As was reported by View from the Wing, Barclays has completely pulled the Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard for new applications. The card apparently never caught on and Barclays decided to cut their losses. I’m not surprised to hear that the card wasn’t a massive success (I’d be more surprised that someone at Barclays expected it would be), but I am surprised to see them quit just 6 months after launch (and 3 months after adding new partners) rather than re-structure the card to offer some sort of up-front bonus to attract more customers. I guess this outcome avoids making early adopters feel like they missed out, though it doesn’t bode well for their long-term prospects of keeping the card.
As you’ll recall, the Arrival Premier earns 2 “Arrival miles” per dollar, with a bonus at exactly $15K spend or $25K spend that makes for an even 3x if you spend exactly either of those amounts. Those “Arrival Miles” were then good as either 1 cent each when redeemed towards travel or they could be transferred to partners at convoluted ratios that would only appeal to someone doing the kind of math that leads to them buying large piles of Visa Gift Cards. Further, they only partnered with foreign airline programs, many of whom were less familiar to US-based consumers. I argued that the card was interesting, though my argument was based on the premise that the Arrival Premier earned Japan Airlines miles at a better rate than the old earn rate on SPG cards (before the Marriott merger). While that was/is true (and JAL miles can be quite valuable), the fact that SPG/Marriott are the only other source of JAL miles for most US-based consumers dictates that the pool of people interested in collecting them, and then in opening a credit card where they have to spend exactly $15K or exactly $25K per year to get a decent return, was likely quite small. I never argued that this card would appeal much to anyone other than dedicated manufactured spenders, and I can’t imagine it did.
As Gary notes in his post, Barclays has obviously built the IT infrastructure and airline relationships necessary to offer a transferable points system. The set-up on that can’t be cheap, nor can the maintenance. Barclays says that existing cardholders will continue to be serviced as-is without any plans to change them to another card. While that sounds good, I can’t imagine Barclays continuing to buy miles in small chunks and maintaining the IT system forever unless they retool and take another dip in the transferable currency pool. Let’s hope they do.