Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Barclays

Increased bonus on this flexible point travel card!

While I tend to target hotel, airline, and bank cards with flexible transferable points, sometimes you just need some “miles” that just act like cash. This is for those random expenses you can’t cover with other currencies. It could be a night at a bed and breakfast or a ferry ride to Newfoundland. That’s where cards like the Barclaycard Arrival+ come in.

Elevated bonus on the Barlcaycard Arrival+

The Barclaycard Arrival+ is currently offering an increased bonus of 60,000 “miles” after $5,000 in purchases within the first 90 days and payment of the $89 annual fee. After hitting the spending requirement, you’ll have $700 worth of flexible travel points that cost you $89. Definitely worth looking into.

Redeeming your miles is easy. You simply charge a travel purchase to your card and then use your miles as a statement credit to offset the purchase within 120 days. One of the only “features” I dislike is that the minimum redemption is $100 or 10,000 miles.

Additionally, the card provides a 5% rebate when you redeem your “miles”. The card also waives foreign transaction fees and earns 2x miles per dollar spent on all purchases.

At the end of the day, it really isn’t an earth-shattering product. It’s essentially a 2% cash back card that has a $100 redemption requirement and gives you back an extra 5%. Things like the collision damage coverage may help make up for the annual fee, but a better card might just be a plain ol’ Citi DoubleCash (SEE: 5 of the best no-fee credit cards for travel) that will earn you 2% back on everything with no annual fee.

But that sign-up bonus is worth chasing. I used the sign-up bonus from my Arrival+ back in 2015 to pay for our ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland, something we never could have done without the flexible points.

Experience with Barclays approvals

Some people struggle to be approved for products with Barclays. I don’t know why. I’ve never hit them furiously like I have…uh…Amex. But they’ve approved me for almost everything I’ve applied for.

Just take it slow and steady. If this is your first card with Barclays and you don’t have a lot of hits on your credit report and otherwise good credit, you’ll probably be fine.

Downgrading to the Barclaycard Arrival

After holding onto the Barclaycard Arrival+ for a year, my wife and I both downgraded ours to the plain Arrival card (without an annual fee). I typically would have straight-up canceled, but in this case, there is still an ongoing benefit from having the card: ability to earn miles by writing travel stories.

If you sign up for the Barclaycard Travel Community and link your Arrival+ or Arrival card, you can earn miles by writing travel stories. You can actually earn points towards Amazon gift cards if you don’t have the card, but the earn rate is significantly worse. I can easily earn the equivalent of $2 per story if I write a  quick 100 word summary, add a photo, and add a handful of travel detail “points of interest” that each give you 10 miles.

Conclusion

With the elevated bonus and the ability to use the miles flexibly for any travel purchases, the Barclaycard Arrival+ is a great option if you’re on the lookout for a new card. As always, do your research for yourself. Don’t just sign up because a random guy on the internet told you to. 😉

Why We Are Using Our BarclayCard Arrival+ MasterCard In Europe This Summer

For just over a week now, my wife and I have been on an extended European adventure. We have visited the French Riviera, Milan, and are currently in San Marino, with more to come, including Rome, Florence, and Ireland. You can read a bit more about ur plans here. As part of our preparation for the trip, I settled on a pared-down set of credit cards for use while across the pond. Normally I carry 8-12 in my wallet at any given time, and I trimmed us down to only 6 between the two of us. The main reason is security; I don’t want to have to call too many banks to cancel a bunch of cards if one of our wallets is stolen. Right now we would have to call Amex and Barclays if mine was taken, and Chase if hers. Let’s hope this planning is unnecessary.

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The Hyatt card stayed home, although we had two Hyatt stays. Rooms were paid with points.

Each card was selected for specific reasons. We are staying at hotels with 4 different major chains, so I was initially thinking we would bring each of those co-branded cards. However, I decided to only bring a Hilton card and my SPG card. I figured any extras could be purchased with one of our other cards at the Hyatt and IHG hotels. Card number 3 is my United MileagePlus Explorer, only because we are still finishing the sign-up bonus. Kelsey’s Chase Sapphire was selected as the 4th because it has a large credit limit and has 2x on travel purchases. Cards 5 and 6 are her BarclayCard Arrival+ and my no-fee Arrival.

The card du jour for this trip will certainly be my wife’s BarclayCard Arrival+ MasterCard. She just recently obtained it, and we still need to hit the spending bonus (for 40,000 “miles” that we will use to cover a hotel night and our train travel in Italy). This was an important enough reason to bring it along, but there are three other ways in which it is helpful:

  1. Chip + Pin Support. Credit card transactions in Europe (and a whole lot of the rest of the world) use a different technology than we do in the United States. Many U.S. cards still use the old mag-stripe technology, although newer ones are chip-enabled. However, although U.S. cards now have a chip, they are chip-and-signature. This means that although transactions are processed using the chip (instead of the mag-stipe), they still only require the signature of the customer. European cards use chip-and-pin technology. Instead of a cardholder signature, they require entry of a pin code (like a U.S. debit card at an ATM). Most U.S. cards are not pin enabled. This normally isn’t all that much of a problem in Europe because both mag-stripe and chip-and-signature technology usually work just fine for the bulk of transactions. However, there are some automated kiosks and other merchants that only accept chip-and-pin cards. This makes the BarclayCard Arrival+ a great card to have because it is chip and pin enabled. We already ran into a Milan metro kiosk that wouldn’t process my Chase Visa.
  2. No Foreign Transaction Fees. We have quite a few cards now with hits perk, so this isn’t really a make-or-break issue. We could just as easily use the Chase Sapphire Preferred. However, even among cards with no foreign transaction fees, some win out over others. Which brings me to point number three…
  3. Lower MasterCard Exchange Rates. One thing I didn’t know until this past week was that the different credit processing companies (Visa, Amex, MasterCard, etc.) have different currency exchange rates. These can fluctuate daily, and one may be better than another at any given time. From a few sources, I have heard that MasterCard’s exchange rates are on average the best, although this may or may not be the case on any given day. Our own experience has shown them to be essentially equal. Doing the math on our purchases over the last few days, the Visa and MasterCard rates are essentially the same (0.900 EUR per USD). I may run receipts from a few more dates for fun as the trip progresses to see if MasterCard is indeed the better option. The savings are still small, however, and they are completely negated when I make stupid purchases.

The BarclayCard Arrival+ is a decent card to have in your wallet for international travel. I don’t consider it a great card overall (you can find no-fee 2% cash back cards), but the benefits it provides while overseas may help make it worth the premium. Plus, having either it or the no-fee version allows for some extra point accrual through the BarclayCard travel community.

Why You Should Join The BarclayCard Travel Community

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I first got the BarclayCard Arrival+ MasterCard back in the summer of 2014. Now I can’t even remember where I found the offer or discovered the card. I wasn’t following any travel blogs at that time, and I had never heard of BarclayCard before then. But the Arrival+ appealed to me enough at the time, offering a solid 2.1% back on travel (including the 10% rebate on point redemption).

The Arrival+ is a decent card to have in your wallet. The sign-up offer typically sits at 40,000 bonus points after $3,000 of spending within 90 days, and the return is a constant 2 points/dollar. The points are easily redeemable through the BarclayCard website as a travel credit against any purchases coded in specific travel categories. Every time you redeem points, you also get a 10% rebate (although this has gone down to 5% for new offers). There are definitely comparable cards out there that provide a 2% return, including the Citi DoubleCash card, which doesn’t carry a fee like the Arrival+. The $89 annual fee was the main reason I downgraded the no-fee Arrival version (without the +) after a year. However, I held onto that version of the card for one reason: the BarclayCard Travel Community.

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The BarclayCard Travel Community offers is the ability to earn a significant number of extra miles on your Arrival or Arrival+ card. Launched in late 2013, the travel community is a place where people can post their travel stories, track their travel around the world, and read the stories of others. The best part is, BarclayCard gives you miles in exchange for posting stories.

The community has gone through a couple iterations on exactly how many miles can be accrued per story, but the total maximum per story is currently 400 miles. This is essentially up to a $4 return per story. You are credited 150 miles for each story you post with a picture, and then 10 miles per “travel detail” that you add, up to 25 details, which can provide an additional 250 miles. There is a 100 word minimum for telling your story. You cannot just post a title and picture. I was happy when they changed this from 50 words to 100 words since it kept people from typing 3 sentences about the place and moving on.

The miles can be redeemed in one of two ways: either they will transfer to your link BarclayCard Arrival+ or BarclayCard Arrival credit card after your next statement, or every 2,500 miles can be redeemed for $5 of Amazon credit. The transfer to the linked account is by far the better option, and is the only reason why I kept my downgraded Arrival. I hardly use the card, but I was able to redeem $100 against an Amtrak ticket this Winter, and more than half of those miles were earned through the travel community.

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My Travel Community map. The “” show places about which I have written a story.

The travel community also maps your travel stories onto a world map where you can see where you have been and how frequently. I like this feature since it gives me a good way to look at the places I have been and the places I am interested in going (which are another thing you can tag on the map).

I also enjoy reading other people’s traveling experiences. You do have to sort through the garbage stories; some people really just can’t write, or are milking the system, or both. But I like to browse the community now and then for good stories. Posting stories that engage and inspire can actually earn you some extra miles. If someone likes your story, they can give it a ‘kudo’, each of which can earn you 10 miles. Unlike Facebook where you may get 40 likes on a post, kudos seem relatively rare. I don’t think any of my stories have earned more than 3, even my best ones.

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The typical “front page” of a travel story. This one was picked for “Best Of”.

The community moderators also pick some ‘Best Of’ stories, which I think is a fantastic idea. Two of mine were selected in the first round of ‘Best Of’ stories that they ran. I was ecstatic. I think this encourages good writing and better pictures for the stories, but I hope they take it a step further and reward users whose stories they choose for the ‘Best Of’ lists with extra miles.

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My BarclayCard Travel Community Profile. It shows your badges and total miles earned.

To date I have earned over 15,000 miles using the travel community. I hope BarclayCard keeps this program going since it is such an easy way to earn extra money for traveling. If you are new to the travel game, I would suggest getting the BarclayCard Arrival+ both for the sign up bonus (worth over $400) and for earning miles from the travel community. If you don’t want to pay the fee, simply downgrade the card after a year.