Category: Travel credit cards

$400-600 off your next vacation: my new preferred travel rewards credit card

Actually, it’s $440 off your next vacation with the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard – $89 Annual Fee Card. I know. I must be crazy. What’s with the annual fee?

Well, the annual fee is waived the first year and it only takes 3 months for you to get the nice bonus – as long as you spend $1,000 in your first 90 days as a cardholder.

My plan is to get the card and pay for health insurance (about 3 grand next time it comes due). That qualifies me for the bonus 40,000 miles. You could redeem these miles for something other than travel but then you get a poor value. And it just so happens that I like to travel.

So I have 40,000 bonus miles plus about 6,000 miles from the usual card rewards (2 miles per dollar spent on the card is pretty good). 46,000 miles and counting – then when you redeem for statement credit on travel charges you get a 10% mileage bonus. So there’s another 4,600 miles (this bonus 10% back would have to be redeemed after the other rewards so may not apply to the one vacation I’m talking about – you might have to use the bonus miles for a future statement credit). 1 mile = $1 in statement credit for travel charges (as I said before, redeeming for anything besides travel charges probably isn’t worth it).

My wife and I plan a little trip in the $500-600 range and use the Barclay’s card to pay for it, earning another 1000-1200 miles in the process. We then use all those miles to pay for the vacation by applying them to the statement. The 500 – 600 dollar trip ends up costing almost nothing.

With the annual fee card, you get the better bonus and there’s no fee the first year. But if you plan on keeping the card forever and don’t care about the biggest possible upfront bonus, there is a no annual fee version: Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard – No Annual Fee Card. This no fee card still gives you 2 miles per dollar spent. You can still get 20,000 bonus miles, too. But I’m greedy and I have to go for 40,000.

Just keep in mind that this is a limited time offer and I don’t know when it ends. You need to act soon, but not too soon – it would be best if you have a big expense coming up in the next couple months that, when you pay, will qualify you for the bonus.

This information should be accurate for the annual fee card, but make sure you read the fine print before you start using the card.

Money Math Matters

Annual Fee: $89 (waived the first year)
Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
APR: Intro 0% APR for first 12 months, then var 14.99%/18.99%
APR for Balance Transfers: 14.99%/18.99%
Balance Transfer Fee: 4%
APR for Cash Advance: 25.24%
Cash Advance Fee: 5%
Late Fee/Returned Payment Fee: $35
Over Credit Limit Fee: $0
Penalty APR: 27.24%, may apply with late payment


Bonus: 40,000 miles after spending $1,000 in first 3 months [20,000 miles after spending $1,000 in first 3 months]
2 miles per $1 spent on every purchase [2 miles per $1 spent on travel & dining, 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases]
Miles Worth: 1 mile = 1.10 cents (accounts for 10% back upon redemption), less when redeeming for cash back, merchandise, or gift cards
Rewards Limit: None
Rewards Expiration: None
Redeem Rewards For: Travel expenses such as airline, hotel, cruises, train, car rental, etc. Redeem miles through statement credit towards travel purchase. Do not transfer with frequent flyer programs.
Get 10% miles back when redeeming for travel

Fringe Benefits

Free TripIt Pro mobile travel organizer subscription (normally $49/year)
$0 Fraud Liability Protection
Purchase Protection: Yes, price drop protection
Travel Insurance: Yes. Up to $200,000 travel accident coverage, reimbursement for delayed baggage, and trip cancellation coverage.
Extended Warranty: Yes
Customer Service: 24/7 MasterCard Global Service

EMV Chip credit cards necessary in Aruba?

Reader question: I have seen a few articles over the last few years about people traveling to Aruba.

Well, I’m going next week and apparently a Bank of America representative told my girlfriend that we would need new checking/credit cards that contain the EMV chip. I called BOA today and was told that it is not necessary to get a new card with this chip. I have already placed a traveling note on my accounts. Can someone with experience please clarify this?

Thanks in advance.

My friend’s answer: You do not need a card with the chip. All EMV terminals allow for a card swipe. I went 9 months ago and used my cards everywhere, as did my wife who has BoA.

See also: Cruise miles credit cards, Chase Sapphire, American Express Gold, and other rewards cards

Experiences with Chase Sapphire, American Express Gold, Delta SkyMiles

Every once in a while I like to add to the old credit card information on this site. Here are some friends talking about their current travel rewards credit cards. If you haven’t yet commented on which card you recommend, or if it’s been a few years, please add something below. For example in 2009, a number of you liked the Starwood American Express card. How about now?

Chase Sapphire

Hands down the best earning card I carry and my go-to for virtually all of my spend. Some highlights:

– Double points on all dining, hotel, airline and car rental spend

– 7% annual dividend on points earned, so each dollar you spend is effectively worth 1.07 points and 2.14 in the above-mentioned categories

– Decent sign-up bonuses (I got 50k, there are currently 40k offers)

– $95 annual fee (not cheap but lower than some airline cards)

– No foreign exchange fee for international transactions

– It’s a Visa, so more merchants accept it (AmEx more limited, especially overseas)

– Transfer points to United, British Airways, Korean Air, Southwest, Marriott, Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, Amtrak, and some others.

If you want a card with good flexibility for points earning, this one is my best advice. However, if you are also looking for ancillary travel benefits (free checked bags, lounge access, elite status with hotels/car rentals, etc.) or primarily fly airlines like Delta or US Airways who are outside the program, then there may be other cards out there with a better value proposition for you. In terms of the ‘total package’, in my view this card is pretty damn good.

Right now you can get a 40k offer and annual fee waived after $3000 spend in 3 months.

I’m partial to AMEX Gold Card

Its a bit pricey ($195) annually but I get triple points on airfare and double on fuel. As a frequent traveler for work I do a lot of flying and driving so I rack up a lot of points. The fee is well worth it of you will be traveling a lot.

Points can be redeemed for almost anything you can think of. I’ve used points for first class vacations with my wife, Calloway irons, weber grill, and a gift card towards granite counter tops in our house.

I also travel for work, so a 10 or 15k monthly credit card bill is typical (sometimes more) and the miles add up and there is almost nothing you can’t get with them (electronics, airline tickets, complete vacations, gift cards, etc.)

Amex Delta SkyMiles

I use it for work travel and a bunch of other stuff. My Christmas is almost paid for, I’ve used the miles to pay for trips for my family, and I’m sitting here right now in first on a flight home about to be served dinner. It’s pretty sweet what you can accumulate from these cards.

When you fly economy the free checked bag saves you $25 every flight.

Capital One Venture Rewards card special offer

Every once in a while I blog about travel credit cards. Or Sharon does it for me. And even when I’m not bloging about them, I am using them to rack up airline miles and such.

Here’s a new offer that gets you a reward based on what you spent last year (and rewards going forward of course).

The “Double Miles Challenge” is worth up to $1,000 as a statement credit toward any travel-related expense. You have to show them you spent $50,000 on a competing card in 2011 – then your reward is 100,000 miles, which would be worth a $1,000 credit on a travel expense.

I don’t think I spent nearly that much and whatever I did spend was either on a Korean credit card (Korean Air rewards card from a Korean bank) or my Capital One card (not Venture Rewards). I don’t know if either of these would count so I might be calling them up one day soon (the offer does expire May 1 or after they give away a billion miles).

Cruise Travel and Sea Miles credit card

Travelers frequently choose cruise ships for their vacations as an opportunity to relax and avoid the crowds at airports and the frustration of delayed or cancelled flights. They take advantage of package deals, upgrades, and other rewards for cruise ship travel. Almost everyone has heard about or is enrolled in some type of frequent flier program, where they earn rewards for airline travel, but not as many may be familiar with the rewards associated with earning sea miles.

Some cruise ship lines including NCL, Disney, Princess, and Carnival do offer rewards, but only when booked on one of their ships. So, what happens when you want to take a cruise on a different cruise line such as Crystal, Regent, Royal Caribbean, Oceania, Costa, Celebrity, Cunard, or one of the others. The SeaMiles Visa credit card may be the answer. With the SeaMiles card, you can travel on any cruise ship any time and get credit for every sea mile traveled. In addition, you can earn miles for river cruises such as on AMAwaterways, for luxury travel on the Yachts of Seabourne or Windstar, or for reliving the past onboard a Star Clippers sailing ship.

We will give you an idea of what the SeaMiles Visa® offers, but more details and customer support can be found online at

Basically, you earn 4% cash back for every booking and 4 sea miles for every $1 you spend. After your first cruise, you’ll be awarded 5,000 sea miles and 2 sea miles for every $1 spent onboard the ship. In addition, you can earn 2 more sea miles for every $1 spent on airline, hotel, or rental car bookings when made through SeaMiles. For example, 5,000 miles = $50, 10,000 = $100, 40,000 = $400 + 100 bonus credit, etc. The complete conversion table of miles to dollars is also listed on the website. These rewards can be used on your next cruise, or for airline and hotel bookings. Another plus to the SeaMiles card is that there are no restrictions or limits on what you can earn or redeem, although sea miles do expire after 5 years. Redemption is easy and can be done online, Mon – Fri, 9-5pm. If you have any questions, you can reach SeaMiles at 1-877-732-6453.

You can contact any one of the travel agents listed on the website, from NY to California, as well as in the UK, or you can book directly through the cruise line with your SeaMiles card. Rates are guaranteed at the lowest rates available, but if you find a lower rate for the cruise within 48 hours, SeaMiles will make the adjustment.

With a reasonable APR of 13.24% and no annual fee, you might want to consider the SeaMiles Visa® card for your cruise ship travel.

Sharon L Slayton

See also some comments from our readers on the travel rewards cards they prefer. Also, foreign transaction fees are important if you travel abroad.