Barclays Launches New Arrival Premier Card – The Good, Bad, & Hopes for Future Benefits & Transfer Partners

We’ve been talking about this card for some time and today the new Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard has officially gone live.  Okay, let’s start with the benefits as explained via the press release that Barclays sent out this morning:

The Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard annual fee is $150 and includes the following features:

  • Each year earn up to 25,000 loyalty bonus miles
  • Unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • $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 (note you’ll be paying $27 per visit)
  • 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
  • Travel protections including baggage delay, travel accident insurance, trip cancellation and interruption and auto rental collision damage waiver

Let’s dig deeper…

Yes, that top bullet is accurate. There is NO sign-up bonus, instead you are eligible to earn loyalty bonuses each and every year – spend $15K and receive 15K miles, spend another $10K for a total of $25K in a year and receive another 10K miles bonus, for a total of up to 25K per year.

We give cardmembers the opportunity to earn up to 25,000 loyalty bonus miles year after year. Instead of juggling or switching cards when initial sign-on bonus rewards run dry, Arrival Premier is the card you can keep for life because it keeps rewarding you each year.

I appreciate the approach in cutting down on churning, but it’s hard to justify no sign-up bonus at all when the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Thank You Premier cards are both offering 50K points with the annual fee waived for the first year. You can see all the top sign-up bonus cards here.

Next, the spend bonus program detailed above essentially make this card 3x points on everything on the first $25K spent in a year, after that you’re earning 2x points. That’s pretty great. However, it’s the use of those points that are concerning.  The Barclays press release touts how easy these points are to redeem for travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise. Specifically noting that “redeeming miles for travel statement credits offers the best value.” Well, that might be true for the average consumer, but I think all of us in the know can agree that the real value for any points/miles card comes from being able to transfer points directly to airlines for redemption. To that end, Barclays has shared an initial roster of transfer parters, but woof, look at those transfer ratios:

Air France / KLM Flying Blue 1.4 : 1
Aeromexico Club Premier 1.4 : 1
China Eastern Airlines Eastern Miles 1.4 : 1
Etihad Guest 1.4 : 1
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands 1.4 : 1
JAL Mileage Bank 1.7 : 1
Jet Airways JetPrivilege 1.4 : 1
Malaysia Airlines Enrich 1.4 : 1
Qantas Frequent Flyer 1.4 : 1

Yes, currently not one partner is 1:1 and JAL (who does not partner with AmEx, Chase, or Citi) is a miserable 1.7:1. Looking at this differently, on the first $25K spent, you are earning 2.14 miles per dollar with all of the above partners besides JAL.  After hitting the $25K mark, you are earning 1.43 miles per $ spent. There are currently many cards in the marketplace offering 1.5-2x points on each dollar spent, several with lower annual fees.

You’ll note that there are currently no US domestic airline partners including those that Barclays partners with (cough, cough, American and JetBlue), but hopefully some are added and have a 1:1 transfer rate given the already established relationships between the airlines and Barclays.

Recommendation for now, wait it out and see if Barclays adds any additional transfer partners or institutes a sign-up bonus.

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