Today Barclays (re-branding from Barclaycard US), announced their new premium travel credit card, the Barclays Arrival Premier card. It was highly anticipated by those that follow the credit card and points/miles world, as any new addition is (usually) positive news. While the Arrival Premier does add something different, nearly all the news is quite simply disappointing news.
Important Card Facts
- No Sign-up bonus
- Annual fee of $150 NOT waived the first year
- You will earn 2x miles on all spend with no cap
- Spend bonus: Spend $15K and get 15k extra miles. Spend another $10K and get another 10k miles. Total bonus potential of 25k miles after $25K spend.
- Global Entry Credit
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
- Miles can transfer to nine airline partners total: Eight at 1.4:1 (Aeromexico, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, China Eastern, Etihad, EVA Air, Jet Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas) and one at 1.7:1 (Japan Airlines)
If you said “that’s it?” then you’re not alone. This is the most ho-hum credit card that we’ve seen in a while, and quite honestly this is a head-scratcher for me. I don’t even know where to begin, but I’ll try to go item-by-item on their “benefits” list:
No Sign-up Bonus
Why? This is against the industry standard. I understand that it saves the company money – if they gave away 50K points as a bonus then they’d be out $500/person right off the bat, and that’s a lot of money. This, however, is the standard practice. Recall when Chase started offering their premium card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, they not only offered a bonus but one of the biggest bonuses ever at 100k points. The card was seen as ground-breaking and innovative, and widely praised by bloggers and news media for earning business from the coveted millennial group while taking Amex down a notch. Sure, Chase lost money on the massive bonus…but Barclays not offering even a measly 25K bonus? That’s unacceptable.
Annual Fee of $150
When it comes down to it, this is the same annual fee as the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The Reserve has a $450 annual fee that is offset by an automatic bill credit of $300 that applies to any travel-related purchases (including Uber/Lyft). If you’re getting a travel card like the Reserve or Arrival Premier, you’re almost certainly spending at least $300 on travel. So the annual fee is a wash…except for the fact that you get far less with the Barclays Arrival Premier. Benefits from other premium cards are simply better, as you’ll see below.
Earn 2x on all spend with no cap
Again, nothing out of the ordinary here. The Amex Blue Plus card earns 2x points with no annual fee and has many more useful transfer partners than the list Barclays has. If 2% cash back is what you’re after (more on this in a moment) then just get the Citi Double Cash card, which also has no annual fee but earns 2% back after you pay your bill. Oh, and both of those cards come with a sign-up bonus.
The sole bright spot is the spend bonus, which can earn you essentially 3x if you spend exactly $25K. This is good, but not great when you weigh the annual fee against the two options I mentioned above.
Global Entry Credit and No Foreign Transaction Fees
These are kind of par for the course these days, and I’d be shocked if a premium card didn’t offer these.
Miles Transfer to Nine Airline Partners at Odd Ratios
This one really bothers me. Having transfer partners is great, and I applaud the effort here by Barclays, but sadly I give them an A for effort and an F for execution. Having transfer partners at ratios that require math is kind of ridiculous. Consumers want things that are easy to understand, and it doesn’t get easier than 1:1 ratio for transfer partners. Barclays instead opted for a complicated 1.4:1 and 1.7:1 ratio, requiring consumers to do complex math to determine whether their spending habits would make it beneficial to get the card. Thankfully Scott just released an extremely useful Points Transfer Calculator that will make this a little easier (he’ll be updating it with these Barclays transfer ratios in the next day or so).
I’d actually prefer that Barclays offer 1.5x earning and a 1:1 transfer ratio. It works out almost the same mathematically and makes it a ton easier for everyone to understand the program.
To make it worse, One Mile at a Time and others have reported a Barclays representative saying the following:
While miles transfers are a useful benefit of the Arrival Premier card product, they are not one of the core card benefits. Barclays research found that consumers, and the target audience for this card, are looking for a card that makes it easy for them to earn and redeem points on purchases they’re already making. For these cardmembers, the travel statement credits are an ideal way to redeem their Arrival Premier miles. Miles transfer partners are offered as an additional perk and are ideal for those cardmembers who may need to bump their mileage supply with one of our partner airline programs. For these individuals, using Arrival Premier miles as a “top off” might be the best way for them to achieve a specific redemption goal.
So Barclays doesn’t consider this a core benefit, which means they likely wont be putting in much effort to improve this part of the program. They say people like redeeming for statement credits, but there are cards noted above that have no annual fee that earn essentially the same return. They say the transfers are ideal for those that need to bump their mileage balances, but somehow neglect the fact that they currently have exactly zero US-based transfer partners, which is where most Americans have and earn miles. If Barclays truly was trying to make it easy to earn and redeem points for statement credits, they’d create a card like the…Arrival Plus card that already exists. Or like the many others that other banks already use.
I had to put that in quotes, because you still have to pay $27 per person to enter. You can pay to enter many lounges, so I’m not sure how this is even considered a benefit. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve and other premium cards, you get Priority Pass Select access for yourself and guests (depending on the card), so those are far superior to the Barclays offering.
That’s Pretty Much It
Other premium cards come with all kinds of goodies. Airline credits, Uber credits, Gogo wifi passes, Priority Pass Select lounge access for the cardholder and guests, fourth night free hotels, ability to redeem points at 1.5 cents each, bonus earning on travel or other categories, better trip delay or other coverage, etc. I could go on and on. There’s nothing else of note from the Barclays Arrival Premier. Yikes.
How to Fix It
This card is nearly useless in its current form. The only positives are the spend bonuses and the ability to transfer to Japan Airlines, a useful program that only Starwood points can transfer to otherwise. Literally everything else is either standard or below-standard. So how do you fix it?
- Add domestic transfer partners, preferably American Airlines. If they do this, then worst-case-scenario earning rates would be 1.43 points per dollar spent. That’s still the best option we would have available to us for earning AA miles (the only alternative being getting an AA co-branded card).
- Transfer ratios have to be easier to understand. Make it 1:1, even if it means reducing the earning rate to 1.5x on all spend.
- You have to have a sign-up bonus. To be competitive, it should be at least 50K, but if you make it 75K…tons of people would sign up.
- Add something unique…anything. Citi Prestige has 4th night free hotel benefits, Amex Platinum offers 5x on airline and $200 in Uber credits, Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3x on travel and dining and the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents each towards travel, The US Bank Altitude Reserve offers 3x on travel and mobile wallet spending and Gogo wifi passes. There is literally nothing special about the card in it’s current form!
Barclays had the opportunity to really make a name for itself by releasing a competitive card, something that one would think is even more important considering they’re re-branding. Instead, they absolutely blew the opportunity to make some noise. They had the blueprints laid out by the tremendous success of the Chase Sapphire Reserve and instead decided to go in a seemingly opposite direction with the Arrival Premier.
The good news is there are ways to fix it. Adding American Airlines as a transfer partner would go a long way, but there has to be a sign-up bonus and transfer ratios need to be easier to understand. Quite frankly, I would encourage you to NOT sign up for this credit card, because there are so many better options out there. If anyone tells you otherwise then there’s likely an incentive for them to do so.
Hat tip: Doctor of Credit (where I learned about this first)