News about upcoming changes to the Barclays Arrival + card landed with a pre-holiday thud. It’s been covered ad-nauseum around the blogs (I read it first on MommyPoints), but the highlights are:

  • 10 percent points rebate for redemption dropping to 5 percent
  • Minimum redemption amount for travel going up to 10,000 points, and 5,000 points for cashback
  • TripIt Pro subscription benefit going away

There are other tweaks, but I think these are the biggies. Taken individually, any one of these might not be a bother, but together they are challenging. I’ve redeemed Arrival miles for many of my favorite things including airline tickets, onboard spending bills from cruises, and for cruises themselves. In fact, I’ve recommended the Arrival + as an ideal alternative to cruise line promoted credit cards on more than one occasion. When I signed into my Barclays account this morning, I saw that my AAdvantage Aviator Red card was finally on its way, which led me to wonder whether or not it’s time to part ways with the Arrival + card?

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Manufactured spending purists have long questioned the value of the card pointing out that one would need to meet some aggressive spending targets to justify its $89 annual fee. On the other hand, I’d opine that a lot of the rest of us aren’t purists, we’re just looking for some decent value and benefits in a card that comes with a fee. For me, the biggest aside from easy redemptions was actually having Chip & PIN capability. Granted, the card’s priority is chip & signature, but it is capable of PIN based transactions as well, something most of the other banks haven’t quite come to terms with in the USA.

In truth, nowadays I leave the country by air once a year on average, so this isn’t that big of a deal. However, I can’t deny that I’ve never quite gotten over running up and down the train platform in Italy in 2010 when the machines refused my chipless credit card and it was almost departure time for the last train of the night. Not to mention, if I’m redeeming to cover onboard spending from a cruise or the cost of a cruise itself, a 10,000 point minimum is not a roadblock…. especially if I’m using the cruise as an excuse for some (ahem) innovative spending in the casino.

All this said, when I look at the top of my wallet this morning there are two Ultimate Rewards earning cards there, and the Arrival + is sitting at home. I’m focused on Ultimate Rewards right now as I’ve been spending them as fast as they arrive. Will I close my Arrival + account? Maybe, maybe not, but I do have a lot to think about. All of which reminds me, when was the last time Ultimate Rewards “devalued?” How much longer can it be?

-MJ, July 4, 2015