And it’s pretty nerdy…
Bla, bla bla. When you distill the merits of a travel credit card, it’s about maximizing your travel rewards. That can include: elite status benefits, fee waivers, booking discounts or access to a points program with fantastic rates. The new Barclay’s doesn’t particular earn your business on almost any of those merits above the competition, except perhaps on one measure: access to points programs with fantastic rates. There’s one in particular that we’ve long raved about, so here’s the one reason this card could actually matter. Maybe.
Japan Airlines mileage bank offers some of the very best rates for business and first class flights on OneWorld airlines and also Emirates. For example, you could nearly fly around the world in First Class with Emirates for about 155,000 JAL Mileage Bank miles. Japan Airlines prices flights using miles by distance, rather than segments, so if you can find a distance sweet spot, you can really benefit. Round trip business class between the US and Europe would run between 65,000-80,000 points. If you want to do a deeper dive into JAL Mileage Bank for yourself, read this, this and this.
But What About Surcharges?
Yes, JAL now adds surcharges to some Emirates flights. If you can start in Asia, either by using separate miles or another ticket to get there, you can kick off an around the world trip with virtually no surcharges and a fraction of the points you’d pay for anything else. And it’s Emirates First Class we’re talking about – it’s really nice! And if you don’t like Emirates First Class, you have your pick of Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, American Airlines and more! In most cases, surcharges are not levied on those airlines.
The Barclay’s Arrival Premier earns “two points” per dollar spent. These two points convert to roughly one airline mile. Except JAL. You’ll earn roughly 1.17 JAL miles for every dollar you spend with this card. Yes – you have the flexibility of earning 2% cash back toward any travel purchase, but there are other cards that do that or better. The only reason this card is of any interest is the access to the elusive JAL Mileage Bank program. This is the most lucrative JAL earning card, but the The SPG Amex card in the US also offers at least 1 Starpoint per purchase. A SPG Starpoint converts to one or more JAL MIleage Bank point. If you transfer 20,000 SPG, you’d get 25,000 JAL, which although works out to less points per dollar than Barclay’s arguably offers more valuable points. JAL also has their own US credit card, which offers one point per dollar spent. If JAL is your goal, Barclay’s is best, but the others could be nearly as good with lower fees.
The only other feature we’d give this card real credit for is chip & pin. If you travel extensively, you’ll know that most of the world authorizes credit card transactions with a pin, much like your debit card. Chip & signature is far less secure and does not work at some automated machines, especially in Europe. This card is one of the few US offerings to alleviate that hassle. Of course, the card has other transfer partners and benefits – and Gary Leff does an excellent job laying them out – but for us, we’re out on this one – unless you’re a JAL fanatic. And at $150 a year with no bonus, it’s a steep price to pursue a niche value.