One of my favorite credit cards, and one I don’t mind paying the $89 annual fee on, is the Barclay Arrival Plus card. I get great use out of it, though I know others wonder they should cancel it after the first year or perhaps downgrade to the no-annual fee version. Thankfully, there is a way to off-set the annual fee altogether: Redeem Arrival Miles. Yes, the $89 annual fee on the Arrival Plus card is coded as a travel purchase and can thus be redeemed with Arrival Miles at a rate of 1 cent per point. For the full $89, you’ll need 8,010 Arrival Miles after the 10% travel redemption rebate has been applied.
At an earnings rate of 2 Arrival Miles per $1, it takes just $4,005 in spending to off-set the $89 annual fee. This shouldn’t be too difficult or costly, despite the increasing difficulty of manufactured spending. Here are a few suggestions as well as the cost involved:
American Express Serve ($0). Thanks to the $1,000 monthly online load allowance, you can generate 8,000 Arrival Miles free of charge after just four months of loading Serve with your Arrival Plus card. This is the easiest and cheapest option of them all.
Simon Mall Gift Cards ($31.60). The cost of buying Simon Mall gift cards recently increased to $3.95, which is still competitive compared to what other gift cards are charging. Picking up $4,000 worth of Visa gift cards and unloading them via Bluebird will cost $31.60 in fees. This obviously isn’t as great as $0 in fees, but considering this cuts down your annual fee by 1/3, it’s still a good option if you don’t want to go the Amex Serve route.
American Express Gift Cards ($8.35). I don’t know about you, I definitely took the 4% cash back shopping portals previously offered on Amex gift cards for granted. Now, the best we can expect is 1.5% cash back from TopCashBack (my referral link). At this rate, $4k in gift card purchases would cost $16.85 in fees ($7.90 gift card fees + $8.95 shipping) and generate $60 cash back. Unloading these via Amex for Target would incur $51.50 in load and ATM fees, bringing your total out of pocket expenses to $8.35.
American Express for Target ($51). In the case of another cash back portal pull-out, you may have to skip Amex gift cards altogether and opt for direct Amex for Target loads. Simply take your card to Target and load it at the register with your Barclay Arrival Plus card. The cost of doing this is much higher at $51 but again, it’s cheaper than paying $89.
Everyday Spending ($0). The fact that the Arrival Plus card pays out 2 miles per $1 on all spending makes it a viable option for everyday spend. When I’m not meeting massive spending requirements, this is what I do. It’s the equivalent of earning 2.2% cash back on your non-category spend, which is as good as it gets.
These are just a few ways to off-set and perhaps even eliminate the $89 annual fee on the Barclay Arrival Plus card. The bottom line is that the annual fee is coded as a travel purchase, so you can use your Arrival Miles to off-set the cost.
For me, the Barclay Arrival Plus card has paid for itself many times over, covering Hyatt Points + Cash awards (like the one at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands), airline taxes and fees, and acting as an alternative currency when it makes more sense to redeem Arrival miles than hotel points or airline miles. The card really comes in handy in these situations, helping to conserve points and save cash.
So if you just can’t stand the thought of paying $89 a year for the privilege of earning miles, then the fact that you can eliminate the full cost (not with perks but statement credits) should be reason enough to hold onto your Arrival Plus card.