Thursday, October 31, 2013

When loyalty points aren't enough... The Barclay Arrival Card and Zeno's Paradox.

This morning The Frequent Miler discussed the pain that comes into every points & miles collector's life when they have to stay at a non chain property that neither accepts nor offers points or miles.  Whether it's a B&B, a cruise line, or to use an example Mrs. Pointsninja and I have just encountered, the Peru Rail, sometimes your huge stash of airline and hotel points is just no help at all.  That's where cashback travel cards come in.

The most well-known of these cards is the Capital One Venture card, thanks to the Vikings and one of the Baldwin brothers.  The card offers a straight 2mpd return, and the miles can be redeemed for a 1cpm rebate against travel purchases paid for with the card.   A few years ago the Capital One made a big splash with their "Match My Miles" sign-up promotion in which the sign-up bonus for getting a venture card was up to 100,000 Venture Miles ($1,000).  I jumped on that offer for the bonus alone, but since then I've found that my Venture Miles (accumulated primarily through manufactured spending) are a very useful tool in the Pointsninja's utility belt.  Enough so that I've actually paid the $59 annual fee to keep the card after the first year.

Yesterday I received the Barclaybank Arrival card that I mentioned the other day, and, looking at the Ts&Cs and the website, the card is even better than I thought.  Like the Venture card, the Arrival card earns a straight 2cpd on all spend.  Also like Venture Miles, Arrival miles can be redeemed for a 1cpm rebate against travel purchases made with the card.  Barclay defines travel purchases as follows:

  • A Travel purchase is defined as: Airlines, Travel Agencies & Tour Operators, Hotels, Motels & Resorts, Cruise Lines, Passenger Railways and Car Rental Agencies.
However, unlike the Venture card, the Arrival card offers a 10% rebate on redeemed points.  Initially, I thought the benefit was similar to Chase Ultimate Rewards bonus for redeeming points for travel.  That benefit is of limited utility since it requires you to book your travel through the UR website.  I've found the prices there to be consistently and significantly higher than elsewhere.

Now, with the benefit of having the full cardmember agreement an access to the Barclay website, I see that Arrival card redemptions work more like Venture mile redemptions.   So, if I redeem 30,000 Arrival miles for a statement credit to cover my $300 stay in Peru, I'll get a nice little rebate of 3,000 miles ($30).  Of course, I'll get a 10% rebate when I redeem those miles as well, and so on (though, with apologies to Zeno, I don't expect Barclay to rebate an infinite number of fractional miles).  What this means is that the Arrival card give an effective 2.2% rebate.  This beats any (non-bonused) cash-back card out there, including the Fidelity Amex (2% straight cashback).

The card currently carries a 40,000 mile sign up bonus for spending $1,000 within 90 days and the annual fee is waived the first year.  It looks to be a significantly valuable card from a bank that doesn't have a lot of travel cards.

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