar at grocery stores).
Chase Sapphire Preferred: 2X points per dollar on travel and restaurant spends.
Barclays Arrival Plus: Fill in the gaps and earn 2X on all other purchases.
The breakdown shows how choosing the right card for the right purchases can easily help you earn more miles and points. There are many good card options out there, and each person will value certain rewards points differently, but having a strategy and the right cards to maximize bonus spending categories will allow you to get more free travel.
From this example you can also see where the Barclays Arrival Plus fits in. If you only use it for purchases that don’t fall into another card’s bonus spending category, then you are still earning 2X miles per dollar vs. the 1X point that another card will get you. One way to look at it is to use it for a backup card to ensure you’re earning top rewards.
Valuing Arrival Miles Vs. Airline Miles
Since Arrival miles are only redeemable at a set value of 1 cent each you know exactly how much they are worth. On the other hand, airline miles can be used for redemptions that greatly vary in value whether you're redeeming miles for domestic economy or premium international award flights.
Some of the best points to compare include Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can easily be transferred to a hotel or airline program and redeemed for 2.0+ cents each. In this case, on non-bonus spending would you rather earn 1 point per dollar with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and redeem each point at 2.0 cents each OR earn 2 miles per dollar spend on all purchases with the Arrival card and redeem them for 1.0 cent each. They almost break even, but in my opinion the Arrival has the leg up because you can purchase whatever travel you like and redeem miles for a statement credit---no award availability problems, etc.
The Bottom Line
Earning the 40,000 bonus miles from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus MasterCard is a great way to get $440 worth in free travel. Keeping the card to use for random spending that does not fall into another cards bonus earning categories will allow you to earn 2X per dollar.
Apart from that you need to ask yourself ‘how much you value airline miles?’ and ‘in what ratio do you want to earn airline miles vs. bank-point reimbursement points?’ If you want to maximize your miles and points there should be a spot in your wallet for both. The takeaway here is to earn airline miles for international and premium cabin flights and utilize Arrival miles to cover award booking fees, cheap airfare, accommodations, and rental cars.