Breaking Free, Becoming a Free Agent

It’s great having airlines and hotels I can transfer my points to and get a great deal. It’s nice when I can see I’m getting an awesome cent to point ratio. But I know, I am not truly loyal to any one airline, hotel or credit card. I will always want to be where I get the best deal, because the truth is airlines and hotels will devalue their points. Meaning I will need more points to get the same redemption and when it becomes too watered down, I’ll move on. I look at places like farecompare.com, hipmunk.com or a newer favorite of mine, theflightdeal.com and I see some awesome flight deals. I can see great hotel deals on orbit, hotels.com and others. Sometimes my points don’t get me such a great deal or I’d need a bazillion  of them.

What if I could stop with the game of transferring of points? What if I could book with the hotel I want to stay at and redeem miles? Or book that flight on theflightdeal.com with an airline Chase won’t transfer to? What if I want to book a cruise?

My Ultimate Reward points don’t work in all situations. Currently, I won’t stop playing the transferring game for now because I have lots of points to play with and a particular redemption I need them for :-). Not to mention the value I receive for some transfers. The thought of become a “Free Agent,” is becoming more appealing to me though.

There are cards that allow you to be that “Free Agent,” book with any airline or hotel and receive a credit statement. Cards like Capital One Venture or the much better option of the Barclay Arrival. I think the Barclay Arrival card is the travel card of the future and I know I’m not alone on that thought.

Future of Travel?
Future of Travel?

The Barclay Arrival allows you to book travel an redeem your “miles” for statement credit. In doing that, you can earn airline miles toward a free flight and points with hotels to earn free nights as well. You can book a cruise and redeem your miles. I actually just redeemed Arrival miles for a cruise and saved $700 in doing so!! (if you’re keeping track, I have saved over $2300 so far for my vacation in March! There’s more savings to come)

These “miles” DO NOT transfer to airlines or hotels, they are a fixed point. When you redeem your miles, you do so at a rate of 1 cent per mile. With Ultimate Reward Points or Membership Rewards, you can transfer and receive more value than that, but you can also receive less value. Some people want more of a set it and forget it card. Not everyone likes to have a lot of credit cards.

With the Barclay Arrival you earn 2 miles per dollar spent on ALL purchases. That’s one of the best earning rates for a travel card. When you redeem your miles, Barclay gives you a 10% rebate to use for a future purchase. So you essentially earn 2.2% on all purchases. One nice perk is of the Arrival is you have 120 days from the time you book your travel to redeem your miles. If you see a great deal and realize your short on miles to redeem for the full trip today, you can earn more and redeem later.

If you do not redeem your miles for travel you receive half of what you would for travel. If you had 20,000 miles you could redeem for $200 travel credit statement, if you redeemed for gift card or non-travel credit statement, you would receive $100. So, I would only redeem for travel.

Other perks of the Barclay Arrival:

  • 40,000 mile bonus after spending $3,000 in first 90 days ( $506 in travel money!!)
  • Free FICO Score
  • Tripit Pro Subscription (helps organize your travels, not perfect but it’s a nice freebie)
  • Chip and PIN technology, becoming more important for international travel.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $89 annual fee waived for first year (no excuse not to try it and keep it or downgrade to no fee card)
  • Points post when transaction post. Don’t need to wait until statement period closes.
  • Shopping Portal to earn more Arrival Miles on online purchases

Lets look at this example, looking at a deal on theflightdeal.com. The dates chosen were January 9- 15th

Fly to Hawaii for less than $600!
Fly to Hawaii for less than $600!

Using your Arrival this would cost you 57,900 miles, but you’d receive 5,790 miles back for a future purchase. You’d also receive AA miles. When you book your flight you could book through Orbitz as well. Earn Orbitz Bucks to use for a hotel purchase as well. You would be triple dipping your savings!

Using your AA miles for the same dates:

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 6.24.42 PM
This will cost 62,500 AA miles!

Not only would you pay more miles, you also pay the $11.20 in taxes and fees with this flight. So you would be better off using your Arrival miles for this flight if you had the option

Another example, flying from Manchester, NH to Orlando, FL. Dates used were January 17-24th. Using your Arrival Miles

15,070 Arrival Miles Needed
15,070 Arrival Miles Needed

If you were to transfer points from your Sapphire or if you had Southwest Credit card:

7,422 miles and $11.20
7,422 miles and $11.20

So you’d pay way more with your Arrival Miles in this example!

While no travel currency is perfect, the Arrival has it’s place in your wallet and I think it will only get stronger as airlines and hotels devalue their programs. The bonus alone is worth over $500 and that’s a lot of travel money! I think someday I’ll transition over to using this card because it is just so easy to use and not have to juggle so many cards. Currently I need my Ultimate Reward card to transfer to partners. Becoming a “Free Agent” is sounding more appealing by the day though.

Are you a “Free Agent?” Are you more focused on transfer partners? What are your thoughts on the Barclay Arrival?

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