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I opened a Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card a little over a year ago, which meant that I was recently faced with the decision everyone should consider a year into holding a card that charges an annual fee: Is is worth keeping another year?

Leaving annual fee cards open year on end without considering if they’re worth it is a mistake that will suck all the value out of your rewards fast. Don’t let that happen to you. It’s exciting when you open a new card, meet the minimum spending requirement, and then get that big hunk of miles or points. Super exciting. But even if you don’t continue to spend on a credit card past meeting the minimum spend, you can’t just forget about it. Record all your cards, when you opened them, when you earned the bonus, and any other pertinent notes in a spreadsheet or using a tool like Award Wallet, that way you’ll know when it’s time to consider what to do with that card before the annual fee is charged again. Then record what you decided to do with it, so you’ll be aware of any timelines to abide when it comes to opening new cards.

Calling For a Retention Bonus

The first step in performing a cost/benefit analysis is to find out if you will receive a retention bonus for keeping the card that is worth more than the annual fee. If so, you can keep the card and the analysis is over.

So I called the number on the back of my Arrival Plus.

I explained to the representative that I just wasn’t sure I was getting enough value from my Arrival Plus to merit keeping it open another year, and then asked if there was any incentive they could offer that would make keeping the card open worth it. Not surprisingly they answered no. Don’t give up if this happens to you, it is a typical response. I asked to be transferred to a specialist or manager who might be able to further assist me, and was immediately without question transferred to someone else.

The second rep I spoke with told me that they were sorry, they were not allowed to waive the annual fee after the first year (the first year’s annual fee was waived as part of the sign up package). I asked if there were any other options. She then recommended downgrading to the no annual fee Arrival Card, which earns 2 Arrival miles per dollar on travel/dining, and 1 Arrival mile per dollar on everything else. If I downgraded and then put at least one purchase on the card, I’d get 1,000 bonus miles after that purchase.

I asked if there were any other offers available and was shot down. That’s not surprising as I put little spend on the card past meeting the minimum spending requirement for the initial sign-up bonus.

Debating the Offer

I knew the Arrival Card would be offered as a no annual fee downgrade option, which on one hand is appealing simply for the ability to keep the account open which lengthens the average age of your accounts and improves your credit score. The counter argument is that you aren’t eligible for another Arrival Plus bonus unless your old one is closed (for a recommended six months). So if you plan to churn the card, downgrading is not an option. My sight isn’t set on opening another Arrival Plus in the near future, and I have roughly 3,400 orphaned Arrival miles that I can’t currently do anything with. With the prospect of being to do something with those miles, and with no plan to open another Arrival Plus in the next six-ish months, I decided to take the downgrade offer.

If I hadn’t received any sort of retention offer, the next step of the cost/benefit analysis process would be to figure out if the marginal benefits of holding the card are greater than the annual fee.

Using The Orphaned Points

The Arrival Plus and Arrival Card have different redemption schemes. The Arrival Plus requires redemptions of at least 10,000 miles to get the highest return of 1 cent each (in the form of travel statement credits, so 10,000 miles = $100 in travel expenses). But the Arrival Card allows you to redeem as little as 2,500 miles towards travel expenses at 1 cent each. I clarified with the rep that the Arrival miles I’d earn from the Arrival Card are the same type of Arrival miles earned by the Arrival Plus, and that my leftover balance of 3,400 from the Arrival Plus would be migrated to the Arrival Card account.

With the 1,000 mile bonus my balance will jump to 4,400, which should get me $44 in travel statement credit redeemed from new Arrival Card account.

How to Boost Your Arrival Miles Balance to a Redeemable Amount

If you find yourself with orphaned Arrival miles, another option to boost your balance is by writing Travel Stories for the Barclaycard Travel Community. That will earn at least 150 miles per story + one photo.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus Offer and Who it’s Good For

Opening and spending $5,000 on the Arrival Plus within three months will earn you 60,000 Bonus Arrival miles. The Arrival Plus card’s sign up bonus, along with the Arrival miles earned from the spend it takes to unlock the 60k Arrival “miles” bonus, is worth $700 in free travel. It earns 2 Arrival miles per dollar spent, representing a 2% return as each Arrival mile is worth 1 cent each. Technically the return is a tiny bit higher than that, with a 5% rebate of miles each time you redeem. The annual fee of $89 is waived the first year.

The Arrival Plus is good for…

  • Domestic economy flyers: Arrival miles are useful for covering cheap cash flights that typically aren’t worth spending airline miles on. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Arrival Plus to put all your spending on, but it’s at least good for the sign-up bonus and first year with no annual fee. Read more about the best combo of credit cards for this kind of traveler in Rewards Earning Strategy for Domestic Economy Travelers.
Photo by airbus 777
Photo by airbus777
  • Points Omnivores: Arrival miles can be used to cover any travel expense, from Airbnbs to award taxes and fees. Those that are just looking to get as much free travel as possible (i.e. Points Omnivores) will find the bonus on the Arrival Plus useful.

Bottom Line

After a year of holding a Barclaycard Arrival Plus, it was time to weigh my options with the prospect of an $89 annual fee hitting. When I called the number on the back of my card, I was eventually connected to someone who offered me a downgrade offer: 1,000 bonus miles for downgrading my Arrival Plus to an Arrival Card and putting one purchase on it instead of closing my Arrival Plus. I chose to take the offer as I have some orphaned Arrival miles that I’ll be able to redeem in the form of travel statement credits from the Arrival account since that card only requires a balance of 2,500 (while the Arrival Plus requires a balance of 10,000). After I get rid of the orphaned miles, I’ll take another look at my credit card plan for the near future to see if opening another Barclaycard Arrival Plus is in the cards, as I won’t be eligible for the bonus until (safely) 6 months after closing the Arrival Card.

Do you currently or have you ever held an Arrival Plus?

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

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