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Barclaycard Arrival vs. Arrival Plus: To Fee or Not to Fee?

Nov. 19, 2018
Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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  • Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®

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The Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® is no longer available. See NerdWallet’s Best Travel Credit Cards for more information.

If you’re looking for a credit card with top-notch travel rewards, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®, which comes with an annual fee of $89, is a better choice than the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®, which has an annual fee of $0.

You read that right: The annual fee is really worth it this time.

The Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® offers a decent tiered rewards structure and sign-up bonus, but these pale in comparison with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®’s industry-leading offerings. This is why we generally recommend the latter, though there are a few good reasons you might go for the $0-fee version instead.

Here’s how these cards compare on the basics:

 Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®
* For example, if you redeemed 50,000 miles, you'd earn 2,500 miles toward your next redemption.
Annual fee$89 $0
Sign-up bonusEnjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days Earn 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $200 travel statement credit
Rewards2 miles per dollar spent everywhere2 miles per dollar spent on dining and travel

1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere
Redemption bonus *5%5%

Why the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® wins

Here’s why the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is generally the superior choice.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® comes with a bigger sign-up bonus. Travel cards with annual fees usually offer richer sign-up bonuses than those without. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® has a bigger bonus than its $0-fee sibling, one of the most generous travel card sign-up bonuses on the market.

As long as you can meet the minimum spending threshold to get the bonus and you plan on using the card regularly, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is the better deal.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® offers more rewards on everyday spending. It usually doesn’t make a lot of sense to have a travel credit card if you aren’t a frequent flier, but the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® changes the calculus. It gives you a flat 2 miles per dollar spent, no matter where you’re doing your spending. Plus, each time you redeem, you get 5% of your miles back. That gives you an effective rewards rate of 2.1%. With both cards, miles can be redeemed for a credit against travel purchases at a rate of 1 cent per mile. These rewards are more flexible than traditional points and miles, since you can book travel any way you want — fly on any airline, stay at any hotel — and then redeem your miles to pay for it.

Looking past the first year, you’d come out ahead on the annual fee after putting about $4,200 a year on your card. For people who spend much more than that, it’s an easy choice.

The Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® offers less generous rewards. You get 2 miles per dollar spent on dining and travel, and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. Unless travel and dining are major expenses for you, you’ll earn just 1% on most of your purchases. With the 5% redemption bonus, that’s an effective rewards rate of 1.05%. Even with a no-fee card, you could do much better than that. Consider the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, for example, which earns a flat 1.5% with an annual fee of $0.

A couple of exceptions

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® isn’t the perfect fit for everyone. Getting the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® instead would make sense if:

You want a no-fee travel card with chip-and-PIN. Chip-and-PIN cards, like the kind Barclaycard offers, are unusual in the U.S., where most cards are chip-and-signature. With a chip-and-PIN-enabled card, you can use your card to pay at kiosks, parking meters and toll roads abroad, verifying your purchases by entering a 4-digit PIN instead of signing. The Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® may be your best option if you’re looking for a no-fee travel card with this capability.

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

You already have the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®, but it’s no longer your primary card. If you already have the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®, but no longer use it regularly, ask Barclaycard whether you can switch to the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® instead of closing the account. Generally, you’ll be able to do this while keeping all your old account history, without getting a hard inquiry on your credit reports. By making this switch, your credit score won’t take a hit from closing the account, and you won’t have to continue paying an annual fee on a card you don’t use much.

The case for paying a fee

The Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® is a decent product, but if you’re looking for a top-of-wallet travel credit card, you would do much better with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. Even though you’ll pay an annual fee, you’ll save more in the long run with its generous rewards.

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