This is the type of post that will probably make most folks’ eyes glaze over. But I hope at least some of you will find it beneficial because it highlights how important it is to be detail-oriented in this hobby of hours. Something I struggle with big time.
So, yesterday I’ve mentioned that I was able to book our tickets to Europe for next year’s visit. As it’s always the case, when you use miles, there are award taxes that need to be paid in cash. On five tickets the amount is usually substantial. Fortunately, I still had some points leftover on both mine and my husband’s Barclaycard Arrival Plus cards.
An annoying quirk of Arrival Plus’ redemption system is that the transaction has to be at least $100, and it costs 10,000 points to offset it. I went ahead and charged award taxes on two tickets to my card and the rest to my husband’s. Let me show you how things went down with my account. I had 21,411 points to work with:
I had two eligible transactions: one for $113 each, and the other one for $121. For some reason, United charges kids a slightly lower rate of tax on international redemptions.
OK, each amount is over $100, so far so good. Here is where I messed up. I went ahead and redeemed 11,300 points toward $113 charge so I could cover it completely. Immediately, I received a 5% rebate (one of advertised perks of the card) which equaled 565 points.
This left me with 10,665 points, which should have been enough to offset $106 in charges. However, my other eligible transaction was for $121. What I didn’t realize (or forgot) is that your available points’ balance has to equal to or exceed the charge. In my case, it didn’t. So, my only option was to redeem 10,000 points. If your points’ balance exceeds the charge, you are allowed to make a partial redemption.
The smarter thing to do would have been to redeem 10,411 points against $121 charge. That would have left me with 11,000 points + 5% rebate of 520 points, a total of 11,520 points, enough to cover my other $113 charge. Makes sense? Yes, you would still get a rebate of 5%, but the amount would be small enough that most people wouldn’t mind just canceling the card.
In my case, I’m stuck with 1,880 points (or miles as they call them), good for almost $19 redeemable towards a travel charge.
I would rather not lose this amount, of course. However, using the card to get to 10,000 points’ level is also not an option since I constantly switch credit cards. Plus, the annual fee is coming up in the next few months, and there is no way I’m paying $89 in order to keep $19 alive. What to do?
Well, there is a possible solution. My reader Erik has pointed out that travel redemptions on regular Arrival (with no annual fee) start at only $25 or 2,500 points. So, a better route is to just convert the card, which I plan on doing as soon as the redemption clears. I’m hoping to send a secure message and settle it without a phone call, but we’ll see.
Of course, I would be forgoing the sign-up bonus, which is $200, but I would probably go after a different Barclaycard offer anyway. Here is how the earning rate stacks up on Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard (no-fee version) :
- Earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that’s enough to redeem for a $200 travel statement credit
- Earn 2X miles on travel & dining and 1X miles on all other purchases
- Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
So, unless I’m using the card for travel/dining, I’ll be earning only one point per dollar. That means I’ll need to charge $620 on it in order to cash out the rewards. I’m sure I’ll eventually get there.
My father-in-law shops at Walmart for me sometimes, so I’ll just hand him this card in order to get to the $25 redemption threshold. Afterwards, I will probably buy a $25 Southwest gift card which should code as an airline purchase.
Why Arrival Plus is still a terrific deal for families
Despite the super annoying and convoluted redemption system, this card is still worth getting for the sign-up bonus. I was able to receive it twice over the last few years after canceling the card previously, but recent reports suggest that Barclay’s may not allow you to get this offer if you were a previous cardholder (data point from reader Seth). YMMV on this one. If you never had Arrival Plus before, you don’t need to worry about it.
If you apply, you’ll receive 40,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months. First annual fee is waived. As long as you make sure to charge at least $100 in each separate travel transaction, you’ll get $400 in value, not factoring in 6,000 points you’ll get from minimum spending.
These are not miles, but actual credit against your purchases. That comes in handy when you need to pay award taxes, cruise expenses etc. I was able to use points toward tips when we recently sailed to Alaska. So, to me, this bonus was almost as good as cash. Almost.
Obviously, it’s not the same thing as holding a check in your hand, and some advance planning is required. But as long as you play your cards right and spend a few minutes thinking your redemptions through (which I didn’t), the value is terrific.
I would go as far as to say that out of all Barclaycard sign-up bonuses this one is probably the easiest one to recommend to most normal families. You can see my post for more on this topic.
Sure, there are times when going after Wyndham card or Jet Blue offer will yield greater return. But in general, if you want to save money and are not sure about your travel plans, it’s hard to go wrong with Barclaycard Arrival Plus. We got close to $920 in value between our two cards so far.
Yes, there are some leftover points I’ll need to utilize eventually. But even if I end up losing them, this offer is still a winner in my book.
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