Or, consider other cards for 50,000 more miles or points that transfer into United miles with additional flexibility for your everyday spending.
$1,000 toward travel or transfer to United, Southwest, and more.
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card - $85 annual fee.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Barclaycard Arrival Plus credit cards are both great travel rewards cards on their own, but If you need to pick just one, the short answer as to which card is better is:
Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred if you want to go big and be able to maximize the value of your points by utilizing different airline and hotel transfer partners thanks to Chase Ultimate Rewards. You’ll want transferable points to get the most value if you are interested in aspirational awards like traveling in premium cabins and staying at four and five star hotels that you’d rarely choose if you were paying with cash.
Get the Barclaycard Arrival Plus if you want to be frugal, don’t want to hassle with airline miles, and are okay with primarily flying in economy class and staying at hotels or Airbnbs you’d typically be able to afford with cash.
If you don’t want to just pick one, they can also make a decent combination if you’re a heavy traveler.
Here’s a rundown of the main features of each card:
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Comes with a 50,000 point sign up bonus after completing minimum spending requirements, earns 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases and 1 Ultimate Reward point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Utilize Chase Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel transfer partners at a 1:1 transfer rate, no foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad, access to Chase’s travel protections and purchase protections, all for a $95 annual fee which is waived the first year.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus: You’ll earn a 50,000 mile sign up bonus after applying for the card and completing $3,000 in minimum spending within the first 90 days of card membership, earns 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases made with your credit card, get 5% miles back every time you redeem miles, effectively making this a 2.1% back credit card. Each point is worth one cent when redeemed toward travel purchases, no foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad, chip and PIN technology, $89 annual fee that is waived the first year.
Before we get too deep into these two cards, let’s understand the different types of points/miles each uses.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points – They can be transferred to many airline and hotel programs. When the points are transferred to airlines, like United, they are then referred to as miles, like United miles. Once you transfer, the price you pay is usually determined by an award chart, but an award is only available on flights the airline has made seats available for redemption. For example, United MileagePlus offers roundtrip tickets to Europe for 60,000 miles, regardless of the price of a cash ticket- whether it’s $800 or $1,500. But you can only get that award price on certain flights, and there’s no real rhyme or reason to which flights have seats available for these awards or not.
Barclaycard Arrival miles – Barclaycard calls their currency miles, but they are really more like points. Your Barclaycard ‘miles’ cannot be transferred to airline miles and cannot directly be used to book airline tickets. Rather, you use your Barclaycard miles to reimburse travel purchases you make on the card via statement credit. Every point is worth one cent toward travel, so 10,000 points is worth $100 . There’s no special website to use – just pay for the ticket with your card and use points to erase some or all of the cost.
Your Barclaycard points save you the same amount no matter how you choose to use them for travel. 60,000 points would get you $600 in flight value at the one cent per point rate of the Arrival Plus, but since it earns double miles on everything Chase points need to be worth about twice as much to get you better value from your card spending. 60,000 points from the Sapphire Preferred would need to get you around $1,200 worth of flights to be worth that. So in the example above for a ticket to Europe, you’d get better value out of the Chase Sapphire Preferred if the flight to Europe you want costs more than $1,200 in cash. That’s certainly possible if you’re flying in the summer months and flexible enough to find a flight that has award seats available for 60,000 United miles.
Now we will take a look at the pros and cons as each card and also why the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Barclaycard Arrival Plus make such a great pair.
50,000 Ultimate Rewards points signup bonus when you apply and spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening.
Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel transfer partners at a 1:1 ratio means that your points have the potential to be super valuable. Transferrable points currencies are ideal if you are interested in booking premium cabins and have some amount of flexibility for your travels. Read our guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards points to learn more.
Earns 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases. These points are worth more than one cent each, as a general rule, when you transfer to Chase’s airline and hotel transfer partners, though value is variable.
Ability to book through Chase’s travel portal to use your miles more flexibly (but generally for lower value). Each point is worth one cent each and is bonused by 25% when booking this way.
You have Primary Car Rental Insurance Coverage meaning that you do not need to go through your personal insurance first if something happens to your rental car.
Great travel protection. You’re covered up to $10,000 for trip cancellation or interruption, up to $500 for trip delays of 12 hours or more, up to $3,000 for lost luggage, and up to $500,000 for travel accidents.
No foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad. This is a pretty standard benefit on cards that charge an annual fee, but nonetheless a necessity for international travel.
Only earns 1 Ultimate Reward points per dollar spent on non-travel and dining purchases. While these points are worth more than one cent each, there are generally better cards to use for non-bonused spend categories.
Making good redemptions can be complicated. You need to be familiar with the different programs you can transfer your points to to make sure you are getting the best redemption.
As a general rule, in order to make some of the ‘best’ redemptions, you need flexibility. That might mean leaving a few days early or late, taking an extra connection, and/or flying into or out of a less convenient airport.
You’ll earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus after getting this card and spending $3,000 within the first 90 days after opening your account. This sign up bonus will be worth $525 toward travel redemptions after factoring in the 5% points rebate.
Earn 2 Arrival miles per dollar spent on all purchases. While you can earn more in some bonus categories on other cards, this card rivals best-in-class for everyday spending.
Redeeming miles is simple. Each mile is worth one cent when redeemed toward travel purchases and you receive 10% of your miles back every time you make a redemption. Redemptions must be made within 120 days of the purchase posting to your account.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus has a very broad definition of the ‘travel’ category for redemptions. You can redeem your Arrival miles for most to all travel related purchases including: Airbnbs, airline tickets, award fees, bus tickets, campground fees, car rentals, cruises, ferries, hotels, hostels, taxis, timeshares, tourist attractions, tours, train tickets, travel agencies, and other travel sites.
You can help meet the minimum spend on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus with a travel purchase and then reimburse that purchase with the points from the signup bonus.
You won’t be charged foreign transaction fees with this card either. Again, a standard offering on cards that charge an annual fee.
An added bonus if you are a frequent international traveler is the Arrival Plus’ Chip and PIN technology. Especially in Europe, there are some purchases that can only be made with a Chip + PIN credit card.
The $89 annual fee is waived for the first year.
$100 minimum value to redeem points means that you need to sock away 10,000 points before you are able to redeem any of them.
No ability to increase the value of your points. They will always be worth a maximum of one cent each plus the miles rebate on redemptions.
Non-travel redemptions are at a low value. Redemptions for gift cards or merchandise will only have half of the value of a travel redemption.
The car rental insurance coverage is secondary, meaning that if something happens to your rental car, you will first need to go through your personal car insurance to cover damages.
Travel protection is limited. You’re only covered up to $250,000 for travel accidents, $100 per day for three days for baggage delays, and up to $1,500 for trip cancellation or interruption.
If you’re into using transferable points, you’re going to want to rack up as many Ultimate Rewards points as you can, since the value per point can be well over 2 cents each when you leverage high value rewards, versus 1 cent with the Arrival Plus.
But the Arrival Plus can be helpful for paying for award fees and other travel expenses that can’t be paid for with airline miles or hotel points.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards point can be transferred to programs like United and used to book a ticket, and the taxes on the award ticket can be fully reimbursed with your Barclaycard Arrival Plus miles.
But if you don’t care about transferable points, stick with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus on its own.
If you want just one card or are interested in getting only one at a time, here’s what we would recommend.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a better card to start with if you value flying in premium cabins and have some flexibility in your travels. It’s also a great option if you usually purchase travel insurance as there are some travel protections that come as benefits of the card at no additional cost. If you’re at an intermediate stage, also consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve with a $450 annual fee, but 3x points on dining and travel, plus a $300 annual travel credit.
If your travel plans are generally quite inflexible, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus is going to be your better starter card. You’ll never find blackout days or days that the award availability has already been booked by someone else. As long as there is a cash fare available on the route you are looking to fly, you’ll be able to book it directly with your card and reimburse yourself with your Arrival miles.
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