Credit Cards

The Top Credit Card For All-Around Travel

top credit card for all-around travel
Written by Charlie

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When it comes to answering the question that I receive a lot – “What is the best credit card?” – it is a difficult answer. I normally reply with a number of questions of my own to establish what exactly they are looking to get out of the credit card as far as points. It is too difficult to just name one card when everyone’s redemption desires are different. For example, if someone is only wanting free money to spend at Amazon, I would direct them to an American Express SPG card (can redeem points for gift cards), Chase Sapphire Preferred (can use points for purchases), or Chase Southwest cards (can redeem points for gift cards). While I do not find those redemption methods to be at all great, that is what some people are looking for. However, if they want hotels in Europe for short stays, I recommend the Club Carlson credit cards.

top credit card for all-around travel

When it comes to a credit card that is best for all-around travel, it does not get much better than the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard. Yes, there are better options for business class/first class travel (especially international) since those award seats can be redeemed for between 100,000 – 200,000 points from Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards (when transferred to an airline partner). If you were going to use the Barclay Arrival for those redemptions, it would require more like 1,500,000 Arrival miles for a similar redemption. The reason for that is that the Barclay Arrival card is essentially a cashback card that gives 2.2% cashback when redeemed towards purchased travel.

Application Link – Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard – 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months (I receive a commission for this link)

Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard

So, what does this card offer?

Bonus Miles

With the Barclaycard Arrival card, you earn 40,000 bonus miles after you meet the spending threshold. These miles are worth $400 towards any travel. This is very helpful for people that want to travel to someplace that costs less than $250 for airfare (since an award ticket would cost 25,000 miles) so a $110 from Rochester – NYC would cost 11,000 “miles” per ticket. Thanks to the 10% Travel Redemption Bonus, you will receive 10% of your miles back from your redemptions. So, if you redeem all 40,000 miles for a trip, you will shortly receive 4,000 miles back. These miles are also useful because you can apply them towards any transaction that is handled as travel, no matter the price. So, if you are booking a tour for $2,000, you will be able to apply the bonus of 40,000 to that amount to receive a $400 statement credit.

2.2% Miles for Every Purchase

Barclaycard Arrival

In addition the great bonus and redemption bonus (worth $440), this card also earns 2 miles on every dollar you spend.That means you are receiving a 2.2% return for all of your spending (thanks to the 10% rebate on redemptions). For people that are traveling mainly domestically, or want flexibility to choose different airlines and hotels for different destinations, or for people wanting to earn elite miles flying (because tickets purchased using this bonus earn elite miles since it is like cash purchases), this is perfect.

Barclay Arrival vs Chase Sapphire Preferred

A lot of people compare the Barclay Arrival card to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Both are excellent cards. And both cards have different strengths. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the stronger card for actual award reservations while the Barclay Arrival is better suited to revenue travel of all kinds (plane, rental car, hotel/lodging, tours, cruises). Let’s break down the two cards to see which might be better for you.

Barclay Arrival vs Chase Sapphire Preferred
Card Sign-up Bonus Annual Fee Required Spending for Bonus Foreign Transaction Fee
Barclay Arrival 40,000 $89 waived first year  $1,000 in 90 days No
Chase Sapphire Preferred 40,000 $95 waived first year  $3,000 in 90 days No

Spending Comparison

Chase Sapphire Preferred

If you wanted to earn enough miles for an economy ticket to Europe, it would take 60,000 United miles (transferred from the Chase Sapphire Preferred card at 1:1). If you did all of that spending not at restaurants or on travel, it would require $60,000 in spending to secure that many points. For the sake of argument, let’s say that you did some of that spending at restaurants and on travel and some more of it through the Ultimate Rewards mall. Now, we figure you did $54,000 in spending to earn 60,000 miles. On top of that, you would need to pay somewhere between $60-200 on taxes and fees for that award ticket.

Barclay Arrival World Mastercard

Let’s take that same $54,000 in spending and put it on the Barclay Arrival card instead. That would give us 108,000 miles that would be worth $1,080 towards our paid economy ticket to Europe. That does not include the 10,800 miles that you would receive back as a rebate after your redemption. Now, we add on the cost of taxes and fees that we would need to pay for an award ticket and we are at between $1,140 – $1,280 in cash for this ticket to Europe. Except for some destinations/departure cities or certain times of year, many of the economy tickets purchased to Europe are under that amount (or certainly not much more than $1,300). Plus, you will receive miles in a frequent flyer program for flying a purchased ticket!

So, let’s look at the details of this card:

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more on purchases inBarclaycard Arrival  the first 90 days from account opening. 40,000 bonus miles equates to $400 off your next travel redemption!
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months after account opening. After that, variable APR, currently 14.99% or 18.99%, based upon your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • No mileage caps or foreign transaction fees
  • Get 10% miles back when you redeem for travel statement credits (i.e. redeem 25,000 miles for travel and get 2,500 miles back)
  • Use your card to book through any airline, hotel or discount travel engine with no blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • Easily redeem your miles for statement credits towards all or a portion of your travel purchases within the last 90 days
  • Complimentary online FICO® Score access for Arrival cardmembers

Great Card For…

It is really a great card for everyone. If not as a primary card, definitely as a strong backup card for those purchases in categories that do not give bonus points on other cards. For a runner, this card is a no-brainer. One card bonus can pay for most, if not all, of a marathon/race weekend. That includes the airfare, the hotel, and the rental car. Not bad for one simple application! To earn those points back for another weekend only requires another $20,000 in spend.

I think this earns a spot as the top credit card for all-around travel due to the ease in racking up miles and the redemption possibilities. The miles can be redeemed against any spending that is coded as a travel purchase. This makes it ideal for all-around redemptions.

Editorial Note - Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

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