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Bank of America Travel Rewards vs. Barclaycard Arrival Plus: Plain or Perks?

Updated May 18, 2018
Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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As of April 2018, new applications were not being accepted for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®, so this page may be out of date. Alternatives:

You’re trying to decide which travel credit card is best for you, and you’re contemplating the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. They offer many of the same benefits, but their differences may tilt you toward one.

For travelers who want to earn miles without fees, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card makes it easy. If you travel frequently and are willing to pay for privileges, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® may make the process more convenient and comfortable.

Sizing them up

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® offers a 33% higher rewards rate and a big sign-up bonus, but you’ll pay an annual fee after the first year. Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card has a lower rewards rate and an OK sign-up bonus, but without the annual fee. One is a MasterCard, the other a Visa. Let’s look at the basics.

Rewards rate

  • The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® gives you 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases.
  • The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card pays 1.5 points per $1 spent on everything. When you book travel through the Bank of America® Travel Center, you get 3 points per $1.

Annual fee

  • The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® charges $0 for the first year, then $89.
  • The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card’s annual fee is $0.

Sign-up bonus

  • The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® has one of the best sign-up bonuses among travel cards: Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase.
  • The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card offers one, too, but it’s not as robust: 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases.

PERKS

  • The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is in the MasterCard family. As part of the MasterCard World Elite fleet, it offers luxury perks that go beyond what the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card offers.
  • The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is a Visa signature card.

Features travelers expect

Both of these cards are general travel cards, meaning you can use your points or miles to pay for any expense defined by the card issuer as “travel.” So you can fly on any airline, stay at any hotel, use any rental car company you want, and so on. There are no blackout dates. Points or miles never expire, and there is no limit to how much you can earn. Neither card charges a foreign transaction fee for purchases abroad.

They both also have the protections that put travelers’ minds at ease. These include roadside assistance, travel emergency assistance (medical, legal, government help), rental car coverage and lost-luggage help.

For online shopping, both cards have programs to make transactions more secure. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card offers ShopSafe, which generates a unique number for every online transaction. Likewise, Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® has MasterPass. And of course, for any purchase, there is zero liability for fraudulent charges.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card: Loyalty pays

If you already do your banking or investing with Bank of America®, Merrill Edge® or Merrill Lynch®, you can earn extra rewards with your Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card. If you have a checking or savings account at Bank of America®, you’ll get a 10% points bonus on every purchase, making your effective rewards rate 1.65%. If you’re a member of the Bank of America® Preferred Rewards program, you could earn bonuses of 25%, 50% or even 75%, depending on your combined account balances at Bank of America® and its sister companies.

In addition, you can redeem rewards for deposits into various Bank of America® accounts, including IRAs or for a discount on a mortgage origination fee.

Redeeming rewards: Edge goes to Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

You’ll get the best value from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® by redeeming rewards for travel. You’ll get a value of 1 cent per mile when redeeming for travel, compared with only a half-cent per mile when you redeem for statement credit or gift cards. You also get 5% of your miles back whenever you redeem. For example, when you redeem 20,000 miles, you’ll get 1,000 miles toward your next redemption.

Similarly, points have different redemption values with the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card. When you use points for travel, they’re worth 1 cent per point. Cash deposits into your Bank of America® accounts redeem at 0.6 cents per point.

Which is the best card for you?

Comparing the similarities and differences between these cards should make clear which is the better fit for you. If you want a basic travel rewards card with no annual fee or you have sizable account balances at Bank of America® and its partners, go with the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card. But if you’re willing to pay an annual fee for many travel perks and a good rewards payout, Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is your ticket.

Ellen Cannon is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ecannon@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ellencannon.