Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card vs. Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®: Which is best for travel rewards?

Couple on vacation after having done the math on the BankAmericard Travel Rewards vs. Barclaycard Arrival Plus Couple on vacation after having done the math on the BankAmericard Travel Rewards vs. Barclaycard Arrival Plus Image:

In a Nutshell

When two top travel rewards cards with simple earnings programs and flexible redemption options go head to head, which one comes out on top? We prefer Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® over the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card — here's why.

Louis DeNicola is a personal finance writer and has written for American Express and Discover. We generally make money when you get a product (like a credit card or loan) through our platform, but we don’t let that cloud our editorial opinions. Learn more about how we keep this compensation from affecting our editorial views.
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Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, a travel rewards credit card could help you save some serious money.

Both the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® let you redeem the rewards you earn as statement credits. These rewards can offset a variety of travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises and taxis.

These two cards also feature appealingly straightforward rewards programs. They offer a flat earning rate on every purchase, so you won’t have to keep track of bonus rewards categories.

In spite of their similarities, the cards do differ in important ways. Before taking a deeper dive into these differences and how they may affect your decision, let’s look at the basic vitals for each card.

At a glance: Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card vs. Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

 

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
Annual fee $0 $0 intro, $89 after first year
Sign-up bonus 20,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases within 90 days of account opening 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening
Rewards 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases  2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases
Point value

1 cent per point when you redeem them for travel statement credits

$0.006 per point when redeemed for cash

Redemption value for gift cards varies

1 cent per mile when you redeem them for travel statement credits

$0.005 per mile when redeemed for non-travel statement credits

Variable APR for purchases and balance transfers  15.99 to 23.99 percent  16.99 percent, 20.99 percent or 23.99 percent
Boost rewards

You have two boost options: Earn 10 percent more points if you have a Bank of America® checking or savings account

Or, you can earn 25 to 75 percent more points as a Preferred Rewards customer

Earn an extra 1.5 bonus points per dollar spent on travel booked through Bank of America® Travel Center

Get 5 percent of your redeemed miles back to use toward your next redemption
Other benefits

No foreign transaction fee

0 percent intro APR on purchases for 12 Billing Cycles

No foreign transaction fee

0 percent intro APR on balance transfers (made within first 45 days) for 12 months

 


  1. The winner: Why we prefer Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
  2. Counterpoint: Why you might want the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card instead
  3. Heads up: What to consider when applying for a travel rewards card
  4. Bottom line: Is Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® right for you?

The winner: Why we prefer Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

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The sign-up bonus and earnings rate of Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® make this card a clear winner for most people.

As long as the account is open and you redeem your rewards for travel statement credits, the 5 percent bonus on redeemed miles results in an effective 2.1 percent earnings rate. The bonus on redeemed miles also applies to the 40,000 miles you can earn from the sign-up bonus.

Let’s do some quick math here: After you redeem the 40,000 miles to offset $400 worth of travel, you’ll get 2,000 miles back. You can then use those miles for an additional $20 in travel statement credits upon your next redemption. (Note: You must have at least 10,000 miles to receive a travel statement credit.)

Overall, the sign-up bonus is worth $420. That’s $220 more than the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card’s sign-up bonus, which is valued at $200 when redeemed for a travel statement credit. (Note: This doesn’t account for the potential 10 percent bonus from Bank of America® for having a checking or savings account. More on that in the next section.)

Comparing earnings with each card

Running through several scenarios, it’s clear that most people choosing between one of these two travel cards could earn more rewards with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®.

Below, you can see how much you could earn in rewards with either card at different annual spending points, inclusive of the sign-up bonus and annual fee. The following calculations are based on a series of assumptions:

  • We assume you don’t pay any interest or additional fees.
  • We assume you redeem your rewards for travel statement credits.
  • We assume you receive a 10 percent bonus from Bank of America® for having a checking or savings account with the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card and/or a 5 percent redemption bonus with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®.
Annual spend Net rewards earnings in first year Net rewards earnings in subsequent years
$5,000

Bank of America® : $283

Barclaycard: $525

Bank of America® : $83

Barclaycard: $16

$10,000

Bank of America®: $365

Barclaycard: $630

Bank of America®: $165

Barclaycard: $121

$15,000

Bank of America®: $448

Barclaycard: $735

Bank of America®: $248

Barclaycard: $226

$20,000

Bank of America®: $530

Barclaycard: $840

Bank of America®: $330

Barclaycard: $331

* All values in table should be treated as approximate.

The difference in rewards earnings is most dramatic during the first year, when you can receive the sign-up bonus and don’t have to pay the annual fee for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. After the first year, the annual fee begins to offset your earnings.

In the following years, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card could offer a higher rewards value for some cardholders.

Your second-year net rewards will be roughly equal if you make $1,250 in purchases per month and don’t get a 10 percent bonus for having a Bank of America® checking or savings account. If you do receive a bonus, they’ll be roughly equal if you make $1,650 worth of purchases each month.

However, even if you don’t spend enough to break even with annual rewards in subsequent years, the significant difference during the first year makes Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® a better card in many cases.

Additional cardholder benefits

The rewards potential isn’t the only reason to choose Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. The card’s World Elite Mastercard® benefits include luxury travel perks (such as free spa or dining credits at select hotels), trip cancellation insurance, concierge travel assistance and access to Priceless Cities® experiences and events.

You’ll get the best redemption value when you redeem your miles for travel, so it’s nice that Barclaycard has a broad definition for what counts. Your options include airlines, hotels, motels, time shares, campgrounds, car-rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, trains, buses, taxis, limousines and ferries.

You can redeem your miles to offset expenses from the previous 120 days, but you must have at least 10,000 miles (equal to $100) to start redeeming for travel statement credits.

Counterpoint: Why you might want the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card instead

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There are several scenarios where the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card could be the better option.

To earn the sign-up bonus, you must make $1,000 in purchases within 90 days of account opening, which is a lot easier to meet than the Barclaycard’s $3,000 requirement. If meeting the larger spend requirement would require you to carry a balance or make purchases you weren’t going to otherwise, then you might be better off choosing a card with a lower minimum spend requirement.

Bank of America® and Merrill Lynch® customers, in particular, may want to consider the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card. At a minimum, with an eligible checking or savings account you’ll get a 10 percent bonus when you redeem your points. However, you could earn a 25, 50 or 75 percent bonus (giving you an effective 1.88, 2.25 or 2.63 percent rewards rate) if you’re part of the Bank of America® Preferred Rewards program.

To earn the top Platinum Honors 75 percent bonus rate, you’ll need at least $100,000 in combined balances in your Bank of America® banking and/or Merrill Edge® and Merrill Lynch® investment accounts. But even at the Platinum level ($50,000 in combined balances) the resulting 2.25 percent earnings rate is better than what you could get with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®.

Heads up: What to consider when applying for a travel rewards credit card

Travel rewards cards with flexible redemption options may be best suited for those who have varied or uncertain travel plans.

Otherwise, if you already have a trip in mind, the details of the trip may dictate which card is best. For example, your research could reveal that your largest expense will be the flights. If that’s the case, earning miles from a co-branded airline credit card and redeeming them for a flight might offer you the most value.

In general, you may not want to put travel expenses on a travel rewards credit card if you don’t think you’ll be able to pay your balance in full, because it could have a higher interest rate than a different type of card.

Bottom line: Is Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® right for you?

When you’re deciding whether Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is right for you, consider how much you’re likely to spend using the card each year, whether the benefits you’ll receive will outweigh the annual fee after the first year and if you’ll make good use of the rewards.

If you anticipate spending more than $1,250 each month and don’t qualify for bonus earnings with the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, then Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is likely the more rewarding option of the two.

However, these aren’t the only two travel rewards credit cards available. You may want to explore opportunities with co-branded airline or hotel cards and look into general travel cards from other issuers before deciding on a new card.

At a glance: Other travel rewards cards to consider

Great for flexible redemption Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Great hotel rewards Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Great for business owners who want luxury travel benefits The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

From cardholders in the last year

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Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

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The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

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