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How the Arrival Plus Card Saved Us $768/Over 10,000 Points

It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of the Barclay Arrival Plus World MasterCard. I’ve been steadily earning $300 in travel rewards every two weeks by purchasing American Express gift cards via the Barclay Rewardsboost portal. Over the course of a year, this will result in $7,200 in travel credits that I can use to off-set hotel expenses when they make sense, on-site dining/spa charges, airline taxes/fees, to name a few.

Update: In early June, Barclay Rewardsboost stopped listing American Express gift cards as a participating merchant.

Residence Inn San Diego Sorrento Mesa - 2 Bedroom Source: Hotel website

Residence Inn San Diego Sorrento Mesa – 2 Bedroom suite
Source: Hotel website

Some of these points were put to great use last week, when my parents and a few relatives went off to Southern California for a few days. At some point, it was decided they’d stop at a Residence Inn for two nights, where a standard redemption was 25,000 points per night. Two rooms would require 50,000 points. However, for $240 per night they could book a 2-bedroom suite instead. I had them charge the stay to my brother’s Arrival card, since he is just swimming in those points thanks to a little manufactured spending on my part. All it took was 43,200 Arrival miles (after getting 10% of the miles back). The stay earned me 2,000 points since I referred my dad to Marriott a while back and he earned 4,190 points (2,190 base points + 2,000 bonus as part of the referral promotion).

Next, they headed to a Courtyard Marriott where award redemptions were 15,000 points per night, while paid rates with breakfast included were just $144 per night (including taxes). Considering I earned another 2,000 points from this stay and they pocketed 4,880 points, it turned out pretty well. Plus, now that they’ve completed two stays, they’re eligible for double points on upcoming stays thanks to Marriott’s Getaway Bonus promotion.

To recap, here are the savings:

  • $768 in hotel stays wiped out with 69,120 Arrival miles (factoring in 10% of the miles that were redeposited). This saved us from having to spend 80,000 Marriott Rewards points (which we would have transferred from Ultimate Rewards),
  • 4,000 Marriott points for me, after I referred my dad to the program and he completed two stays.
  • 9,070 Marriott points earned by my dad at a rate of 5 points per $1 for the Residence Inn stay, 10 points per $1 at the Courtyard Marriott, and 2,000 points per stay for participating in the referral promotion.
  • Total points earned: 13,070 Marriott points
  • Total spent: 69,120 Arrival miles
  • Total saved: $768 cash or 80,000 Marriott Rewards (aka Ultimate Rewards) points.

As you can see, the Arrival miles really came in handy here and not only saved us points and cash, but earned a decent amount of points and made my dad eligible for bonus point earnings on future stays. They could have saved another 3% by booking the stays through a cash back portal, but they were booked on a whim and we still managed to do pretty well.

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Ariana Arghandewal

23 Comments

  1. I hope that manufactured spending isn’t about to come crashing down around us; in Atlanta, Walmart is no longer accepting gift cards to load Bluebird, and they are also refusing gift cards to buy money orders (tried four stores in the north part of town; got shut down at all of them). The local grocery stores (Publix and Kroger) are doing the same thing. I’ve got $4,500 worth of Visa gift cards I want to unload, and Amazon payments is beginning to look like the only way out. AMEX for Target is expensive; I hope Evolve Money starts taking payments for bank issued credit cards soon.

    • RMF325, you can load those AMEX GCs onto your BB, if you can find a Walmart ATM machine that works. I have great luck with the one at the Ashford-Dunwoody Walmart in Atlanta. You can only load something like $1900 in a 10-minute period so I usually load three $500 GCs and then take a short stroll around the store.

      • Thanks heavenlyjane; that is the closest store to me, and that is where they told me no more gift card loads to Bluebird and no more money orders with gift cards either. When I’ve tried to use the kiosk in the past it has been broken; if it is working for you, I’ll have to give it another try.

      • Thanks for sharing that, heavenlyjane! Really nice of you to specify a location RMT325 can visit.

    • That’s been the case for a while. The only avenue for unloading Visa gc’s is via the Bluebird kiosk.

      • I was able to use gift cards on Bluebird at Walmart (the store heavenlyjane mentioned) at the counter just about 10 days ago, so having that come to an end was quite surprising. Since heavenlyjane has been able to load more than $1,000 a day on her Bluebird card, is there a way to load more than $5,000 a month on it? Please, tell me all of the secrets of the kiosk (if I can find one that works)!

        • You can only load $1k per day, per card. I think heavenlyjane meant she was loading more than one card.

  2. I am doing an AOR this weekend and this is going to be the first card on my list (using your link of course;)) . How do the points work?- I am going to Mykonos in August and staying at my favorite hotel which I always book directly by emailing the owner. Do I just have to pay with the Barclays at checkout to receive the discount or do you have to book it through their website to get the discount? (not an option in this case)

      • As Rob G said, you earn 4 points per $1 from the Barclay portal and 2 points from the Arrival card. Since you can buy $5k in Amex gift cards every two weeks, that amounts to $300 in travel rewards.

    • I appreciate your support, Jeff! The way it works is you charge the travel expense to your Arrival card, login to your account when the transaction posts, click on “manage rewards” and “redeem now” under the “travel rewards category.” Simply check off which travel expense you want to redeem and proceed to check out.

  3. How do you cash out the American Express gift card? I went to the mall today to purchase Simon gift cards and they denied my purchase saying “you can’t purchase a gift card with a gift card.”

    • Rich, if you have any Rite-Aid stores near you, you can cash them out there. I bought 10 Visa gift cards (all at one time) at a Rite-Aid in Atlanta a few days ago. I didn’t show the clerk that they were AMEX gift cards, I told her that they were charge cards, and after she called her manager to make sure it was OK, she rang it all through.

      • I have plenty of Rite-Aid stores near me. I just hope they don’t ask to see the card with my ID, it clearly says AMEX gift card in the bottom right corner. I’ve bought gift cards at CVS before without them asking to see the card and I’D. I guess it depends on the cashier. I’ll try tomorrow. Thank you

    • If that’s the case, then you can still use them to buy Visa gift cards from your local grocery store or load the balance onto an Amex for Target card.

  4. I don’t get why all these retailers are allergic to visa/mastercard gift cards. They are as good as cash. We paid fees on them. I understand we cant get cash/atm access. However, we should be allowed to pay for money orders with these. Especially since retailers collect a fee from it.

    • I think it’s more of a security issue. I’ve had thieves make copies of credit cards that were in my wallet and use them to make purchases at Walmart. I assume they put their names on them. If they had been able to buy money orders, they would have really gone nuts with the card. If my card info gets stolen tomorrow, the thief has no way of knowing my PIN number, making it more difficult to commit that kind of fraud with a debit card.

  5. They don’t seem to sell the Amex gift cards on the Rewards Boost portal ? I just checked.

    • Yeah, this is an old post. They stopped selling them about a month ago. I’ve updated the post to reflect this.

  6. I’m trying to use my Barclay points before I close my card, will they let me buy a Marriott gift card, or what do you suggest to get the maximum credit?

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