The Barclay Arrival Plus Mastercard is the card I would choose if for some reason I could only have one credit card. Sure it has an unnecessarily long name, but the beauty of this card is how simple it is no matter how ridiculous the name is. No categories to keep track of, just a plain and simple (well, almost) 2.2% cash back plus an amazing sign up bonus. Here are the details.
The Barclay Arrival Plus Mastercard, which we will just call the Arrival card from now on, makes earning rewards really simple. Just make a purchase from absolutely anywhere and you earn two points. Wait… points?
Now normally I think that points suck, and what you really want is cash. The Arrival card’s points are different though, because it is really easy to turn them into cash.
Since you have to deal with stupid points instead of cash there are a few hoops to jump through, but it really isn’t that bad. First of all, each point is worth a penny, so the points are easy to keep track of.
You do have the option of redeeming your points for stuff other than cash, but whatever else they offer is no deal, so just take the cash. Here is where the catch comes in: first you have to use the card to buy something travel related, then you can use your points to get reimbursed for it.
So you use your card at an airline, cruise ship, rental car, campground, hotel, etc. Then you go on Barclay’s website and go to the redeem points section and it will list all the travel related purchases you made in the last 90 days. You just click on one of those purchases and you can redeem your points for up to the amount of the purchase. That’s it. See, I told you it wasn’t that bad.
But it gets even better than that. Because as long as you redeem your points for travel, they give you 10% of your points back immediately. So your 2% cashback just became 2.2% cashback. Nice.
This is way easier than getting one of those airline cards with points you can theoretically trade in for airline tickets, except that any airline ticket you might possibly want isn’t eligible to be purchased with points.
If you don’t have any travel purchases, I suggest you wait until you do. If you try to redeem without travel purchases, your points are only worth half the normal amount. All of the sudden your 2.2% just became a very average and boring 1%. Don’t do that, just wait until you have a travel purchase. If you never, ever make travel purchases this isn’t the card for you.
As if the 2.2% wasn’t good enough, there is also a huge sign up bonus of $400! The only restrictions are you have to spend at least $3,000 in the first 90 days, and you have to redeem that $400 in the form of their silly points as described above.
Still, $400 is a lot of dough. The bonus is so nice that my wife and I normally share credit cards, but on this one we both signed up to get that big bonus.
Annual Fee???!!?!?!?!?!?! Boooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hate annual fees, and normally wouldn’t even consider a credit card with an annual fee, especially one with a really high annual fee of $89.
But just wait a minute, this card is so good it might just be worth the annual fee. For one thing, there is no annual fee for the first year. Also, there is a free version of this card without the big bonus. With my credit card I collected my big bonus, waited a year, then converted my card to the free version before I had to pay the fee.
Of course the other thing to keep in mind is that the big bonus makes up for the annual fee. You could collect your bonus, keep the card for five years and still come out ahead on the bonus vs. fee issue.
I don’t know. Really, really high I would imagine.
The reason I am writing a review about a credit card without even bothering to look up the interest rates, is interest rates on credit cards are something I don’t care about.
Interest rates on credit cards are super high, and almost nobody can afford to pay them. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about them. Just pay your balance in full each month and the interest rate stays at 0%, right where it should be.
If you can’t pay your balance in full each month then you can’t afford a credit card, so I recommend not applying for any.
There are a couple other good benefits I think make the Arrival card worth while. See the little computer chip on the left hand side of the card in the picture at the top of this article? That is called an EMV chip, and it is how credit cards work in the rest of the world rather than the magnetic strip on the back of American cards.
The Arrival card also has the magnetic strip so you can use it anywhere, but that EMV chip is a big benefit. There are card terminals in other countries that won’t take the magnetic strip, so if you find yourself at one of those places this card will work when the other cards in your wallet may not.
As for America, we are also phasing in that EMV chip. I won’t get into the complicated details, but merchants will be heavily encouraged to start using EMV by October in 2015 or they may be held liable for any credit card fraud that is currently the responsibility of the bank that issues the card.
The other great travel related feature of the Arrival card is there are no foreign exchange fees. So if you make a purchase in another country there won’t be a fee for converting that purchase to American dollars.
Disclosure: I am not an affiliate of Barclays credit cards and am not paid in anyway by them for either writing this article or for any readers who choose to apply.