Should You Get the New ‘Up to 3x on Everything’ Barclays Transferable Miles Card?

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Yesterday the Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard launched and represented two important things. (Offer expired)

  1. A fast-earning card for spending
  2. A new transferable currency, Barclays jumping into the space currently occupied by American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Rewards

Feelings about the card have been strong and tempers even running hot among some readers. This is either an awful card or an amazing one depending on how you look at it. I thought it would be useful to think systematically about this card, helping both to answer whether it’s one you should apply for, but also helping to think systematically about how to evaluate a credit card generally.

There are three ways that cards drive value, beyond the basics of offering convenience for purchases and managing spending.

  • Signup bonus

  • Benefits

  • Rewards for ongoing spend

This card does not offer a signup bonus. The benefits are decent but not top tier. For instance it gets you a card for lounge access, you pay for each and every lounge visit. And many things it offers, like rental car collision damage waiver; extended warranty; price protection; and trip delay and cancellation coverage are simply duplicated by other products that you likely have already.

Where this card is a player is in reward for continued spend. You earn 2 miles on everything. And then $15,000 spend in a year earns 15,000 bonus miles, $25,000 (i.e. an additional $10,000 spend) spend earns an additional 10,000 bonus miles.

If you spend exactly $15,000 or $25,000 you’ve earned 3 miles per dollar. Those miles are worth a penny apiece towards travel, or can be transferred to airline frequent flyer programs at a ratio of 1.4 to 1 with most programs and 1.7 to 1 with JAL.

Program Name Conversion Ratio
(Premier Points : Points)
Air France and KLM Flying Blue 1.4 : 1
Aeromexico Club Premier 1.4 : 1
China Eastern Airlines Eastern Miles 1.4 : 1
Etihad Guest 1.4 : 1
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands 1.4 : 1
JAL Mileage Bank 1.7 : 1
Jet Airways JetPrivilege 1.4 : 1
Malaysia Airlines Enrich 1.4 : 1
Qantas Frequent Flyer 1.4 : 1

JAL is an amazing partner. They add fuel surcharges to reward tickets but you can book New York JFK – Dubai on Emirates in A380 first class for 135,000 miles roundtrip. New York to Bangkok via Dubai is 155,000 miles roundtrip on Emirates. Plus they’re a oneworld airline, their miles can be used for Cathay Pacific and other top tier carriers.

Emirates A380 First Class Shower

Qantas offers an attractive way to redeem for El Al business class to Israel. And Etihad and Air France, while duplicated as partners by other programs, offer great redemption possibilities as well. I’m told additional partners are in the queue.

So far I don’t think their stable of initial partners beats Chase or American Express. Having JAL and offering Air France and Etihad makes them at least competitive with, if not better than, Citi ThankYou Rewards in my view.

Etihad A380 First Apartment

And at 2 miles earned per dollar, transferred to miles, that’s 1.4 airline miles per dollar on all spend (a slightly worse rate for Japan Airlines transfers).

In my view this card is great for $25,000 in spend each year. At that point you’re earning 75,000 miles, transferable to 53,000 airline miles. That’s better than 2 miles per dollar without the need for category bonuses like travel, grocery stores, or drugstores. I’d say if you’re putting spend on cards that’s earning you less than that then you should consider it.

  • It’s comparable in a sense to the The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express which earns 2 American Express Membership Rewards points on your first $50,000 in purchases per year (though that’s a no annual fee card).

  • It’s also similar in a way to getting a Chase Freedom Unlimited (no annual fee) and earning 1.5 Chase points per dollar on all spend, and transferring those points to a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card so that its points can all be transferred to miles.

If all of your spend goes towards earning signup bonuses on cards, this product is not for you. If you’re looking for the one most rewarding card across the board, that’s arguably not this card.

But it’s highly rewarding for a certain amount of spend, it offers unique partners, and I expect that list of partners to grow. Now go ahead and hurl personal insults at me if you disagree. But ask yourself if you’re engaging in the fallacy of assuming your situation and priorities, such as only going for signup bonuses, applies universally — or even broadly.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary,

    Your analysis would be fine, if this were a no annual fee card. But that’s the big one you left out: the $150 annual fee, which more than wipes out the incremental value of the access to JAL miles. JAL miles are no longer as good as they were, given the fuel surcharges are huge now.

    Simple example: $25k in spend, get 75k points, convert to 44117 JAL miles, assuming a valuation of 1.5c per JAL mile, means value obtained of $662, less the annual fee of $150, equals net value of $512. A no annual fee 2% cash back card would get you $500 in value with no restrictions related to award travel, needing to build up enough JAL miles through other methods to actually have enough for a premium redemption, or hitting the bonus thresholds exactly to get max value. And of course, if you are getting a new card, why not just get one of the many that have big sign up bonuses which provide much more value over and above this one?

    Its obvious this is a dud, but prominent commentators are staying neutral, which is why I think the reaction is strongly negative as the audience perceives commercial bias, rightly or wrongly.

  2. I think the card can be useful to some people (not me) — but I don’t think anyone would describe it as “amazing”.

    Essentially, it offers between 2 and 3 percent cash back on all spend (less that nasty $150 annual fee). For someone interested primarily in cash back and who doesn’t spend primarily in the easily-bonused categories (like travel and dining) that’s a pretty good deal. It might also be of interest to people with large amounts of otherwise unbonused spend who are interested in the somewhat niche transfer partners.

  3. I agree with above comment I am a big spender and not a bonus churner. This card would be interesting if the annual fee was lower, it had better partners, it rewarded spend levels higher than 25k, and/or had better transfer rates, particularly for the most interesting/non-redundant partner. At this point meh, it seems largely only the bloggers have a positive spin on this card. So rightly or wrongly folks are seeing bias. All that said it is great to see another transferable currency program that might be more interesting in the future.

  4. Seems to me like two key potential demographics: churners and everyone else.

    To churners this card is a turd. I can get 50k bonus miles by signing up for many other airline cards as a sign-up bonus after a few thousand in spend, typically with no annual fee in first year.

    Everyone else – this is who this card is geared towards. However, in order for this to even be remotely a halfway decent card, you’d have to spend at least $25k but not much more than that. Spend $24,999 and the card isn’t very good. Spend $30,000 and the card isn’t very compelling either. It’s a Goldilocks card, where you have to spend at least but not much more than $25k to get it just right, but even then it is just a mediocre card that is roughly equivalent to many other cards with more flexibility – better transfer partners, lesser annual fees, and with more flexibility around total spend required to get such returns.

    So to me it’s a clear pass for both churners and everyone else.

  5. There’s a reason banks offer sign up bonuses despite the churner abuse. It is more than coincidence that the Sapphire Reserve was so enthusiastically received when it had an eye-popping 100,000 point sign up bonus. It was a good try to see if they could take some of that sign up bonus expense and spread it out over a few years to keep the churners away, but my guess is it will flop miserably if left as is. It fails to answer that most basic of sales questions…why should I sign up today?

  6. I love the fact that they transfer to JAL. The other transfers are not bad either. However, in order to jump start the card I think a small sign up of 10K to 25K even with a 1-1.5K spend down would be a vast improvement. The “mold” of travel cards is 1) a sign up bonus, 2) a spend down, 3) transfer partners. They broke that mold and for that reason it will not prove to be popular. That’s what people are used to, and they expect that.

  7. Not a great card to put flights on. I will still use CSR or Citi Prestige (even though their trip delay insurance has been misinterpreting their terms lately). The card’s trip delay has a max of 2 claims per year at $300 per trip with some off-market terms. What if I am at my destination and my return trip is cancelled more than 6 hours in advance? I am out of luck? This kind of situation is exactly what trip delay insurance is for:

    If You are delayed more
    than six (6) hours while traveling to Your destination or return
    destination, We will reimburse You for travel expenses as a result of
    the delay. There is no coverage if the common carrier cancels within
    six (6) hours of Your scheduled departure time on the common
    carrier for which You have purchased a ticket for Your trip

  8. What I don’t get is: If you’re looking for extra points for un-bonused spend, why not just get the Blue Business Plus cc from Amex? No annual fee, more partners, mostly 1:1 conversion rates which make its effective conversion rate the same as Barclays even at the ideal 25K per year spend on Barclays, and, generally, Barclays can be more difficult or disorganized to deal with than Amex.

  9. @Steve, you wouldn’t get the Blue Business card if you’re not a business (and aren’t comfortable pretending you are one because you once sold something on craigslist).

  10. Jig’s analysis is the correct one.

    You can argue semantics, but you can’t argue basic math.

  11. The thing about getting excited about those JAL miles that are hard to get otherwise is that they are hard to get otherwise. Most would have to be putting $25,000 spend on that card for several years, paying annual fees along the way, before ever having enough miles for one of those carrier imposed surcharge awards. So check the JAL award chart and surcharges for 2021 before you get too excited.

    My own view is that this card is a strong contender for worst card in the miles and points category. I really doubt they’ll get the applications or renewals they want without enhancing it a lot.

  12. simply the worst premium card on the market, if we can call it “premium”. Only idiots want to get it. period.

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