Today, even with their annual fees, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards are two of the more popular travel rewards credit cards on the market. Both of them offer great travel rewards and have handy travel benefits.

Find out how they match up and see which one is better for you:

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

Barclaycard-Arrival-Plus-World-Elite-MasterCardThe Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard swept the credit card industry by storm with its extremely simple rewards program and flexible redemption policy, despite the card’s $89 annual fee.

Cardmembers earn 2 miles per dollar spent on anything and everything. Meanwhile, the miles can be redeemed for travel purchases at a rate of 1 mile per cent (starting at 2,500 miles). So, if you’ve got 40,000 miles, you can use the points to get a $400 statement credit against a travel purchase.

Additionally, you get 10 percent miles back when you use your miles to redeem for travel statement credits. This actually boosts the card’s effective rewards rate of 2.2 miles per dollar spent (applies only when miles are redeemed on travel).

According to the card terms and conditions, travel redemptions include the following purchase categories: airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rentals, cruises, travel agencies, tourist attractions, discount travel sites, trains, buses, taxis, limos, ferries and the $89 annual fee.

What’s not heavily advertised is that you can actually redeem for gift cards, merchandise and non-travel statement credits. However, these redemptions come at a rate of 2 miles per cent — half the redemption value of the travel statement credits.

When it comes to travel, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard comes with a good mix of handy benefits, including common travel perks like insurances for travel accidents, trip cancellations, baggage delays and auto rental collision damage. Additionally, there are no foreign transaction fees when you use the card abroad (the typical foreign transaction fee is 3%).

The noteworthy feature is complimentary access to MasterCard’s concierge service, which acts like a personal assistant. You can have concierge agents look for hard-to-find items, book restaurant reservations and more.

From a card-security standpoint, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard carries chip-and-signature with PIN capability. It means that the card is accepted at foreign merchants that only take EMV chip cards, which are considered more secure than traditional magnetic strip cards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

sapphire preferred cardWith its gem-based theme, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is often marketed to affluent consumers who like to travel. But with an $95 annual fee, it is far from unreachable for anyone who knows how to take advantage of a travel rewards credit card. (The travel cards with $400+ annual fees are the ones that truly cater to the wealthy.)

Cardmembers earn 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining, while all other purchases earn 1 point per dollar. And, when you book airfare or hotel stays through Chase’s online booking portal, you earn an additional point per dollar on travel (total of 3 points per dollar).

Through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program, the points can be redeemed for gift cards, merchandise, travel and cash back. Cash back and most gift cards can redeemed at a value of 1 point per cent.

One very popular feature is the ability to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to partnered frequent travel programs at a 1:1 ratio. Participating brands include United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and more.

For example, a roundtrip flight between New York City and Los Angeles through United is regularly priced at $999. That exact same flight will cost 50,000 United miles plus $155 in booking fees. You can convert 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points into 50,000 United miles and enjoy that same flight at the effective cost of $655 ($500 worth of points + $155 in fees).

The points stretch further when they are redeemed for travel through Chase because cardmembers get to spend 20 percent fewer points on these travel redemptions. For instance, a $500 flight will cost 40,000 points instead of 50,000 points.

Chase Sapphire Preferred get a plethora of travel benefits, including the various insurances that are also available on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. It also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Cardmembers have free 24/7 access to Visa’s personal concierge service to help them with their shopping and travel, among many other needs.

When it comes to using the card internationally, Chase Sapphire Preferred offers chip-and-signature technology. Yes, it is not considered as safe as chip-and-PIN, but it’ll work when shopping abroad. (Chase said the card will receive chip-and-PIN capability in late 2014).

An interesting tidbit: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is made of metal. Therefore, it can not be destroyed like traditional plastic cards. When it comes time to dispose of the card, Chase will send you a return envelope.

Which one for you?

The two competing credit cards differ mostly in the way that rewards are redeemed most efficiently: travel. So, we’re looking at your travel patterns to determine the more appropriate card for you:

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard is better if you tend to shop for travel deals through travel agencies and discount travel sites like Kayak or Priceline. Since you’re getting a great deal already, you don’t need to rely on complicated booking tools and travel programs to travel on the cheap. It also relieves you of the need to stay loyal to a specific airline or hotel chain.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is better if you’re going to maximize the points-transfer feature through the Ultimate Rewards program and you’re also open to booking travel through Chase. The card is worth a serious consideration if you’re already a frequent flyer with Chase’s travel partners.

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  • ctak

    Figuring out which card is right for you, based on spending patterns and lifestyle, is not the easiest, especially since there are so many to choose from – plus you have to read up on all the perks and keep up with changing categories each quarter. Personally, after reading all of these articles about Chase Sapphire, I think I will have to sign up for one!

  • If anyone went through the decision process of picking between these two cards, please let me know which one you ended up going with and why.

    • Bryan

      I’m late to the party, but I have both. I’ve used the Chase card a lot more because I like the flexibility of the points. The prices in the ultimate rewards mall are really about the same as you would find on Priceline/Kayak…couple that with your points and you end up paying less than what you would pay on Priceline/Kayak. Each card has a “points booster” feature where you can shop online through name brand stores, but they aren’t identical in terms of points given…ex. you might get 5 points for shopping online at Nike with one card, but only 3 points with the other. I do like how the points post almost instantly with Barclays as opposed to Chase. With Barclays, the World Elite benefits are nice and I hope to take advantage of more of them as my income grows. I’ve heard strange tales of accounts being randomly closed with Barclays so I’m always super careful with how I spend on that card. Aesthetically, Chase wins(just thought I’d throw that out there).

      • Thanks for providing some anecdotal insight from having the two cards — really helps to shed more light on them.

        Is there a reason that you ended up having both cards? (Sign up bonus, perhaps?) I would that that someone would get one card to replace the other and avoid paying two annual fees.

        • Bryan

          Well…1)I’ve always read that it’s a good idea to have two decent travel cards if you travel at all. 2)the signup bonuses were a draw and the flexibility of the points were also a draw. 3)a bit of ego haha…

          Honestly, both cards have already paid for themselves and I’ve only had them since July. In no way am I a big spender. My significant other is an AU on both cards so between our bills and very occasional dinners out we’ve come out ahead. You really don’t have to spend a ton of money just to get the benefits like some other cards. And also, for me these are my only two annual fee cards so the fees aren’t a big deal.

          • On #3, I get that – heh.

            So, what your strategy with the two cards? Do you carry both around with you to see which one will bring in the most points for certain purchases? Or do you also have some other cards in the mix?

            • Bryan

              Yes, I carry both. I alternate spending on them. If I put all of my bills on one, then I put my “fun spending” on the other. I switch it up. I also keep a balance transfer and a grocery/gas card that has a nice banking relationship bonus. This way I’m diverse but not spread too thin.

              I think people get too caught up in having a bunch of rewards cards. Too many rewards cards defeats the purpose of having rewards cards as your spending becomes diluted across the cards.

              • Just curious: How often are you using cards (Arrival Plus and Sapphire Preferred in particular) to redeem for free travel?

                I know that this will probably depend on the amount you spend, but are you getting at least one free trip from each of the cards per year? Maybe more?

                • Bryan

                  I’ve only had the cards a few months, but because I hit the bonus with Chase, I got a free trip. With Barclay, I got a free weekend rental through Avis so I basically combined the two. With both cards, I’ve been able to knock off of my travel expenses.

    • Jason

      I had both but recently opted to pass on the AF for Barclays. I was using Arrival+ for regular spend when I was at non AMEX locations, but the rewards are just too slow considering the value of the points being a flat 1.1 cents per point. It ultimately makes more sense to do non AMEX regular spend on the CSP as even though you get 1x points, the points are worth around 2.1 cents per point (varies based on redemption), so you’re already getting similar redemption at the minimum, but a potential of even higher redemption.

      AMEX Everyday Preferred is a far better card than the Arrival+ for similar spend situations. It does not have the simple redemption, but 1.5 points per dollar for regular spend and MR points valued at around 2.0 cents per point means much more value on regular spend than the 2.2 cents per dollar spent on Arrival+. Then, you get even more points for groceries and gas. Makes the Amex EP and CSP combo very strong… covers groceries, gas, travel, and restaurants at high values and a strong regular spend value as well. Throw in Freedom as well for 5x on rotating categories and you will be swimming in points without churning cards or gift card loading.

  • Jason

    Basically, CSP is loads better if you are trying to bulk up for a nice trip in fancy hotels. There is some value to Arrival+ if you are needing a lot of quick hit redemptions on Kayak, Orbitz, etc as mentioned above, but the rate you collect points is low enough that you won’t ever get a ton of value out of your points.

    If you value your points at 2 cents per point, Arrival+ isn’t even as good as CSP for _regular_ purchases, let alone restaurant and travel. Combine it with Freedom for rotating categories (using CSP to pool UR points and convert to Hotel / Airline points), and it blows Arrival+ away.

    The only card I’ve found on the market that can even compete with the sheer point value is American Express Everyday Preferred. Amex’s card is the best card on the market for everyday regular purchases on a point per redemption scale.

    I have had all the cards in my portfolio at once, and considered using Arrival+ for retailers who don’t take AMEX on everyday purchases, simply to have variety of redemption options, but I just couldn’t justify the annual fee.

    If you’re willing to maximize your point redemption, Amex Everyday Preferred, CSP, and Freedom is the best arsenal to carry in your wallet. Hyatt seems to be the best general hotel redemption option, via Chase, leaving Amex as an ideal card to transfer points for flights. With my spending, I usually have a fairly even point spread between MR and UR points.

  • dfredverne

    Late to this discussion, but I’ve been using the Barclays card now for about 18 months and received back over $4000 in credit (it gets used for EVERYTHING, from groceries to charity contributions to travel). I’ve never had a problem with it either in the US or overseas. Additionally, I use the site to shop at online retailers with bonus miles quite frequently (Home Depot, the Gap, etc). The only advantage I can see for now to switching to the CSP would be the signup bonus.

    • Wow, $4,000 back over 18 months is rather impressive. Looks like your annual spending is off the charts!

      Also, to my knowledge, the Arrival miles are worth less when redeemed for statement credit on purchases that are not travel-related. Did you find that to be different for you?

      • dfredverne

        Try paying college tuitions! That racks up the dollars in a hurry.

        • Hah, that will certainly do it. There’s no “convenience fee” for paying tuition with credit cards?

          • dfredverne

            yes, it’s probably a wash though in the end, plus my kids charged it before I ever got near the bill 🙂

      • dfredverne

        The rewards for non travel are 2% vs 2.2% for travel. I travel enough so it’s not been an issue to find travel related charges. If aggressive you can really work the system. I’m thinking of getting the CPS however as a secondary card, esp now that my free Amex Costco card is going away. Is the CPS MasterCard only or also available as a Visa?

        • If by CPS, you mean Chase Sapphire Preferred, then you’d be getting a Visa, not MasterCard.

          • dfredverne

            okay; Costco will be taking Visa cards but not MasterCard, so I’d like to have a Visa with some cash/credit back to use there for gasoline, etc.