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Last week I excitedly revealed that Barclays’ not-yet-announced Arrival Premier card would offer transferable miles. In my opinion, transferable points rewards are the best form of rewards. And having a new option for earning transferable points is great. No question.
Since I published that, Doctor of Credit has revealed more about the card. He somehow got his hands on a complete screenshot of Barclays’ (presumably beta) website for the new card (DoC published the screenshot here). Most of the details on that page were already known, but we didn’t previously know the earning rate for the card. The screen shot, though, makes clear that the card will earn 2 Arrival miles per dollar for all purchases (just like the Arrival Plus).
When you consider what we already knew: that the card will offer a big spend bonus every year (Spend $15,000, get 15,000 bonus Arrival miles; plus spend an additional $10,000, get a total of 25,000 bonus Arrival miles) one realizes that it is possible to earn 3 Arrival miles per dollar on all spend by spending exactly $15,000 or $25,000 per cardmembership year.
While we don’t know which transfer partners Barclays will support, 3X for all spend is outrageously good for a transferable points program. Heck, uncapped 2X for all spend is incredible. Only the Amex Blue Business Plus offers 2X transferable points for all spend, but that one is capped at $50K spend per year.
But, hold on… There is a scenario where 2X to 3X is not that exciting…
What if the transfers are worse than 1 to 1?
Amex, Chase, and Citibank’s transferable points programs offer 1 to 1 transfers to various airline programs (and sometimes better than one to one when there’s a transfer bonus or for transfers to certain hotel programs). SPG is even better because they give you a 5,000 mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 points.
Many of us have assumed that Barclays would also offer 1 to 1 transfers, but what if they won’t?
The screenshot that Doctor of Credit posted shows the following info about transferring Arrival miles to loyalty programs:
Transfer your miles
to participating travel loyalty programs6
Then the fine print states:
6 Miles Transfer: Miles required for miles transfer redemptions vary, depending on what you are redeeming for. The selection of miles transfer partners are subject to availability and the number of miles needed to redeem may change at any time. You may only transfer miles if you are a primary cardmember and only to a participating travel loyalty program account belonging to you.
– Can you explain the miles transfer program?
You can transfer your miles to participating travel loyatly programs. Miles required for miles transfer redemptions vary depending on what you are redeeming for. The selection of miles transfer partners are subject to availability and the number of miles needed to redeem them may change at any time. You may only transfer miles if you are a primary cardmember and only to a participating travel loyalty program account belonging to you.
Think about the sentence “Miles required for miles transfer redemptions vary, depending on what you are redeeming for.” Since Barclays refers to their own points as miles, this can logically be interpreted in a couple of ways:
- Airline miles or hotel points required for an award vary depending upon what you are redeeming for; or
- The number of Barclays “miles” required to get a fixed number of airline or hotel points depends on which program you are transferring to.
The first is unquestionably a true statement, but I’m not sure it is what Barclays meant. The second interpretation suggests that transfer ratios may vary. That wouldn’t be surprising. After all, most transferable points programs offer different transfer ratios for different transfers. While Amex and Citi offer 1 to 1 transfers to most airline programs, Amex transfers 1,000 points to 2,000 to Hilton points, and Citi transfers 1,000 points to 800 JetBlue miles (or to 500 JetBlue miles with the Citi Preferred card), just to give two examples of transfers that aren’t one to one.
As an aside, you can find details about transfer partners for all four current transferable points programs on these pages: Amex Transfer Partners, Chase Transfer Partners, Citi Transfer Partners, SPG Transfer Partners, Transfer Partner Master List.
The issue is that it’s possible that 1 to 1 transfers won’t be the norm for Barclays. I wouldn’t be particularly surprised to find that Barclays transfers 2 to 1 to to most airline programs while transfers to hotel programs may be better.
Why do I think this? I’m not sure that 2X everywhere, uncapped, will be sustainable. Unless Barclays has negotiated great deals with each transfer partner, each transfer may cost them more than a penny per point. Let’s say the typical transfer costs Barclays 1.5 cents per point (just making up numbers here)… In that case, the base 2X earning rate on the card will cost Barclays 3 cents per dollar for Arrival miles transferred to miles. That will hurt.
If Barclays’ typical transfer rate will be 2 to 1, then the base 2X earning rate of this card will be just 1 airline mile per dollar. That would be awful. The theoretical 3X earning rate (at $15K or $25K spend per year) would be better: 1.5 miles per dollar. But if that rate attracts you, you’ll be better off with the Chase Freedom Unlimited which earns 1.5X on all spend combined with a premium Chase card to make the points transferable to miles.
My source adds more info about transfer partners
Hopefully I’m wrong about all of that 2 to 1 transfer ratio nonsense, above. If so, you might be interested to hear that my source who had told me that there would be “at least a half-dozen airline transfer partners,” has added a key detail: there will be at least a half-dozen transfer partners which are not currently co-brand partners with Barclays. This means that there will be at least six transfer partners other than American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue,
Lufthansa, Choice Privileges, Wyndham, etc. To be clear, we don’t know which, if any, of Barclays’ co-brand partners will be transfer partners, but we now know that there will be six partners that are not on that list.
By looking at the programs that are available to multiple other transfer partners, we can guess that the following airlines may be transfer partners with Barclays Premier:
- Each of these are currently transfer partners with all four program (SPG, Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Rewards):
- Air France
- Singapore Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- And these are currently transfer partners with three out of four:
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Etihad Airways
While I doubt I exactly nailed the 6 transfer partners, I’ll be very surprised if we don’t at least see 3 or 4 of the above. And the good news is that each of these have very good uses for certain types of awards.
So, here’s to hoping that I’m wrong about the transfer ratios, but right about the transfer partners. We shouldn’t have to wait long to find out. Doctor of Credit reports that the card will be launched this month.