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Barclaycard Arrival Plus vs. Capital One Venture: Travel Credit Card Showdown

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Both the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card promise would-be travelers industry-leading flat-rate rewards and sign-up bonuses. Their versatility and value make them two of the best travel credit cards on the market today.

When they go head-to-head, though, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card generally comes out ahead. You get the same number of miles for each dollar you spend and pay a much lower annual fee. However, paying the higher fee for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® makes sense in some situations.

Here’s how the cards stack up:

 Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Annual fee$0 for the first year, then $89 $0 for the first year, then $59
Sign-up bonusEarn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement creditEnjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $400 in travel
Rewards2 miles per dollar spent2 miles per dollar spent
Redemption bonus5% toward your next redemption

(If you redeemed 50,000 miles, you'd get 2,500 miles toward your next redemption.)
None
How it defines "travel purchases"“Airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, trains, buses, taxis, limousines and ferries,” according to Barclaycard's website. “Airlines, hotels, rail lines, car rental agencies, limousine services, bus lines, cruise lines, taxi cabs, travel agents and time shares,” according to Capital One's website.

When the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is better

From a rewards perspective, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® are similar. They come with comparable sign-up bonuses and nearly identical effective rewards rates, and both let you redeem miles for travel statement credit. That means you can use your miles to offset any travel expense you’ve charged to your card. Though Barclaycard and Capital One define “travel expenses” slightly differently, both offer 1 cent of travel credit for each mile they redeem — so 10,000 miles can become a $100 credit.

But when you factor in the costs of these two cards, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card prevails. Here’s why:

It offers similar rewards for a lower cost. Both cards give you 2 miles per $1 spent on everything. But because the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® gives you 5% of your miles back when you redeem, its effective rewards rate is 2.1%, compared with 2% on the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. To get that extra 0.1% in rewards, though, you have to pay $30 more in annual fees. That’s probably not worth it.

Sign-up bonuses and first-year waived fees aside, you’d earn more with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® only if you charged at least $30,000 to it. To see a significant difference in net rewards, you’d have to spend much more. If you don’t see that happening, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a stronger choice.

Redeeming miles is easier. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers more redemption flexibility than the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. It doesn’t come with any minimum redemption requirements if you use the miles to cover the entire cost of a travel purchase, and it has a minimum of just 2,500 miles for partial travel redemptions. That means you can use your rewards on just about anything, even a relatively small purchase, such as a bus fare or cab ride. You can also book trips directly through Capital One’s travel portal.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, meanwhile, makes you work for those rewards. You need $100 worth of miles — equal to $5,000 in spending — before you can redeem for travel statement credit. That’s one of the highest minimum redemptions we’ve seen on a travel credit card.

A few exceptions: Why you might still go for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

From a price perspective, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card wins. But sometimes the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is worth the higher annual fee. It comes down to who you are and where you’re going.

It’s chip-and-PIN enabled. If you’re planning a European vacation, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® might be a better choice. Because it’s chip-and-PIN enabled, you’ll be able to use it at certain kiosks and parking meters abroad, places your other cards likely won’t be accepted. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, like most U.S. credit cards, is a chip-and-signature.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best chip-and-PIN credit cards

Better support for active-duty military. All credit cards are required by law to waive fees and lower interest rates for active-duty military, but Barclaycard offers some of the best military perks available: When you qualify and enroll for benefits under the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act, or SCRA, you’ll pay 0% APR for pre-service balances and new transactions made on the account during active duty. You’ll also get the annual fee (and other fees) waived. Compare that to Capital One, which waives fees and offers 4% APR during active duty and for one year afterward.

Value first

When you’re looking for a travel credit card — or any credit card, for that matter — your search really comes down to one question: Which card offers the best value? If you want a chip-and-PIN-enabled card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® may be a better deal, even with the higher annual fee. But for most, especially those traveling domestically and trimming costs, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is the superior choice.

Last updated May 23, 2016.

Claire Tsosie is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: claire@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ideclaire7.