Barclay Arrival Premier lands with a thud

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There was a lot of excitement over this card. I even said that it could finally get me to try the Barclay “Arrival” product line for the first time.

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Barclay Arrival Premier

Barclay Arrival Premier

And then it landed today. Here are the highlights:

It’s a World Mastercard product with the following features (bolding mine):

  • Each year earn up to 25,000 loyalty bonus miles (Spend $15,000 in a membership year & get $15,000 bonus miles; Spend an additional $10,000 and get 10,000 more bonus miles
  • Unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • $150 annual fee
  • Zero signup bonus
  • $100 automatic statement credit for one Global Entry application fee every five years
  • Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey, which gives you pay-as-you-go access to over 850 lounges worldwide
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Miles transfer to participating travel loyalty programs, currently including: Japan Airlines, Air France/KLM/Flying Blue, Qantas, Malaysia Airlines, Aeromexico, China Eastern, EVA Air, Etihad and Jet Privilege.
  • All transfer partners require 1.4 Arrival miles for 1 Frequent Flyer mile, except JAL which requires 1.7 Arrival miles for 1 JAL mile. 
  • Maximum global acceptance with chip and PIN capability for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
  • Travel protections including baggage delay, travel accident insurance, trip cancellation and interruption and auto rental collision damage waiver

Amazingly, the press release and Arrival Premier website make no mention of the transfer partners, but both Doctor of Credit and View from the Wing report these ratios, so I believe them to be accurate.  They also stated that current Arrival cardholders may convert their cards but that their existing Arrival points won’t convert over – meaning there’s no way to get a bonus there and move it over. Credit to Barclay, I guess, for realizing that would happen!

The transfer partners are interesting, but also rumored to be incomplete. Still, with these ratios,

Let’s dive into why this card is lackluster at best and also the best case scenarios why one might still be interested.

  • $150 annual fee despite absolutely no signup bonus and no real benefits besides transfer partners. This is a big negative. For those of us already spending big annual fees on other cards, a new “premium” card needs some combination of points or benefits to woo us. At least a first-year fee waiver to prove the value. Or a nice signup bonus to get it in our wallet. This has neither. Just a big fat fee.
  • The benefits other than the transfer partners are lackluster at best. We have Global Entry credits on a half dozen other cards already. Same with Priority Pass lounge access (most with unlimited free lounge visits – or with the Hilton Ascend, with a somewhat comparable though lower annual fee, 10 visits)
  • Max earning: If you hit exactly one or both spend bonuses, you are getting 3 points per dollar.  If used on travel credits, that would be 3% cashback. But I already get 1.5% cashback on all my Chase Sapphire Reserve points with very good bonus categories (travel and dining) earning 3X points for a 4.5% yield – if I choose to even use the Chase portal vs. transferring the points.  And this is just BEST case if you spend to a bonus level to the dollar. Stray from that and your return drifts down.  And sure my Chase Sapphire Reserve technically has a $450 annual fee but that is offset by $300 in travel credits – making it the same annual fee but with much richer benefits like unlimited airport lounge access, 3x points on travel and dining, and primary car rental CDW/LDW insurance.
  • Transfer partners: Who in the world decided to make the math 1.4 points per mile except for one case of 1.7 points per mile? Frankly, I’d have just made it 1.5 and 1.75 for easy math, but let’s look at what that means in terms of earning miles this way vs. a Chase card or an SPG card. With Chase, you earn between 1 and 3 miles per dollar and then transfer to their airline and hotel partners 1:1. So, for example, you could earn 3 United miles or BA Avios or Hyatt points on all your travel and dining spend. With an SPG card, you earn 1 point per dollar and get a 25% bonus when you transfer 20,000 points – for a flat 1.25% yield. Of the transfer partners, I really only find JAL and Etihad interesting as they both have good award charts for partner redemptions.

Transfer partner mile yields:

  • All but JAL: 1.4 miles per Arrival point. If you spend under $15,000 in a calendar year, your spend earns 2 miles per dollar and then converts at 1.4: 1. So let’s say you spend $10,000 and want Etihad miles. You earn 20,000 Arrival miles (points) and receive 14,286 Etihad miles. You earn 1.428 converted miles per dollar. If you did spend to a spend threshold, the math changes. At $15,000 in spend, you earn 45,000 Arrival miles (points) which become 32,1428 Etihad Guest (or any airline besides JAL) miles for a yield of 2.14 airline miles per dollar spent.
  • For JAL, it’s 1.7 Arrival miles to one JAL mile: Let’s do the math again here (why does Barclay have to make this require computations?!). If you spend $10,000 and earn 20,000 Arrival miles (points) and convert to JAL, you would get 11,764 JAL miles or 1.18 miles per dollar spent. If you spend $15,000 you get that bonus Arrival mile and would have 45,000 Arrival miles (points) giving you 26,471 JAL miles or 1.76 JAL miles per dollar.

The yields above are actually interesting. And there are a few edge cases where this might make sense to pursue. SPG is the only other transferable point that converts to JAL and you would earn 1.25 JAL miles per SPG point (on a 20,000 point transfer). So IF you maxed out the spend bonus thresholds and are intricately familiar with how to maximize JAL miles, this could be a net positive. Just remember that if you hold the card only for that one purpose, you’re going to have to back that $150 annual fee out of the equation. And what makes it harder is that once you hit $25,000, your earnings fall back down, worsening your yield with each dollar spent.

The above would be SO much more interesting if the card came with a signup bonus on the order of 50,000 Arrival miles. Then you’d be thinking about how you can spend enough on top to get to that JAL award you wanted.

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Does this card catch your eye? Or is it a big let down? Let me know here, on Twitter, or in the private MilesTalk Facebook group.

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