Emirates A380 Onboard Lounge
Image courtesy of Emirates
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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.

a white airplane on a runwayJAL Mileage Bank

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.

a pool with a glass wall and a house with a view of the oceanBarclay Arrival Premier Earnings…

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.

Honorable Mentions

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.

What do you think of this new credit card offering?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. If you are a JAL fanatic, I think there’s better value in the SPG Amex. The transfer rate is higher (as long as you’re transferring in increments of 20K), the annual fee is lower, and there’s a sign-up bonus for that card.

    I have nothing against Barclays, but I hope this card is a flop. If they’re successful in any capacity, it’s likely the other banks will devalue their products. Conversely, if the card is a flop, hopefully Barclays will release a product that will actually be a competitor in the premium card space. For those in the miles and points world, I haven’t seen one post from anyone that’s actually stated they’re going to apply for this card.

    For me, I get better value from my other cards today over what the new Barclays card offers.

  2. If they only had a meager signup bonus….10K-25K, it would be under consideration. BUT….without that, it’s a tough nut to crack. Of course, as usual, you are right, transfer to JAL is the card’s only redeeming grace. The problem here, as I see it is that they strayed from the typical travel card format, which is spend down, bonus, so many points for purchasing x, y, z, and the transfer partners, and I think that that will hurt them.

  3. Japan Airlines is unique, it’s a partner that Chase doesn’t have, American Express doesn’t have, and Citibank doesn’t have. JAL has a great chart, and those who take advantage of it will be happy to earn a better rate of return than with any other card in terms of JAL miles. You earm 1.18x JAL if you spend $1 to $14,999 vs 1s JAL with the SPG card for that same amount of spend (assuming you’re doing the spend at 1x on the SPG card). The additional JAL miles for spending $15K+ more than mitigate the additional $55 in fee unless you value JAL miles at well under 1 cent each or you spend a ton on the SPG card. Even if you spend $100K at 1x on the SPG card, you’d only get 125K JAL miles. If you spend $100K on the Arrival Plus, you’ll get 225K Arrival Plus points, worth 132,300+ JAL miles — so it takes a ton of spend for the ratio on the SPG card to work out better for JAL miles. Of course, if you spend a lot on SPG stays (and thus earn more SPG points on that spend), the SPG card could definitely work out better. I’m just comparing unbonuses spend — the math will work out differently depending on your spend patterns.
    Let’s assume you are really into JAL miles, you have exactly $25,000 to spend, and you are thinking about getting the SPG card (but are no longer eligible for the signup bonus).

    The result:
    SPG card: 30,000 JAL miles with a $95 annual fee
    BAP card: 44,118 JAL miles with a $150 annual fee

    So you get an extra 14,118 JAL miles for $55 more, which seems like a decent deal.

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