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Travel Credit Card Showdown: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Barclaycard Arrival Plus

Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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Which travel credit card should I get?

With all the travel credit cards on the market today, it’s easy to see why two of the most popular are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. After all, both cards offer a slew of benefits that globetrotters value.

If you’re looking for a credit card to carry you around the world, you’ve probably done a lot of research that’s left you wondering: Which of these two should I apply for? To help you decide, the Nerds compared the cards on a variety of metrics. We’ll do a deep dive into how we did our assessment, but let’s start by taking a look at the basics:

Now it’s time to put the basic features of each card under the microscope. To do our evaluation, we carefully analyzed the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® in terms of signup bonus, fees and acceptance, and earning and redeeming. Let’s dig in!

Signup bonus

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Welcoming new card members with a hefty signup bonus is something that both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® specialize in. Both cards come with similar bonuses. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card lets you Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, you’ll Earn 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 credit. Between these two card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s bonus could be worth more, depending on how you redeem it.

Fees and acceptance

Winner: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

When it comes to fees and acceptance, the winner was a little less clear. Since both cards don’t charge a foreign transaction fee, neither was able to pull ahead – they’re both equally enticing on that front. But in terms of annual fees, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is slightly cheaper. It charges $0 for the first year, then $89. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card charges an $0 for the first year, then $95 annually. A very small difference to be sure, but again, the numbers don’t lie.

When it comes to international acceptance, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® also has a slight edge. To be clear, we’re not talking about network acceptance – the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a Visa and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is a MasterCard, which means that both will be welcomed at most international retailers. We’re referring to overseas acceptance with regard to EMV (or “chip”) technology.

Although both cards come chip-enabled, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is also chip-and-PIN capable. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card only offers a chip-and-signature option. In most cases, this is more than adequate. But some European merchants (particularly kiosks at train stations) will only take chip-and-PIN cards. To ensure acceptance everywhere you travel, you’re better off opting for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.

Earning and redeeming

Winner: Tie

There was no way to choose a clear winner when it comes to earning and redeeming. Both cards have a lot to offer, and each meets the needs of a different type of traveler.

Let’s start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. With this card, you’ll earn 2 points for every dollar you spend on dining in restaurants and travel, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Generally, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points are worth one cent apiece. However, as we mentioned earlier, they’re worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. This drives the value of each point up to 1.25 cents.

When it comes time to cash in your rewards, you can use Chase’s Kayak-like portal to book a trip and score the 25% value boost on each point, or you can transfer them to a participating frequent traveler loyalty program at a 1:1 ratio. This is where things can get really lucrative; if you’re skilled at wringing a lot of value out of frequent flyer miles, you could get a value of substantially more than 1 or 1.25 cents per point.

With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, you’ll earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend, plus a 5% bonus when you redeem.

Speaking of redemption, your options are a little broader than with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. You’ll be able to book your travel as you normally would, then go online and redeem your miles in the form of a statement credit. This tends to appeal to folks who like to shop around for the best deal on their flight or hotel stay, while still being able to use their rewards. For these travelers, being stuck with a finite set of airlines or hotel chains to choose from feels limiting.

The verdict

Before giving the final verdict, the Nerds want to emphasize again that both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® are stellar choices in the travel credit card category. No matter which you choose, you really can’t go wrong.

With that being said, we generally think the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is better for sophisticated travel hackers who have a lot of experience with getting the best deals on frequent flyer award seats. Also, if you tend to do most of your spending on dining and travel, you’ll be able to easily rack up serious rewards and get a lot of value out of this card.

On the other hand, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is a better pick for budget travelers who like to scour the web for the best prices on flights and hotels, and who frequently book through discount travel sites. It’s also a good choice for people who like the simplicity of earning a high, flat rewards rate on all their spending.

So there you have it, vagabonds! Bon voyage, and be sure to check back often with the Nerds – we’ll keep you up-to-date on all the latest news in the world of travel credit cards.

Booking travel with credit card image via Shutterstock