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Yesterday the Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard launched and represented two important things.
- A fast-earning card for spending
- 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
- 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 or Chase Sapphire Reserve 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 Chase Sapphire Reserve, it’s 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.