Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite MasterCard® vs. Citi® Double Cash Card: Double the miles, or double the cash?

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In a Nutshell

It's a close call, but the winner of Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite MasterCard® vs. the Citi® Double Cash Card goes to the card with the better long-term value. That's the cash back powerhouse from Citi.

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What’s better: a travel credit card with incentives to indulge in wanderlust or a cash back card with flexible redemption options?

The answer may depend on whether you value travel more than cold, hard cash, but one thing’s for sure: Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® and Citi® Double Cash Card rank among the best rewards cards in their respective categories.

Why? Because both cards essentially double down on the rewards. You’ll earn two miles per $1 spent on all purchases with Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®, and you can redeem those miles for travel statement credits starting at 10,000 miles for $100 toward all or a portion of your travel purchases made within the past 120 days of $100 or more.

With Citi® Double Cash Card, on the other hand, you can earn 2% cash back — 1% when you make purchases, and an additional 1% when you pay off those purchases.

So, which of these two rewards cards reigns supreme? Let’s crunch the numbers.

  1. The winner: Why we prefer Citi® Double Cash Card
  2. Counterpoint: Why you might want Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® instead
  3. Heads up: What to consider when applying for a rewards card
  4. Bottom line: Is Citi® Double Cash Card right for you?

The winner: Why we prefer Citi® Double Cash Card

At first glance, Citi® Double Cash Card doesn’t look like it has quite the rewards-earning power of Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. That’s primarily due to the hefty sign-up bonus for Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® — 70,000 miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening — plus the 5% kickback every time you redeem miles. Take those aspects of the card into account, and it seems clear that Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® should emerge the winner.

So, why have we decided to crown the Citi® Double Cash Card winner? Because for many cardholders, it ends up being a better value over the long haul. Allow us to explain.

  • No annual fee. After the first year, you’ll have to pay $89 annually to enjoy the rewards associated with Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. Citi® Double Cash Card offers a similar rewards value without that pesky annual fee.
  • Get cash back on all purchases — twice. You’ll earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases: 1% when you buy and 1% as you pay back those purchases. That’s a pretty great incentive to be a responsible credit card user and pay off your balance on time each month.
  • No rotating categories. If you want simple, flat-rate rewards on the stuff you buy every day, Citi® Double Cash Card gives you that flexibility.
  • Cash is king. Points and miles are great, but not everyone can fit world travel into their daily routine. Pretty much everyone can use a little extra cash, though, and that’s where Citi® Double Cash Card really outshines Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. Plus, that $0 annual fee means you can spend — and earn — as much as you want without feeling the pressure to get your money’s worth.
  • Introductory 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months. If you want to transfer a balance, Citi® Double Cash Card gives you an extra six months of 0% interest over Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. Note that you’ll need to complete all balance transfers within four months of opening your card to qualify for the 0% introductory APR, and you’ll still have to pay a balance transfer fee of 3% (minimum $5). Plus, keep in mind that the balance transfer variable APR will be 15.49% - 25.49% after the 18 months are up.
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Counterpoint: Why you might want Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® instead

We can answer this question in two words: sign-up bonus. New Barclaycard holders can earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. That $0 intro, $89 after first year annual fee is starting to look pretty reasonable, right?

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

Before you apply for a rewards card, ask yourself whether you have the time and patience to track the deadlines, categories, bonuses and other rules you’ll need to follow to take full advantage of the card’s benefits.

You should also consider what type of rewards you’ll benefit from the most. If you travel a lot and remain steadfastly loyal to a single airline or hotel chain, you could earn some serious perks by choosing a branded card instead. Otherwise, consider looking for a card that earns you solid rewards through sign-up bonuses and regular spending.

When all else fails, use your common sense. If you don’t travel a lot, an airline or hotel card won’t do much for you and you probably shouldn’t be scared off by a cash back card’s foreign transaction fee.

Bottom line: Is Citi® Double Cash Card right for you?

If you want a simple, rewarding card to use on everyday purchases, Citi® Double Cash Card could be an excellent choice.

Heads up, though: There are other cash back cards that could potentially get you a better return if you spend a lot in certain bonus categories, such as gas stations, grocery stores and warehouse clubs.