Redeem Arrival Miles for Airfare You’ve Already Purchased

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Have you ever found a great travel deal but didn’t have the points or miles you needed to book? Today’s post covers a strategy you can use to book a flight now and redeem miles for a big discount up to four months later. Even better, if you play your cards right, you can earn up to $700 worth of miles between the time you book your trip and redeem your rewards.

The traditional way to plan a trip with miles is to decide your goals far in advance, apply for the right rewards cards, and use your everyday spending to accumulate the points you need. This is a great strategy, and it’s still the only reliable way to secure high-value business and first-class tickets without paying an arm and a leg.

But for those who don’t mind economy or premium-economy travel, there is an alternative approach that requires far less patience and knowledge to execute.

Norwegian Boeing 737 Max
You can buy tickets on low-cost carriers like Norwegian on your card and then erase the purchase with Arrival Miles.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is currently offering a limited-time signup bonus of 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

Thanks to some unique rules for redeeming Barclay Arrival miles, it’s possible to buy a flight before you have the miles to pay for it and retroactively apply the 70,000 bonus miles to knock $700 off the cost of travel.

The Arrival Plus Lets You Redeem Points You Don't Have (Yet!)

Unlike traditional frequent-flyer programs, which require you to have all the points and miles in your account before you can book an award, Arrival Miles are fixed-value rewards that allow you to ‘erase’ travel purchases as a statement credit.

How does it work in practice?

You pay for a flight, hotel, or other qualifying travel purchase with your Arrival Plus card, then redeem your Arrival Miles as a statement credit towards that purchase after the fact. Each mile is worth 1¢ towards the cost of travel, so 20,000 Arrival Miles will erase $200 from the cost of your flight or hotel stay. You also receive 5% of redeemed miles back as a rebate for future use, so you’ll get 1,000 miles back from the 20K in the example above. The Arrival Plus earns a flat 2x miles on every purchase, so that’s 2.1¢ back on every dollar you spend.

Technically, you don’t need to have all the miles you plan to redeem in your account at the time you make a purchase. When you make a qualifying travel purchase with the Arrival Plus, Barclays gives you up to 120 days to redeem miles towards that transaction as a statement credit.

Buy Flights to Help Meet Minimum Spend and ‘Erase’ the Purchase Later

With 120 days up your sleeve to erase a purchase, you can apply for the Arrival Plus card, purchase your flight when the card arrives, and redeem the miles for a statement credit after the welcome bonus posts to your account. The cost of your flight (or other travel purchase) count towards the minimum spend needed to earn your bonus, so opening your account right before you need to confirm a trip can give you a nice boost to your normal spending.

To be clear, you shouldn’t use this strategy if you can’t afford to cover the cost of your flight up front. You’ll need to pay your credit-card bill in full when your statement is due to avoid interest, so it’s ideal to have that cash available within a month of making your initial purchase.

The advantage of this strategy is that you can purchase a revenue ticket with rewards before you actually have those rewards in your account. Once you earn your welcome bonus, you can redeem for a statement credit before the 120-day window is up.

The first question that typically pops up when we mention this strategy is, “will the signup bonus post to my account in time to apply the statement credit within the 120-day window?”

Fortunately, Arrival Miles are awarded as soon as the transaction posts to your account, so you don’t need to wait for your statement to close to receive miles earned from regular spending. The same applies to the signup bonus—as soon as you meet the minimum spend, the welcome bonus should post to your account.

Since the window to meet the minimum spend is 90 days, and the window to redeem miles as a statement credit is 120 days, there should be ample time to apply the bonus miles to qualifying travel purchases made during the minimum-spend period.

A couple of things to keep in mind when redeeming Arrival Miles:

  • You can only redeem miles towards travel purchases of $100 or more, so if you make a purchase under $100, you can’t erase the charge with a statement credit
  • You don’t need to cover the cost of the entire purchase with Arrival Miles. If you pay $1,000 for a flight, but you only have 70,000 miles in your account, you can still knock $700 off the cost of the ticket, leaving yourself with only $300 in total costs.
  • You can only get a statement credit for travel purchases made within the last 120 days.
  • The merchant must code as travel for the purchase to qualify for a statement credit. Barclays defines travel as “…airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, purchase and travel agencies, discount travel sites, trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries and the account annual fee as defined by the merchant category code.” If the purchase doesn’t code as travel from the merchant, it won’t qualify.

Final Thoughts

The ideal rewards strategy is to have a mix of options that includes fixed-value rewards, transferrable points, and airline miles. Each type of points comes with unique advantages and disadvantages. If you’re well diversified, you can use the type of points that fits your situation. In the case of fixed-value rewards—like those earned with the Arrival Plus card—you’ll do best in situations where paid airfare is relatively cheap or when the itinerary you want isn’t available as an award ticket.

Most frequent flyer programs require you to have enough miles to cover the entire trip (or at least a one-way award) at the time of booking. With up to 120 days to redeem Arrival Miles retroactively, you can use the power of your future spending to earn the miles needed cover trips you want to confirm right away. Since Barclays doesn't require you to cover the entire cost of a travel purchase, you don't have to worry about reaching a specific number of miles. Just redeem your available miles for a statement credit and cover the remaining value with cash.

Although fixed-value rewards can't deliver the same kind of jaw-dropping deals you can get with a well-planned award ticket, their simplicity and flexibility are great reasons to add them to your points and miles arsenal.

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