Executive Summary -
In a short space of time, this card has catapulted itself to the top of it's class in the travel rewards category (for fixed points rewards). The ability to earn double points on every purchase, trip-it pro annual subscription and the absence of foreign transaction fees has seen this card overtake the Cap One Venture in terms of features. Barclays has also just offered (from 4th November 2013) card members access to their FICO scores (at no extra charge) from their account. Full review below.
For the longest time, there was only one reward card that allowed you to earn double miles (or points) for all purchases. And that card was the Capital One Venture. And Alec Baldwin has been promoting that on commercials almost every night. Well, Capital One finally has a new competitor. And it comes from this new card from BarclayCard, and it is aptly named the "Arrival".
The announcement of this card is a directly challenge to Cap One. And to be credible, Barclays has had to get their features right from the get go. So how does this card fare? Well, we are about to find out.
Double Miles For Everything? - Card holders will get to earn double points for every dollar that is spent on the card. It is a simple formula. There are no categories where you can earn more miles. Everything is just 2X.
How Do You Earn Your Points - To redeem your points for travel, you simply book to book your travel with anyone you want. It could be within an offline agent, or an online travel portal like Expedia.com or Orbitz.com. You could even book directly with an airline, hotel and car rentals (which is always highly recommended). You can then redeem your points as a statement credit. The points can be used to redeem the full travel expense or just partially. Because you are allowed to book with anyone, you avoid the hassle of things like blackout dates, having to stay a Saturday night or having to book 21 days in advance. It gives you the freedom to book your travel as you please. The value of your points is 1%. That means that 100 points gets you $1 in value
10% Bonus Points When You Redeem For Travel - To sweeten the deal, this card also gives you a 10% bonus when you redeem your points. For example, if you decide to redeem 50,000 points, you will get an additional 5,000 points deposited into your account about two weeks later. Barclays calls this "carry-on miles". This effectively means that you get 1.1% value for your miles. And because you earn double miles with this card, you are effectively getting a 2.2% return (not counting annual fee).
Aside from using points for redeeming miles, you can also redeem your points for gift cards and merchandise. But you do not get 1% value for those and we would not advice you to use the points this way.
Annual Trip-it Subcription - Another benefit of this card (which is really unique) is that you are given an annual subscription to Trip-It Pro for free. At this moment, this is a $49 value. For those of you who use it, this is a really neat benefit. And for those of you who do not, you may just come to like it.
No Foreign Transaction Fee - Another sweet feature of this card is that it has no foreign transaction fee. This is great for those who travel abroad as you can save 3% (which is the typical FX fee that other cards charge).
Free FICO Scores - Holders of this card will also be able to get their FICO scores for free when they log into their account. This feature is a first for a major credit card issuer and makes this card stand out from everyone else.
How Does Arrival's Peers Fare
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, there are very cards to compare with because hardly any cards allow you to earn double points or miles on "everything that you buy". The Arrivals' real competitor in this space is the Capital One Venture Rewards. Discover had a card called the "Escape", which also allowed to you earn double miles. But that card has been discontinued and new applicants are no longer accepted.
I think that the best way to compare the Arrival to Venture Rewards is to actually list their similar features and highlight any improvement it has over it. It is similar in the sense that they both allow you to earn double miles or points, and allow you to book your travel with whoever you want, and have no foreign transaction fees.
The Arrival has a slightly better redemption value because you get 10% of your points "topped up" after you redeem them, making the redemption value 1.1% (total value is 2.2% since you earn double points). Cap One Venture Rewards does not have this feature.
The Venture Rewards has a slightly lower annual fee ($59 vs $89). However, the Arrival offers a Trip-It Pro subscription for free every year to their cardholders. At present, this has a $49 value. This means that the true "annual fee" for this card is "only $40". From this perspective, I'd say that this card comes out slightly ahead.
Verdict: How To Use Your Points
Here's my quick verdict on this card. I think it has overtaken the Venture Rewards (from Cap One) in terms of features. The 10% "carry-on miles" and the annual Trip-It Pro subscription are the two added value above the Venture Rewards.
However, before recommending this card, it is really important to know how to best make use of this card. Since you cannot transfer you points into frequent flier miles (like some Amex cards), the best bang for the buck comes from using the points for lower prices domestic airline tickets. There is absolutely no point using it for expensive business class or first class international flights. For example, it would be foolish to spend $250,000 on the card and get 500,000 points and use it for a $5,000 business class ticket when it will normally take $80,000 to $120,000 in spending to get 80,000 to 120,000 miles and get a business class ticket that way.
But for short lower cost domestic flight, these points come in very handy.
So I'll end the review by saying this: If you want to earn points for domestic airline tickets or off-season low price international tickets, this is probably the best card to get at the moment.