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The No-Fee Barclaycard Arrival: ‘Free’ Isn’t the Same as ‘Better’

Aug. 16, 2018
Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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As of 2017, Barclaycard is not taking new applications for the no-fee Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®. This story is out of date.

When it comes to long-term value, the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® trails behind other no-fee travel credit cards.

The $0-annual-fee card gets your attention with a nice sign-up bonus: 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. But after that, it falls flat. Its ongoing rewards compare unfavorably to other no-fee travel cards, and are nowhere near as good as those offered by its industry-leading companion, the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®, which charges an annual fee of $89.

If you’re looking for a no-fee travel card that’s chip-and-PIN-enabled, the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® definitely fits the bill. But if you’re searching for ongoing value, you’re better off going with another card.

Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®: Basics

Here’s what the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® delivers:

Rewards: Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on dining and travel, and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. You also get a 5% miles bonus when you redeem. For example, if you redeemed 50,000 miles, you’d get 2,500 miles — worth $25 — toward your next redemption.

Sign-up bonus: 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

Annual fee: $0.

APR: 0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.24%, 20.24% or 24.24% Variable APR

Foreign transaction fee: None.

Other benefits: Free FICO score.

Redemption options: Miles are worth 1 cent each when redeemed as a statement credit against travel expenses.

Miles can be used to offset charges that Barclaycard defines as “travel.” That category includes “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. The minimum redemption is 2,500 miles (worth $25).

You can also redeem miles for cash back and gift cards, but you’d only get 0.5 cent per mile. And if you redeemed for merchandise, your miles would get an average of only 0.3 cent apiece, according to NerdWallet valuations. 

For most, the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® isn’t a good choice

The Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® pales in comparison to other no-fee travel cards. Here’s why.

Its ongoing rewards are underwhelming. In the world of credit cards, 1.5% reward rates have become standard. But unless you do half of your spending on travel and dining — which most people don’t — you won’t get anywhere near that 1.5% earn rate with the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®.

The card’s effective earn rate, even with the 5% redemption bonus, is just slightly over 1% for the average U.S. household, based on 2014 spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s because dining and travel are relatively small expense categories for most people. “Food away from home” represents about 11% of spending that could be reasonably charged to a credit card for the average household. And travel spending is an even smaller fraction of the average household budget. In fact, the majority of Americans didn’t report spending money at all on common travel purchases, such as airline tickets or hotel stays, the BLS data show.

For a better $0-annual-fee travel card, we recommend the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, which gets you 1.5 points per dollar spent. Points are redeemable for 1 cent of travel statement credit each. And compared with the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®, this card is far more generous with its classification of travel, including categories such as amusement parks and RV rentals. Its sign-up bonus is also similar: 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.

The Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® doesn’t offer a 0% APR period for purchases. On many no-fee cards, a 0% APR period for purchases — which can help you pay off an expensive trip, interest-free, over the course of several months — is standard. The Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® doesn’t have one, though. It just offers a 0% APR period on balance transfers, which only applies to debts you’ve moved from other accounts. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is also a better choice for this reason. It offers 0% on Purchases for 12 billing cycles, and then the ongoing APR of 16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR.

Another option is the Discover it® Miles, which comes with 0% on Purchases for 14 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 14 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.74% - 24.74% Variable APR. It offers 1.5 miles per dollar spent, which can be redeemed for statement credit. Discover will match ALL the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles. And unlike the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®, you don’t need a certain number of rewards saved up to redeem. You can cash in with as little as 1 cent, a valuable perk for frugal spenders.

Why you might want to get the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®, anyway

As a no-fee travel card, the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® isn’t that great. But there are a couple of excellent reasons you might want to get it, despite that.

It’s chip-and-PIN-enabled. This means you verify your identity with a 4-digit PIN rather than by signing your name. Chip-and-PIN cards are the standard abroad, so you can use the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® at subway kiosks, parking meters and other self-service locations overseas that don’t accept chip-and-signature cards. Few U.S. cards come with this capability, but for those who travel internationally, it’s important. If you want a no-fee travel card with chip-and-PIN capability, the card might be a good choice.

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

It’s a good opportunity to downgrade if you have the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®, but don’t use it. You can do this by calling customer service and asking to move your account to the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®. If they let you make the switch, it generally means you can keep your same account information, without triggering a hard inquiry. You’ll be able to sidestep the annual fee, while avoiding an account closure that could ding your credit.

Keep looking

If you want a chip-and-PIN-enabled card, the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® is an OK choice. But if that’s not your priority, you could — and should — do better. Go with the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, the Discover it® Miles or another more rewarding no-fee card instead.

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