Southwest Premier vs. Arrival Plus vs. Venture: Arrival Plus Wins

Even frequent Southwest flyers may come out ahead with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard or the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Claire TsosieNovember 13, 2017
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier vs. General Travel Credit Cards: Check Out Venture First

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

» This offer has expired

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is longer available on our website. The information on this page may be out of date. See our best travel credit cards roundup for other options.

For devoted fans of Southwest Airlines, here's a hard truth: The airline's top-shelf co-branded credit card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, might not be the best card for you.

In fact, even frequent Southwest flyers may be able to earn more rewards with the no-nonsense Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® or the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card than with Southwest's own card. These two general travel cards outpace the co-branded card with their high rewards and flexible redemption options. Of the two, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® pulls ahead as the best long-term choice, thanks to its relatively low annual fee and slightly higher effective rewards rate.

The other cards do have their advantages, though. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers a rich sign-up bonus and waives its annual fee in the first year. And if you have your heart set on Southwest's coveted companion pass, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is the only one in this bunch that earns rewards that will help you qualify for that status.

Here's how the cards stack up.

Why the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® comes out ahead

Two things give the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® a competitive advantage for most travelers.

It offers big rewards for a relatively low annual fee. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® both give you 2 miles per $1 spent. But the redemption bonuses on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® boost its effective rewards rate to 2.1%. Plus, its annual fee is slightly lower.

The rewards and lower annual fee on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® also put the card far ahead of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, especially for folks planning to hold the card long term. While the anniversary bonus on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card essentially knocks $60 off its annual fee, that's not quite enough to make up for its lower ongoing rewards rate.

Use the calculator below to find out which card offers the most value for you.

You can redeem miles for almost any type of travel. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® lets you redeem miles for travel statement credit, as does the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. Basically, that means you can use your miles to "erase" purchases for more than just airline tickets. The statement credits can be applied to things like a Mediterranean cruise, a cross-country train ride or a weekend at a beachside timeshare. Each mile is worth 1 cent when redeemed.

You can't pull that stunt with Southwest. If you're not in the market for flights, hotel stays or car rentals, you'd better be super stoked about Southwest's selection of overpriced gift cards, because you might be buying a lot of them.

It's ideal for traveling abroad. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® has one big advantage for international travelers — it's a chip-and-PIN credit card. Some kiosks and parking meters abroad call for credit cards that can be authorized with a 4-digit PIN, rather than a signature. Among these three cards, only the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® offers that capability.

When the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card could be better choices

For most people, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® takes a decisive lead for long-term value in this matchup, even for Southwest fans. But there are some situations in which the other cards are better.

Check out the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card if …

You plan to hold the card for only a short time. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card waives the annual fee, unlike the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. It also offers a larger sign-up bonus than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, so it’s a clear winner for those who are looking to hold the card for only a year or two.

Get the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card if …

You're determined to get that companion pass. Southwest's companion pass allows someone to fly with you for free for the rest of the year in which you earn the pass, plus the next calendar year. You need 110,000 points (that increases to 125,000 points, starting in 2020) or 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year to get the pass. The sign-up bonus on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card provides a good start toward the points goal. For a couple that travels regularly, a companion pass essentially gets you 50% off airfare for more than a year, and makes you very popular with at least one person.

The most practical travel card of the bunch

Matching up a co-branded airline credit card with general travel cards often feels a little like comparing apples and Apple Jacks. Often, there's not a real winner in a faceoff like this — the cards just appeal to different people. If you like the airline, you go with the airline card. Otherwise, you choose one of the general travel cards.

But this time, we're not declaring a three-way tie.

We're calling it: The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® offers the best long-term value. That makes it the most practical travel card of the bunch, even for many ardent Southwest fans. For travelers looking for versatility and value, it's an excellent pick.

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet’s official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.