Reader Question: Best Credit Card for Immediate Travel

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One reader, Stacy, contacted me for advice recently.  She told me that her family of four needs to go to Singapore from LA next February and asked me what is the best way to use points? She currently has no points at the moment and wants to know the best credit card for immediate travel.

I often say that the best credit card to get for someone interested in collecting points is the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  You just have to spend $3,000 in 3 months and add an authorized user to earn 45,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  These points can be transferred to partners such as United or British Airways and get you to many places in the world.  Although one credit card may not fully buy you an economy roundtrip ticket to Europe or Asia (60K or 65-80K), it can get you quite close to that goal by spending over time.

In Stacy’s case, if she were to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred card now, she would have approximately until mid December to complete her spending requirement.  Since her family needs to go by February, booking tickets to Singapore in December for February is quite late. So what can she do?

Since Stacy is flying to Singapore economy class, the most cost efficient way to get to Singapore is to just buy four tickets online.  My favorite search tool is Google Flights because it has a relatively quick and easy user interface.  Plugging in her approximate dates, I was able to find the following on United:

Tickets under $1,000 per person

Tickets under $1,000 per person

To fly to Southeast Asia roundtrip with United miles, it would cost 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points and about $150 in taxes.  Compared to the cash price of about $950 per ticket, paying for this economy ticket is a much better deal.  If you were to use miles, you would only get about 1 cent per mile (($950-$150 in taxes)/80,000 miles)).

If we are going to go with the route of paying for the economy airfare, we can subsidize the cost by getting a different type of credit card that you can apply points after booking the airfare.  The card I recommend Stacy applying for is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.  With this credit card she can receive the card in about a week, charge the airfare on the credit card, and then have 120 days to apply points to the airfare expense. If she spends $3,000 in 3 months then she will earn a minimum of 40,000 Barclaycard points.  For example, say she spends $10,000 in the next 100 days, she will earn 20,000 for spending because every dollar spent gets 2X points, and she will earn the 40,000 point sign up bonus.  On day 101, she can apply 60,000 points to her $950 airfare, and she would end up receiving a $600 statement credit.  There is also an automatic feature that will give her a rebate of 10% of points redeemed, or 6,000 points.  After the rebate, she will be able to subsidize her trip by $660.  

If this still doesn’t make sense, read my review on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard where you can see screenshots on how to redeem the points.  The Barclaycard Arrival miles are different than traditional miles. I wouldn’t say it is better or worse than the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  Both cards are great and are used for different purposes.   A minimum $440 rebate on Stacy’s airfare is not a huge rebate, but she can at least recoup some costs.  Also by paying for the tickets, she can also earn airline miles.

I would say that the Barclaycard Arrival Plus is probably the best credit card for immediate travel, especially on economy class.  If you want to travel on anything above that, I would opt for other credit cards.

Disclosure: I may receive an affiliate commission for signing up for this credit card.  I appreciate if you do or do not sign up using my link.  Thanks for reading!

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