Credit Card Tip: How to Sell Your Barclaycard Travel Miles

As I was browsing the forums, I came across an interesting post from someone who wanted a way to cash out his miles earned on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard without actually booking travel.

The reason being, he no longer plans to travel due to a baby.

If you racked up a good amount of points on your Barclaycard (or another travel rewards credit card) and find yourself no longer needing the travel points, take a look at the clever tricks you can use to still take advantage of your miles.

Although he has the ability to rack up 50,000 miles per month, Martin (made-up name) is undergoing a major lifestyle change that meant he didn’t foresee any major travel plans soon -- he has a baby on the way.

He originally decided to apply for the Arrival Plus card with the intention of getting free travel, but now he just wants to cash out those miles, probably to use towards the upcoming baby expenses.

But, there’s a bit of a hurdle. See, the Arrival Plus card has three different ways to redeem miles:

  1. Travel statement credits starting at 2,500 miles for $25 (1 cent of value costs 1 mile).
  2. Cash back statement credits starting at 2,500 miles for $12.50 (1 cent of value costs 2 miles).
  3. Gift card starting at 5,000 for $25 (1 cent of value costs 2 miles).

So, if Martin wanted a free flight that would normally cost $500, he’d book the flight himself with the Arrival Plus card.

Since the flight falls under the “travel” category, he can use 50,000 miles to get a $500 travel statement credit, effectively eliminating the cost of that flight with miles.

The issue here is that Martin doesn’t have travel plans, but it simply isn’t worthwhile to redeem his miles for cash back or gift cards because he’ll lose half the value of his miles. (Unfortunately, Martin didn't say exactly how many miles he had, but I'm certain it's A LOT.)

So, what can Martin do with all those points that he has accumulated? Here are three solutions for his situation:

1. Buy airline gift cards

The great thing about gift cards is that you can sell them. Martin can purchase airline gift cards and sell them for a slight discount -- about 10 percent for instance, so that he still gets 90 percent of of the value of his miles.

Early this year, I wrote a post on how to check a merchant’s category when it comes to credit card purchases. One major takeaway was: it doesn’t matter what you buy at the merchant, as long as the merchant is categorized correctly.

So, a gift card purchased from a travel-categorized merchant will be considered a “travel” purchase. Therefore, it is still eligible for the full-value redemption of miles.

Three of the four major U.S. airlines sell gift cards that are considered travel purchases (with links to the pages where you can buy them):

2. Buy an expensive, fully-refundable airline ticket

Another way to get the full value of Martin’s miles is to buy a refundable airline ticket, redeem the miles and then cancel the ticket for a full refund.

To use his large stash of miles, Martin can buy a pricey, first-class international airline ticket -- or even multiple tickets -- to redeem more of his miles at once. If you’re confused, don’t worry.

Here’s an example of how he can use this trick:

  1. Assuming Martin has a $0 balance, he buys a refundable airline ticket worth $5,000.
  2. He waits a few days for the charge to post to his Arrival Plus account. His card balance is now $5,000.
  3. He redeems 500,000 miles to redeem a $5,000 travel statement credit. His card balance is back to $0.
  4. Martin cancels the airline ticket for a full refund. His card balance is now -$5,000 (that’s right, a negative balance).
  5. He can leave that negative balance and continue to make regular purchases on the card. After some time, if a negative balance remains, Barclaycard will send a check in the mail to return the account balance back to $0.

The biggest obstacle to this trick is finding refundable airfare, which is not common for the typical flights that we’d fly on a regular basis.

Refundable tickets tend to cost more and they may only be limited to the more premium cabin classes. After a little research, I’ve found out how you can find refundable airfare at the four largest U.S. airlines:

  • American Airlines: Purchase tickets with the fare type of “Refund” (filter it with refined search)
  • Delta Airlines: Upgrade to "Refundable Business Class"
  • Southwest Airlines: "Business Select" and "Anytime" fares are fully refundable within one year of issuance
  • United: Purchase tickets with the fare type of “Unrestricted Fare” (filter it with advanced search)

3. Purchase travel for friends and family

Of the ways that Martin can cash out his miles, this one is probably the easiest way.

Essentially, he can just offer to pay for travel purchases for family and friends. Then, he can have them reimburse him at a slight discount.

For the Arrival Plus card, “travel” counts as airlines, hotels, motels, car rentals, cruises, tourist attractions, trains, buses, taxis, limos, ferries and more. So, there are plenty of purchases that he could pay for and get reimbursed.

In the end, Martin does have ways to work around the seemingly restrictive redemption options of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard.

Based on his rate of earning miles, he can get back about $6,000 per year through his miles -- that’s if he takes steps to convert those miles into cash with the methods explained above.

Going forward, I’d suggest that he use the Citi Double Cash Card card, which essentially is a 2% cash back credit card, because he won't have to go through all these hurdles to get the most out of his credit card rewards.

Can you come up with any other creative ways for Martin to cash out his miles? If so, let us know in the comments below.

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Ask a Question

Tuesday, 09 Jul 2019 2:50 PM
<p>I'm also curious about this. I suppose the safer route would be to book a refundable hotel room on an OTA and cancel that reservation.</p>
Sunday, 07 Jul 2019 9:29 PM
<p>I called Barclays, rep seemed to be a little confused. But he said if I redeemed Barclays miles for the purchase and later received an airline refund, they would reverse the Visa refund back to miles. Is he correct?</p>
Tuesday, 21 May 2019 5:56 PM
<p>According to Chase, the refund is subject to the refund policy as enforced by the travel provider. So, it may be a refund or travel voucher -- regardless you will not lose the travel credit. Essentially, to answer your question, yes (obviously subject to change in the future).</p>
Friday, 28 Dec 2018 9:43 PM
<p>Can the airline refund trick still be done with the Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit? I’d like to offset the $450 annual fee.</p>
Wednesday, 09 Aug 2017 4:00 PM
<p>Thanks for pointing that out. We've updated the article to reflect that.</p><p>According to anecdotal reports by people on popular credit card forums, American Airlines gift cards are being coded as travel purchases. Many of them are use these gift cards to take advantage of airline fee statement credits.</p>
Sunday, 30 Jul 2017 11:36 PM
<p>United is not currently selling GC's, fyi.</p><p>I see there is no link for American GC's in your article, and also their gift cards are listed as issued by American Airlines Marketing Services, LLC (AAMS) in the Terms. I am wondering if this means it won't be a "travel" purchase...?</p>
Sunday, 30 Jul 2017 10:55 PM
<p>I don't see a link to where one can buy American Airlines gift cards...?<br>Can I assume that if I buy a gift card from AA's site here that it will be classified as travel?:</p><p>In the terms, it says:<br>American Airlines gift cards are issued by American Airlines Marketing Services, LLC (AAMS). <br>Wondering if that means it won't be classified as travel....</p><p>Also, when I went to the United Airlines link, it says that United isn't selling gift certificates at the moment as they are changing up that program.</p><p>I appreciate your efforts.</p>