Review of the Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard®
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The Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard is designed to be a simple, easy-to-use travel credit card. If you plan to spend $15,000 or more per year, on anything at all, this card could be a good choice to help fund your trips.
It offers 2X miles for every purchase you make, and isn’t limited to certain travel-related bonus reward categories like some cards. That means you can use it for your travel spending as well as everything else, giving you one convenient payment option no matter where you are or what you’re buying. This makes it much more flexible than many other travel cards.
Rather than having a signup bonus, this card rewards you for spending more every year with loyalty bonus miles. Spend $15,000 in a given year and you’ll get 15,000 bonus miles on top of what you’d typically earn. Spend another $10,000 and you’ll get another 10,000 bonus miles, for a maximum of 25,000 extra miles per year. If you want a card with a big signup bonus that lets you earn a ton of miles with just a few thousand in spending, this isn’t it.
You can easily redeem your miles for past travel expenses at a rate of 1 cent per mile. That gives you a cash back equivalent of 2%. And if you get those bonus miles you’ll be earning the equivalent of up to 3% cash back. There are also mile transfer options, although these don’t come at a very good rate so you’re better off avoiding them.
Cardholders get discounted airport lounge access through the Lounge Key program, though visits will still cost $27 each. And quite a few travel perks are available through World Elite Mastercard, including complimentary hotel services and a personal concierge to help you find the best deals on travel arrangements.
The Arrival Premier has a $150 annual fee, which you can offset by spending $7,500 per year. But the real value of this card comes after spending at least $15,000 per year, which will unlock the first loyalty bonus. So if you know you’ll be spending that much per year, on travel or anything else, this card might be for you.
This card is taking over from the old Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, which also offered 2X miles but had a lower fee. If you have that card, you can contact Barclays to request an upgrade to the Arrival Premier.
Our Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
We give this card 4 out of 5 Stars because it’s a good option for a general-use travel card, but the fee seems a bit high for the value you can get from the rewards and benefits.
Why we like this card
- Flexible, providing the same reward for every purchase you make
- Loyalty bonus miles to earn every year
- Discounted airport lounge access through Lounge Key, for a $27 fee
- Mastercard World Elite travel perks
- No foreign transaction fees
Why this card could be better
- Annual fee of $150 seems to be on the high side
- No bonus reward categories, so limited mile-earning potential
- No signup bonus
- Mile transfers aren’t offered at a very good rate
There are some upsides to general-use travel cards like this, and some downsides as well. Check out some other travel cards, with different perks and bonus reward categories for certain types of purchases.
Insider Advice: Using This Card as Part of Your Credit Card Strategy
- Use this card for most or all of your spending, rather than just a particular category like travel, because you’ll earn 2X miles for every purchase (2% cash back equivalent).
- Try to spend $25,000 per year to get both of the loyalty bonus offers, which will provide a total of 25,000 bonus miles. That would mean you’re getting the equivalent of up to 3% cash back.
- It would take $7,500 in spending to offset the $150 annual fee of this card for one year. But if you spend $15,000 and get the first set of loyalty bonus miles, that will offset the annual fee for three years, so this is a much better goal to aim for.
- If you’re not going to spend at least $15,000 per year to get the first 15,000 bonus miles, you should probably consider a different travel rewards card.
- Redeem your miles for travel statement credits to get the best deal, which will pay for travel expenses from the past 120 days (1 cent per mile).
- Enjoy discounted airport lounge access for a $27 fee, and other discounts on dining, retail purchases, and spa experiences with a free Lounge Key membership.
- Explore the Mastercard World Elite travel perks to get discounts at certain hotels and resorts, complimentary breakfasts, early check-in/late check-out, and other amenities.
- Call the World Elite Concierge when planning a trip for help finding the best deals available through Mastercard’s travel services.
- You can travel the world with this card more easily thanks to its Chip-and-PIN capability, making it more useful at unattended terminals and kiosks.
You’ll be able to earn the equivalent of 2–3% cash back with this card when redeeming your miles for travel statement credits. The value you get will depend on whether you reach the bonus thresholds or not.
- 2X miles per dollar for every purchase
- 25,000 loyalty bonus miles for spending $25,000 per year:
- 15,000 bonus miles for spending $15,000 on purchases in a year
- 10,000 bonus miles for spending an additional $10,000 in that year
You can earn an unlimited number of miles with this card, and they won’t expire as long as your account is open and in good standing (not in default).
Miles will be worth 1 cent each when redeemed for travel statement credits. At that value you’d be earning the equivalent of 2% cash back for every purchase.
Unlike most rewards cards, which offer a one-time-only signup bonus when you first get the card, the Arrival Premier provides a way to get bonus miles every year. You can get up to 25,000 bonus miles every year by spending a total of $25,000 with the card in that year.
Those bonus miles are in addition to what you’ll earn with the card. So, if you spend $15,000 with the card you’ll earn a total of 45,000 miles: 30,000 miles from the 2X rate, and another 15,000 bonus miles for reaching that threshold. Spend $25,000 and you’ll earn 75,000 miles total: 50,000 miles from the 2X rate, and 25,000 bonus miles.
If you reach that first threshold it will mean you effectively earned 3X miles per dollar, after counting the bonus miles (45,000 miles ÷ $15,000 = 3 miles per dollar). If you spend more your effective earning rate will drop, until you reach the second bonus threshold when it will jump back to 3X again. That 3X rate will be equivalent to 3% cash back, when redeeming miles for 1 cent each.
All that might sound complicated, but it means you’ll be earning the equivalent of between 2–3% cash back with this card, depending on whether or not you hit the bonus mile thresholds.
|Spending Per Year||Miles Earned||Value (1 cent per mile)||Cash Back Equivalent|
This rewards program could be a great alternative to a card with a signup bonus, but only for anyone who’ll spend $15k or $25k with the card per year, or more. But if you won’t spend that much, you might prefer a more typical signup bonus that only requires a few thousand in spending to earn. A good example of that is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review), which provides 100,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.
You can use the Arrival Premier to earn rewards at a decent rate on any kind of spending, without being limited to just one or two categories. Compare that to the Chase Sapphire Preferred again: it offers 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides and 2X points per dollar too, but only for travel and dining purchases. And it also provides a 2.5% cash back equivalent through normal redemption methods, right in the middle of the range you’ll get with this Barclays card.
So the Arrival Premier is more flexible in where you can earn miles. However, as you’ll see in the next section, you’ll still need to redeem those miles for travel-related expenses if you want to get the best value for them.
You’ll have a few different options for redeeming miles, but you’ll get the best value by redeeming for travel statement credits.
|Redemption Method||Value per Mile||Cash Back Equivalent|
|Travel statement credits||1 cent||2%|
|Cash back statement credits||.5 cents||1%|
|Gift cards||.5 cents||1%|
|Merchandise||Varies, but less than 1 cent||Varies, but less than 1%|
Here, the cash back equivalent doesn’t take into account any bonus miles you might earn. We’re just talking about the 2X miles you earn from purchases with the card.
Travel Statement Credits
You can use your miles to pay for travel expenses charged to your card, and they’ll be worth 1 cent each. That means you’ll be getting the equivalent of 2% cash back with this method.
There are some terms and conditions to be aware of when redeeming in this way.
Redemptions start at 10,000 miles, which will equal $100 towards all or a portion of an eligible travel purchase. To be eligible, a purchase must:
- have been made within the last 120 days
- be of $100 or more
- be among the eligible travel purchase types
|Eligible Travel Purchases for Mile Redemptions|
|account annual fee||airlines||hotels||motels||timeshares|
|campgrounds||car rental agencies||cruise lines||trains||buses|
|taxis||limousines||ferries||travel agencies||discount travel sites|
As you can see most travel purchases will be eligible, so it shouldn’t be hard to find ways to use your miles as long as you travel often enough. You can always hold onto miles until some qualifying purchases come up. And your account annual fee is even included, so you could always apply miles to that. This isn’t exactly a travel purchase, but Barclays includes it in this category.
After selecting this redemption method you’ll be given a list of any eligible transactions from the past 120 days. Just select the purchases you’d like to use the credit to pay for, and follow the prompts.
You can use travel statement credits to pay for practically any costs that come up when traveling. And if you like to use airline miles or hotel points to book your trips, you can use travel statement credits to help pay for any extra fees.
Take note that any purchases that aren’t made directly with a travel-related merchant won’t be eligible. That includes cafes in airports and purchases of in-flight WiFi, for example, which are serviced by different merchants.
Cash Back Statement Credits
When redeeming miles for cash back statement credits you’ll only get .5 cents per mile, which comes out to a cash back equivalent of only 1%.
A cash back statement credit will simply reduce your statement balance. These start at 5,000 miles for a $25 credit.
We recommend avoiding this redemption method because you’ll only get half the value you would from travel statement credits.
Gift cards only provide .5 cents per mile, for a cash back equivalent of 1%.
It will take a minimum of 5,000 miles to redeem in this way, which will provide a $25 gift card.
We recommend avoiding this method as well, because you won’t get as much as you would for travel statement credits.
Gift cards are available for a variety of merchants in different categories, including:
Barnes & Noble
Bass Pro Shops®
You can redeem your miles for purchases of specific merchandise, but the value you get will vary. It will always be less than 1 cent per mile, and will usually be about .5 cents per mile. That means you’ll be getting a cash back equivalent of just 1%.
Redemptions start at 5,000 miles for $25.
We recommend avoiding this method because you can get a value that’s twice as high with travel statement credits.
You can transfer your miles to any of the airline partners below. Barclays may eventually add more partners to the list.
Most transfers will be at the 1.4:1 ratio (except for JAL). That would mean you’d need to transfer 1,400 miles to get 1,000 partner miles or points.
|Airline Transfer Partners||Transfer Ratio|
|Air France/KLM Flying Blue||1.4:1|
|Japan Airlines (JAL)||1.7:1|
We recommend avoiding this method because the transfer ratio is poor and the value you get for your miles will vary widely, depending on where you transfer them and how you use them. You may be able to get a good deal if you’re familiar with one of the airlines above, and know how to get a great value for the miles. But in most cases, for most people, it will be most rewarding to redeem for travel statement credits where you’re guaranteed to get 1 cent per mile.
How to Offset the Annual Fee
The Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard comes with an annual fee of $150, which you’ll want to offset with the rewards you earn. So how much would you need to spend with the card to earn $150 in miles?
You’d need 15,000 miles, assuming you’ll redeem them for travel statement credits at 1 cent each. Earning miles at the 2X rate, you’d need to spend $7,500 with the card.
That would provide the 15,000 miles you need, which you can use to pay for $150 in previous travel expenses. Or, you could apply those miles directly to the annual fee when your renewal month comes around, because this is included in your travel statement credit options.
So you could offset the annual fee for a year by spending just $7,500. But what if you spend more and reach the bonus thresholds?
If you reach the first threshold ($15,000 in spending) you’ll earn a total of 45,000 miles, as described above. That’s worth $450, which would offset the annual fee for 3 years. Reaching the second threshold would provide a value of $750.
Here are some spending amounts, how much you’ll earn, and how long that will offset the annual fee.
|Spending Per Year||Miles Earned||Value (1 cent per mile)||Offset Annual Fee For (Years)|
Of course, you’ll want to use the card to actually make a bit of profit, rather than just offset the annual fee. So you should generally aim to spend more than $7,500 with it per year.
These calculations don’t take into account any of the other perks that come with this card, like Lounge Key discounted airport lounge access, the Global Entry credit, and various World Elite Mastercard benefits. Depending on how much you value these services, you may decide that you don’t need to spend as much to offset the fee.
Mastercard Airport Experiences Provided by Lounge Key
Register your card account with Lounge Key to gain access to airport lounges around the world, where you can relax in comfort before taking off. Lounge Key also provides special offers and discounts for select airport retailers and services.
In all, there are four different aspects to this benefit:
- Discounted access to over 850 airport lounges worldwide (a $27 entry fee will apply)
- Dining offers for a discount on your meals
- Retail offers at participating merchants
- Spa offers to get a nice deal on a relaxation package
Each airport will have a selection of offers you can choose from, and these may change over time.
The JFK International Airport, for example, has different offers for each terminal. Currently, you can relax in the Wingtips Lounge in Terminal 4, and then get a 10% discount on the SecureWrap baggage protection service.
In Terminal 5 you can get a deal at the Be Relax Spa, for a spa treatment plus O2 therapy. Then you can stop by the NY Minute gift shop where you’ll get 10% off.
There are many deals like this to be found with Lounge Key. Most of the retail offers will be for a 10% discount. There’s an Airport Membership Experiences app you can use to find lounges and offers, available in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.
This benefit doesn’t offer access to as many airport lounges as you’d get with some other credit cards. But at only $150 per year, the Arrival Premier is one of the cheapest to offer some form of lounge access. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review), a similar card offer, does not offer lounge access of any kind.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review), a step up from that card, does offer complimentary access to over 1,000 Priority Pass Select lounges, but that card costs $550 per year. And The Platinum Card® from American Express (Review) has the most inclusive free lounge access by far, including Priority Pass Select membership (though it excludes non-lounge experiences) along with Centurion Lounges and several more. That card matches the Reserve’s annual fee at $695 per year (Rates & Fees).
If you want a mid-range travel card that provides any kind of access to airport lounges, the Arrival Premier looks like your only option. And it also comes with some decent deals on dining, retail, and spas, which could save you some cash in other ways as well.
Global Entry Fee Credit
You’ll get a credit of $100 every five years to pay for the application fee for the Global Entry trusted traveler program. The application will cover a five-year membership.
Global Entry provides expedited clearance through Customs and Border Patrol, at airports and at the land border. This program also includes TSA Pre✓®, which provides expedited screening at TSA security checkpoints.
This benefit should help save you some time and headaches at the airport. Quite a few other credit cards offer a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ but they usually come with high annual fees, like the Citi Prestige® Card (Review) at $495.
Mastercard World Elite Travel & Lifestyle Services
You’ll have access to a wide variety of convenient and money-saving offerings through Mastercard’s travel services. These perks include:
- 24/7 access to a travel advisor
- discounts and upgrades at airlines and hotels
- elite status at participating car rentals
- at over 2,000 participating resorts:
- complimentary breakfast for two
- room upgrades
- amenities like food and beverages
The Mastercard Luxury Hotel & Resort portfolio is quite large and gives cardholders access to exclusive deals on travel. And you’ll frequently find high-end hotel rooms marked down. You can use Mastercard’s travel service to search for practically any form of travel you might want:
|flights||hotel rooms||cruises||rental car agencies||chauffeured cars||vacation packages||private jets|
There are also a variety of special offers that come and go throughout the year, some of which can be very valuable. Some examples include:
- Get up to a 15% discount at over 100 participating off-site airport parking facilities
- Stay 3 nights at select hotel chains and get your 4th night free
- Get a welcome amenity package of a bottle of wine, fresh fruit, and a chocolate dessert, along with free room upgrades and more at the Swiss Diamond Hotel Lugano, a 5-star luxury resort and spa
- Get a $50 hotel credit, early check-in/late check-out, daily breakfast, free room upgrades and more at the Intercontinental Cleveland 4-star premium hotel
- Receive a special amenity valued at $250 per person on Swain Destinations customized tours, along with a 5% savings on select tours
- Up to $1,000 in savings on round-trip private jet charter bookings with Skyjet
Search through Mastercard’s World Elite Luxury Travel Benefits yourself. Or use Mastercard’s travel booking service to plan your next trip.
World Elite Mastercard Concierge Service
Call the number on the back of your card at any time for all sorts of non-emergency assistance.
This service includes:
- Pre-trip planning advice and information, like visa and immunization requirements
- A service to find the best rates when booking travel, taking advantage of Mastercard’s other travel perks
- Assistance making reservations at premier restaurants, with access to unique experiences
- Help locating hard-to-find items, like special or unique gifts
If you get in a jam of some kind while traveling, call your concierge to see how they might be able to help.
People call their credit card concierge for all sorts of reasons, some serious and some not so much. You can read about the experiences of a former Amex Platinum Card concierge, which includes some pretty interesting requests like help finding a vintage Rolex that cost $13,000.
Share Stories, Earn Miles
Take part in the Barclaycard Travel Community to enhance your travel experiences. You’ll earn more miles by posting your original travel stories, or getting “kudos” from other registered members.
There are a variety of ways to earn miles in this way. You can:
- Earn 500 miles by completing your member profile
- Earn 150 miles for posting a travel story of at least 100 words accompanied by a photo
- Earn 10 miles per detail for adding details to the stories
- Earn 10 miles every time your story is “kudoed” by another member
This can be a fun way to earn some extra miles. But you’ll have to decide if it’s worth it to post your vacation stories for $1.50 or so in travel credits.
Chip-and-Signature and Chip-and-Pin Technology
This card supports both Chip-and-Signature and Chip-and-PIN EMV technology. That’s unlike many cards issued in the U.S., which only have Chip-and-Signature.
The PIN function of this card makes it usable at terminals around the world that only accept PINs and not signatures. Many attended checkout terminals will allow Chip-and-Signature as the verification method. But self-service terminals, like those at gas pumps, train stations, and ticket kiosks, often take extra security measures. They will sometimes require a Chip-and-PIN card to verify the transaction.
Most countries around the world now use EMV technology. However, many cards issued in the U.S. only use signatures as the verification method, rather than having both signatures and PINs as options.
You will be prompted to set a 4-digit PIN when you activate your card, either online or by phone. You should choose something you will easily remember.
Take note that after you set your PIN you will need to activate it. To do so, use your card at a Chip-and-Signature terminal with a cashier. Then sign for your purchase to complete the transaction. This will enable the PIN function, and it will not work until you activate it in this way. If you ever change your PIN later on, you will need to activate it again like this.
If you forget your PIN you can reset it online, or you can call the number on your card and request to have it mailed to you.
Your PIN can also be used to take out cash advances at ATMs. But we do not recommend this because you’ll immediately start accruing interest at the very high cash advance APR. If you absolutely have to take out a cash advance, try to pay it back as soon as possible.
Remember to always let Barclaycard know before traveling abroad. Otherwise they could put a hold on your card for unusual and suspicious use.
World Elite Mastercard Benefits
There are even more World Elite Mastercard benefits than those listed above. This selection of perks can vary, and may change over time, so be sure to check your Guide to Benefits or the Mastercard World Elite site to learn the specific services you have access to.
Mastercard World Elite benefits include:
- A 10% discount at select hotels and resorts through the onefinestay program
- The Priceless Cities service, which provides exclusive experiences at select cities around the world, for a fee
- Priceless Surprises, which may surprise you with a fantastic gift or experience for using your card (or may not, apparently)
- A meet-and-greet at participating airport via the Global Airport Concierge service
- Complimentary ShopRunner membership, which provides free two-day shipping and returns at select retailers
The Arrival Premier comes with a selection of travel protections to help out in case of emergencies or less drastic problems. These include:
- Mastercard Global and Travel Assistance Services for 24-hour assistance in the event of an emergency while traveling
- Travel Accident Insurance provides up to $250,000 in coverage against accidental loss of life, limb, sight, speech, or hearing (when traveling by common carrier)
- Trip Cancellation/Interruption to reimburse you if your trip is cancelled or interrupted for an eligible reason, like sickness or financial insolvency of the travel provider
- Baggage Delay Insurance will cover up to $100 per day for 3 days for the purchase of essential items if your bags are delayed
- Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver to cover damage or theft of rented vehicles, as long you decline the rental company’s own insurance
There are also benefits to protect the purchases you make with this card. Some of them are:
- Purchase Security to cover your purchased items from being broken or stolen
- Price Protection in case you find an item you bought being advertised for a lesser price (you can be reimbursed for the difference)
- Extended Warranties to double the manufacturer’s warranty on eligible items up to an additional year, for warranties of three years or less
- Return Protection to reimburse you for the cost of an eligible item if the retailer won’t accept a return
Cardholders get yet more benefits with their card, mostly about account management and security. These include:
- Identity Theft Resolution Services to provide assistance if you believe you’re a victim of identity theft
- $0 Fraud Liability Protection so you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges (contact customer support immediately if you suspect fraudulent use)
The Costs & Fees
|Purchase APR||Balance Transfer APR||Cash Advance APR|
|17.49%, 21.49%, or 24.49% Variable||17.49%, 21.49%, or 24.49% Variable||26.74% Variable|
|Annual Fee||Foreign Transaction Fee||Balance Transfer Fee||Cash Advance Fee|
|$150||0%||3%; min $5||5%: min $10|
|Penalty APR||Late Fee||Returned Payment Fee|
|See Terms||Up to $37||Up to $37|
The terms and fees of the Arrival Premier are pretty easy to understand. You’ll need to pay a $150 annual fee for the privilege of using it. As we saw above, you can offset that fee by spending as little as $7,500 with the card.
Any purchases you make will be charged interest at the rate above, there is no 0% introductory APR. But you can still avoid interest charges on purchases by paying your balance in full each month. That will do several things for you at once:
- Interest won’t be charged on your balance, which could otherwise eat up any rewards you earn (this assumes you don’t use the card for balance transfers or cash advances)
- It will prevent credit card debt from accumulating and growing out of control
- Your credit utilization will be lower, which is good for your credit scores
- The credit line will be clear so you can keep using the card to earn more miles
If you fall into a habit of not paying the full balance each month, this card could start costing you money instead of helping you save it. That’s why we recommend always paying your balance in full.
You won’t need to pay any foreign transaction fees, which is an expected feature for any travel credit card with some self-respect.
The Bottom Line
The Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard is an attractive offer for travelers looking for a general-use travel credit card. It lets you earn miles at a decent rate on any kind of spending, rather than being limited to a few travel-related bonus categories.
The 2X miles may not be a lot compared to a high-end travel card, but it makes the Arrival Premier more flexible than most. Use this card for everything, whether your booking travel or just buying your weekly groceries, and that will make it easier to hit the annual loyalty bonuses too. If you do that you’ll earn up to 3% cash back equivalent with the card, a nice boost over the regular rate.
The extra perks are fairly good for a card at this fee level, especially the Lounge Key discounted airport lounge access. That’s something you typically only find on cards with much higher annual fees. You could potentially get quite a lot out of the Mastercard World Elite luxury travel perks too. Just call your concierge to get help finding the best deals available.
The Arrival Premier card could be a good fit for travelers who spend around $15,000 per year, or more. Even if you don’t spend very much on travel in particular, you can use this card for every kind of spending — you’ll just need to redeem your miles for travel expenses to get the best value.
There are many other travel cards out there, some cheaper and some more expensive. Some others have bonus reward categories or are co-branded with a particular airline or hotel, rather than offering a general reward for every purchase. Check out some of those alternative travel credit cards below.
How to Apply for the Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard
You can apply for the Barclays Arrival Premier Card by clicking the Apply Now button below. Then you’ll be taken to Barclays’ website, where they’ll check one of your credit reports from one of the three major credit bureaus.
Many applicants will get an instant decision, but occasionally it could take several days if your information can’t be verified immediately. In some cases, Barclays may contact you to request more information.
If you have the Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, you can contact Barclays to request an upgrade to the Arrival Premier.
Qualifications and Requirements
- Must be 18 to apply
- Personal identifying information, including SSN, email address, and phone number
- Total annual income, and source of income
- Monthly mortgage/rent payment
Alternatives to the Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard
- 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides
- 2X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on:
- Dining at restaurants
- 1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
- Introductory bonus: 100,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening
- 25% point bonus when you redeem points for airfare, hotel stays, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards
You won’t earn 2X points for as many purchases as you would with the Arrival Premier, you’ll be limited to just travel and dining. So this card is better for more focused spending.
You get a one-time signup bonus here, instead of a loyalty spending bonus you can earn every year. You’ll have to decide which would be more valuable to you overall: a big bonus in the first few months, or the potential for more bonus miles but spread out over the course of years?
The points you earn with this card will be worth 1 cent each. But if you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards they get a 25% boost, for 1.25 cents per point. That means you’d be getting a cash back equivalent of 2.5%, when spending on travel or dining.
Compare that to the 2–3% cash back equivalent you’ll get with the Arrival Premier, which depends on whether or not you get the bonus miles. You may earn the high end or the low end of that range, depending on how much you spend in a particular year. The Sapphire Preferred can always provide the equivalent of 2.5% cash back, but you’ll be more limited in where you can spend.
If you know that you’ll be spending $15,000 or more on any purchases throughout the year, the Arrival Premier could be the right choice because you’ll be earning the equivalent of more than 2% cash back and getting a bonus every year. But if you won’t spend that much and you only want a card to pay for travel expenses, you might prefer the Sapphire Preferred because you’ll get 2.5% back no matter how much you spend. And you could get the signup bonuses too.
The Chase card has the better point transfer program. Instead of a 1.4:1 rate, like it usually is with the Arrival Premier, the Sapphire Preferred provides a 1:1 transfer rate for every travel partner. This is a much better deal.
The Barclays travel partners may seem a bit exotic to most travelers in the U.S., but Chase includes brands like Southwest Airlines, United, and British Airways. Chase also has more travel partners, currently 12, and they include a few hotels like Hyatt® and Marriott®.
So if you want a card for earning points that you can transfer to airlines or hotels at a great rate, the Sapphire Preferred is a much better choice than the Arrival Premier.
Don’t get the Sapphire Preferred card for the extra benefits. They’re fairly basic for the most part, not nearly as good as the World Elite Mastercard perks that come with the Arrival Premier.
You’ll get some protections like Purchase Protection, Trip Delay Reimbursement, and Baggage Delay Insurance, among several others. But for the most part, the main attraction of this card is the rewards program.
Costs & Fees
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is less expensive, with an annual fee of only $95. Other than that the terms are pretty similar, including no foreign transaction fees. You can offset that by spending $3,800 per year.
Overall, the main points to compare between these cards are the annual fee and the rewards program. If you want a card mainly for travel spending, the Sapphire Preferred could be the right pick. But if you want a card for any kind of shopping the Arrival Premier will be a better fit.
Read more in our Review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
This card has several bonus categories, unlike the Arrival Premier. You’ll earn more points per dollar on flights and the other bonus categories, and fewer points for other non-category purchases. So this card is focused more on food and travel purchases in particular, rather than being designed for all-around spending.
The Membership Rewards points you earn will be worth 1 cent each when redeeming for flights through Amex Travel. That’s the best value you can get through the normal methods, which means a cash back equivalent of 4% for the 4X categories, 3% back for the 3X, and so on.
You can transfer your points to a frequent traveler program instead, which in some cases will offer a better value. Most of the transfers will be at a 1:1 rate, providing a better deal than you’ll get with the Arrival Premier. Amex includes both airline and hotel partners in their offering, with common brands like British Airways, Delta SkyMiles, and JetBlue Airways.
The value you get from a point transfer will vary depending on the particular deal you take. If you get a deal that provides 2 cents per point, for example, you’d be earning a cash back equivalent of 8% in the 4X categories, and 6% in the 3X categories (at an annual fee of $250).
You’ll find different benefits on the Amex Gold. There is no discounted airport lounge access, and no credit for Global Entry.
There’s also a $120 annual dining credit, broken up into $10 per month. This credit is only available for select restaurants and delivery services, but the delivery services should give you plenty of options to make use of it.
Another important perk is The Hotel Collection program, which provides $100 in credit for every eligible stay of two nights or more. Couple that with the guaranteed lowest hotel rates you’ll get, and you should be able to find some nice savings if you book several hotel stays per year.
Amex provides some other useful benefits as well, like access to the Amex Offers shopping portal, which provides opportunities to earn extra points at a changing selection of merchants (offers are limited; enrollment required).
Costs & Fees
The Gold Card comes with an annual fee of $250, and has no foreign transaction fees (Rates & Fees).
Read more in our Review: The American Express® Gold Card – Best Dining/Travel Card?
As you can see, this card is centered around spending with the American Express travel service, as well as directly with airlines. You’ll get the best reward rates on airlines and hotels, very common travel spending categories, with fewer points per dollar for other travel spending through Amex Travel.
If you’re going for flexibility in where you can earn rewards, you won’t really get it with this card. But if you can plan to do most or all of your travel spending through Amex Travel, this card has the potential to be very profitable.
You’ll have several different ways to redeem your Membership Rewards points. The most valuable normal way is for airline flights, which will provide 1 cent per point. That’s a cash back equivalent of 5% for the 5X category, 2% cash back equivalent for the 2X category, etc.
You can also transfer your points to a wide variety of frequent traveler programs, including airlines and hotels plus the Plenti retail program. The transfer rate will vary by partner and it may change over time as well, although in many cases it will be 1:1. In pretty much every case it will be a better rate than what you get with the Arrival Premier. From time to time, special offers will be available for more favorable point transfers.
Transfers will provide different values for your points, depending on how, when, and where you redeem them. You may get more or less than 1 cent per point. In some cases we’ve found cash back equivalents of about 7%, a pretty good deal. But your mileage will vary, and you may find deals offering less than 5%.
The Platinum card is much-loved for its vast set of extra perks. You’ll be able to use these to help offset the annual fee, save money while traveling, and have more enjoyable trips in general.
This card probably provides the best airport lounge access out of any credit card available today. The Global Lounge Collection provides complimentary, unlimited access to almost every lounge that other cards include, plus more:
- Priority Pass
- American Express Centurion Lounges
- Airspace Lounge
- Delta Sky Club
- Escape Lounges
If airport lounge access is a benefit you’re really interested in, you couldn’t top this offer.
There’s also a fee credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck✓. With this card you get to pick the one you’d like, although Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck✓. If, for some reason, you only want TSA PreCheck✓ without Global Entry, you can have that with this card.
And there’s even more than that. Automatic Gold member status is provided with both Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, so you’ll be treated well at a very wide swath of hotels around the world. You can also get a credit of up to $100* on eligible hotel stays, making your trips even easier on your wallet.
This doesn’t even cover all of the benefits you’ll get with the Platinum card. While some cards make you question whether you’re getting your money’s worth or not, that probably won’t happen with this card (as long as you travel enough).
Enrollment required for select benefits; terms and limitations apply.
Costs & Fees
The Amex Platinum has a hefty annual fee of $695 (Rates & Fees), so you shouldn’t apply for this card without thinking it through. It’s designed for people who travel pretty often throughout the year, spending quite a bit of money in the process.
If you’re in the market for a premium travel card, the Platinum card should be on your list.
Read more in our Review of the Platinum Card from American Express
Airline and Hotel Credit Cards
Some credit cards are co-branded with particular airlines or hotels. They earn the most points with that brand, and provide the best redemption options and benefits with that brand as well. You can often get great returns with these cards, but you’re limited to spending and redeeming with that particular brand.
Airline Credit Card
The JetBlue Plus Card is issued by Barclays and is co-branded with JetBlue Airways. As you can see, it provides cardholders with quite a few points for booking flights online.
- Anniversary bonus: 5,000 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary, every year
- Redemption bonus: get 10% of your points back every time you redeem
- Getaway Vacation Offer: $100 statement credit for each year in which you purchase a JetBlue Getaways vacation package
You’ll get at least 9X points per dollar when booking online, and you could get even more than that with higher-class bookings. The point-earning opportunities are quite low when not spending with JetBlue.
Points are worth around 1.2 cents each when redeemed for JetBlue award flights, and we’ve found that you can get a cash back equivalent of around 12–13%. That assumes you’re earning at the 9X rate. But you can raise that rate with higher-class bookings, or by achieving JetBlue Mosaic status which provides an extra 3X points per dollar. You can reach Mosaic status by spending $50,000 in a given year with the card.
There are some perks to go along with the rewards. The most valuable are getting your first checked bag free and a 50% discount on in-flight purchases from JetBlue. You’ll find benefits like these on most airline cards, although this 50% offer is probably the best discount you’ll find on in-flight purchases.
There’s a $99 annual fee for using this card, so it’s not for people who only fly rarely. You can offset that with as little as $917 in spending per year, however, at the 9X rate.
Hotel Credit Card
- 17X points per dollar at Marriott Bonvoy hotels and resorts
- 6X points per dollar from the card
- 11X points per dollar for Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status
- 2X points per dollar on all other purchases
- Introductory bonus: 3 Free Nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases + 10X total points on eligible purchases in select categories
So you’ll get the best rate when spending at Marriott, of course, but there are a few other bonus categories here as well. If you value a Marriott point at about 1 cent, this would mean you’re getting the equivalent of 17% cash back on Marriott spending, which is a great deal.
The most common way to use your points with a hotel credit card is for free night stays, which start at 7,500 points at the lowest-category hotels.
Cardholders also get a couple nice perks: automatic Silver Elite status at Marriott, which comes with free in-room WiFi, late check-out, and other helpful perks. In addition to that, after your account anniversary with the card you’ll get one free night’s stay per year, at a category 1–5 hotel. This only begins after your first year with the card.
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless costs $95 per year. It won’t take much spending to offset that at the 17X rate — somewhere between $450 and $550, depending on your redemption method.
Airline and hotel cards can offer some great rewards and benefits, but they only make sense if you spend a lot of time and money with that specific brand. Otherwise, travelers are probably better off with a general-use card like the Barclays Arrival Premier.
The Discover it® Miles (Review) seems a bit unassuming, especially compared to all the other cards on this page. But it has a few qualities that could make it very attractive as a travel card for people who don’t travel too much.
- 1.5X miles per dollar on every purchase
- Miles Match: your miles are doubled for the first year of use
Like the Arrival Premier, you’ll earn miles for every purchase you make with this card, with no reward categories. And your miles will be worth 1 cent each, also the same.
But unlike the Arrival Premier, and probably every other travel credit card, Discover will provide 1 cent per mile for every redemption method, including cash back statement credits. That means you don’t need to wait until you have some travel expenses to get a good redemption value, you can just get a regular statement credit to reduce your account balance.
So the Discover it Miles is very much like a basic rewards credit card, providing the equivalent of 1.5% cash back for every purchase you make. That’s pretty good. But since Discover will double all the rewards you earn in your first year, you’ll actually earn the equivalent of 3% back for every purchase in that year. And that’s a better offer than the Arrival Premier.
This card is more flexible than the Arrival Premier, which itself is a pretty flexible card already. But with the Discover it Miles not only can you earn rewards for any purchase, you can cash in those rewards very easily.
- Free FICO Credit Score: You can check your FICO Score 8 for free, based on your TransUnion credit report.
- Freeze It: You can freeze your account online at any time. No one will be able to use your card to make new purchases, cash advances, or balance transfers until you unfreeze your account.
- Free Overnight Card Replacement: If your card is lost or stolen, you can get a new card sent overnight for free.
Costs & Fees
The Discover it Miles has no annual fee, making it a good option if you’re not sure if you’ll be traveling much. If you don’t end up using it, it won’t cost you any money, unlike the Arrival Premier.
This card also has an introductory purchase APR for See Terms before the regular See Terms APR kicks in, making it great for paying off an expensive trip over time.
With no annual fee, this card could potentially be more profitable than the Barclays Arrival Premier, even though it offers miles at a lesser rate. You’d need to spend $7,500 with the Arrival Premier to offset its annual fee, as discussed above. But if you spend that same amount with the Discover it Miles you’d earn $112.50 worth of rewards, which you could redeem in a variety of ways.
You also wouldn’t get any of the travel perks of the Arrival Premier, however, like discounted airport lounge access or World Elite Mastercard services. So you’ll have to weigh the value of those benefits against the annual fee to decide which card would be worth more to you.
Read more in our Review of the Discover it Miles Credit Card
Do you use the Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard to earn miles to help fund your travel adventures? How do you like it? Leave your own review below, we’d love to hear from you!
Looking for other cards to make traveling cheaper and easier? See our picks for the Best Travel Credit Cards.
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