One Year Anniversary of Using the Barclay Arrival Plus

Barclay Arrival Plus MasterCardIt was just a little more than a year ago that I applied for the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. This was the first and the very beginning of what became a hobby (more like an extreme sport) of churning credit cards and collecting mile/points. Prior to that, I’ve had the Chase Amazon and American Express Costco credit cards for years and never thought of getting another credit card. Matter of fact, I’d get super annoyed whenever I received credit card offers in the mail, and to my dismay, Chase, American Express, Bank of America, Discover, and Citibank kept spamming my mailbox!

Then one day, I was reading an article on Mr. Money Mustache about credit cards and all the lucrative sign up bonuses out there. Mr. Money Mustache said that some people can make $10k a year just applying for credit cards! That was when something clicked in my head and I submitted the first of many credit card applications to come. It was for the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard because it had a nice sign up bonus worth about $440 in travel credit.

Boy, little did I know that one year later, I’d have more than 80 credit cards (I manage four people’s accounts) and would earn almost two million miles and points! Even start a business and social enterprise called FPT Gift Box!

Piles of Credit Cards

One year later

Well, it has been a year and I was just hit with my first credit card annual fee of $89 on the Barclay Arrival Plus. Originally, I was planning on canceling any credit card that had an annual fee. I was debating for a while whether I should cancel or keep the Barclay card. It was my favorite credit card because it earned about 2.2% “cashback” (in the form of travel credit) for all purchases — no categories and no limit. It was the one card I always had in my wallet and charged the most (later, I’ll detail exactly how much charges were placed on this card over one year and all the travel credits I’ve earned).

However, a few months ago, Barclay changed the terms of the travel credit redemption. The 10% rebate was going to be reduced to 5%. Travel charges that I want to redeem for had to be a least $100. These changes made the card less attractive. I thought I was going to cancel the card because my husband still had his Barclay card, plus I also got the Discover It Miles that was earning a 3% cashback (double cashback the first year). Why waste $89 on a card when I had plenty of other cards to use?

Well, I decided to keep the card anyway for several reasons:

  1. It was my first love card.
  2. This card has the highest credit limit of all my cards. This comes  super handy when I need to purchase LOTS of gift cards. Discover won’t increase my credit limit and I keep hitting my limit after just days!
  3. No foreign transaction fee. MasterCard is widely accepted overseas unlike AMEX and Discover.
  4. Excellent travel and purchase benefits.
  5. I have 3 authorized users on the card (my husband and my parents) that use the card whenever they travel.

So I decided to bite the bullet and just churn the $89 credit I needed to pay for the annual fee. I went to Safeway today and bought $4,500 worth of GAP gift cards which I can easily resell in a day. I’ll earn $90 in travel credit which I can use to redeem the annual fee. I could have saved $89 but I decided that I’m going to keep this card for another year at least. There are a lot of things I want to accomplish here at FPT Gift Box and I think this card is going to take us to a whole new level of creating abundance out of thin air (see “The FPT (5+2) Model“)! I have WAY MORE charges each month than I have cards that I need to meet minimum spend (see how I met $20k spending challenge in just two weeks). I need a solid card that allows me to churn lots of gift cards and points every month, and Barclay Arrival Plus is THE card!

One year’s worth of charges and credits

I went to Mint.com to download the entire year’s transaction history so I can analyze all the charges and credits.

Here are some interesting stats:

Spending Earning
  • Total charges/debit: $229,814
  • Highest charge: $15,429 (American Express Gift Cards)
  • Highest monthly balance: $35,450
  • Highest monthly payment: $15,244
    • Sign up bonus: $440
    • Total travel credit earned @ 2%: $4,596
    • Total travel credit from the 10% rebate: $459
    • Highest travel redemption: $312.17

I knew I put a lot of charges on the Barclay card, but when you see it all summed up, it’s quite remarkable that I “spent” almost $230k in one year using this card alone! (And I have over 80 credit cards…) That’s enough to buy a house in most parts of the U.S.! Further more, this card has generated over $5,000 in free travels which I’ve used to redeem many flights, hotels, Uber rides, and a 7-day Mediterranean cruise in July to celebrate my husband and my 10 year anniversary!

Generating abundance

Money TreeReaders are probably wondering how in the world I spent that much in a year and whether I make a lot of money to “keep it up.” Well, the truth is, I don’t. We’re a single (modest) income household with two young children living in one of the most expensive areas in the country. We’re practically living paycheck to paycheck every month but we do just fine because FPT Gift Box is all about turning limited resources into abundance. I buy lots of prepaid and gift cards which get liquidated or sold before the credit card bills are due. I can easily charge $50k+ in a month without actually spending a dime.

With all the credit card and bank sign up bonuses, cashbacks, travel credits, miles & points, and other perks like free gas and gift cards, we don’t need to make a lot of money to be happy and content. Matter of fact, I’ve demonstrated many times on this website that there’s free money and abundance all around if only people know where to look. FPT Gift Box is hand picking them one at a time and giving them all away to help kids with severe medical or disability and local communities.

That’s why I started FPT Gift Box – it’s all about “The FPT (5+2) Model“!

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4 Comments

  1. Hi Susan. Fascinating discovering your site today (via Dan @ pwac), you’re already addressing questions I’ve had, but haven’t seen anyone in the miles & points realms address. So impressive!

    One question for now…. given that you attest that you (like many of us) are a person of limited income, how is it that you can put such incredible amounts of spending on a credit card each month (perhaps exponentially beyond what was your indicated income on your card ap), and yet never trigger the dreaded “financial review?” (a fate we oft’ hear about via flyertalk and other curmudgeonly sites)

    Or maybe you’ve already had such questions from Barclays et. al. and successfully responded?

    best wishes for your business and model.

    • Hi Escot! Income is relative to the cost of living. My “modest” income in the SF Bay Area would probably be considered a high income anywhere else in the country. The average home here is at least a million dollars and most families need to have both parents working in order to pay the bills. The basic cost of living for a family of four is minimally $80k for just rent, childcare, food, gas, and bills. For homebuyers, it’s much much higher.

      That said, we’re a one income household so money is very tight but I don’t have problems getting credit card applications approved or a relatively high credit limit because my salary is still high compared to the rest of the country.

  2. I like your explanation of of your Barclays year of spending, but why didn’t you factor in the cost of buying and liquidating the gift cards?

    • @MelsAntiqueJewelry — I didn’t include the cost of buying and liquidating gift cards for the Barclay because I didn’t analyze the details of all the spending. I just summed up the total I charged and the points earned. There were some fees involved but the bulk of the spending was buying many $2-3k AMEX gift cards using the TopCashback portal back when $2-3k per card was allowed. The 1.5-2.25% cashback more than covered the activation and shipping fee, so there were few little (if any) out of pocket fees.

      In other posts with more specific offers like the AMEX gift card offer (http://wp.me/p6O8NO-d0) and the Chase BA 100k /$20k spending challenge (http://wp.me/p6O8NO-dR), I included the fees involved.

      In future posts, I’ll try to include as much details as I can.

      Thanks for reading!

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