When it comes to earning travel rewards, choosing the right credit card can either help or hinder you.
For many curious consumers, the real question is: which credit card is better? One with cashback rewards or one with travel points?
In this credit card comparison, we'll be taking a closer look at two popular credit cards – the Discover It Cashback and the Barclaycard Arrival credit card.
What we've discovered may surprise you, so read on to learn which credit card wins in this head-to-head showdown.
New Customer Incentives
Both the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard (referred to as Barclaycard Arrival throughout this guide) and the Discover It Cashback Match card offer enticing rewards to new customers.
The Barclaycard Arrival credit card, as a travel credit card, provides introductory bonus airline miles to new customers. You can earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more on purchases within the first 90 days. That equates to a $500 travel statement credit.
Discover It Cashback
Rather than travel miles, the Discover It Cashback card offers an introductory cashback bonus where Discover will match all the cash back that you've earned at the end of your first year. Keep in mind that this is only for new card members.
Incentives for Loyal Customers
Credit card companies like Barclay and Discover work hard to keep loyal customers happy through ongoing incentives offered by their respective cards.
The Barclaycard Arrival card offers loyal customers the ability to use their airline miles for a statement credit on any airline purchase to anywhere in the world.
There are no restrictions and no blackout dates. You can redeem miles as statement credits toward a host of travel expenses including car rentals, flights, cruises, hotels and more.
It's worth noting that miles redemption starts at 10,000 miles ($100) toward qualifying travel purchases. Purchases must be made in the last 120 days to qualify.
What's more, every time you redeem your miles, you get a 5% bonus that you can use toward your next redemption.
You can earn 2x airline miles on all airline purchases or redeem your miles toward hotel stays.
Discover It Cashback
In addition to giving cardholders 1% cashback on purchases, the Discover It Cashback card also provides 5% cash back (up to $1,500 in purchases) based on quarterly rotating categories.
You'll need to register on Discover's website in order to qualify for the 5% cashback bonus, but registration is fast and free.
For 2017, the categories are as follows:
January - March: 5% cash back (up to $1,500) on purchases at wholesale clubs, gas station and ground transportation.
April - June: 5% cash back (up to $1,500) on purchases at home improvement stores and wholesale clubs.
July - September: 5% cash back (up to $1,500) on purchases at restaurants.
October - December: 5% cash back (up to $1,500) on purchases at Target and Amazon.com
Depending on how you spend your money, these categories tend to fall in line with seasonal buying trends.
For example, many of us shop at Amazon and Target over the holidays, or tend to eat out during the summer. Big and small renovation projects usually happen in the spring. This can add up to a considerable amount of cash back if you spend wisely.
Interest rates are one of the biggest considerations for many prospective cardholders. Here are all the details you need to know about interest rates for the Barclay Arrival Plus and Discover It Cashback cards:
The Barclay Arrival credit card offers a 0% introductory APR for 12 months only on balance transfers, provided the balance transfer is made within 45 days of opening your account. There is no introductory APR period for purchases.
Purchase APR ranges from 16.99-23.99% based on your creditworthiness and other factors. There is no foreign transaction fee, making this card even more desirable for travelers.
There is, however, an $89 annual fee which is waived for the first year.
Discover It Cashback
The Discover It Cashback card has a 0% introductory APR on both purchases and balance transfers for 14 months. The purchase APR and balance transfer APR ranges from 11.99%-23.99% based on creditworthiness and other factors.
Like the Barclay Arrival card, there is no foreign transaction fee. The Discover It cashback card also has no annual fee.
The Discover it cashback card has a 0% introductory APR for balance transfers for 14 months, whereas the Barclaycard Arrival offers a 0% introductory APR for 12 months only on balance transfers made within 45 days of opening your account.
There are no foreign transaction fees for either card. The Barclaycard Arrival has an $89 annual fee which is waived for the first year while the Discover It cashback card has no annual fee.
Perks and Bonuses
Many credit cards provide a number of perks in addition to introductory and ongoing loyalty offers. Here's how the Barclaycard Arrival and Discover It Cashback cards stack up:
As of September 2017, the Barclaycard Arrival credit card provides an extended protection benefit, which automatically doubles original manufacturers' warranties (in writing) up to 1 additional year, provided that eligible warranties span three years or less and only when they are purchased using the Barclaycard Arrival card.
Things like gifts and purchases made outside the U.S. are covered provided they fall under the conditions above. You also don't need to register your purchases since they are automatically covered as long as they meet those conditions. Consult the Barclaycard Arrival benefits guide for more information
Identity theft resolution service is available, as well as an auto rental collision damage waiver for rental cars. The Barclaycard Arrival provides price protection, which helps you get the best possible price on products you buy with your card - up to $1,000 per year. Barclays Bank Delaware also offers $200,000 worldwide automatic travel accident insurance. See the benefits guide linked above for specific details.
Discover It Cashback
The Discover It cashback card provides many of the same benefits, including purchase protection, an extended product warranty and price protection. But it also provides some additional benefits you should be aware of, including:
Return Guarantee - If the store won't honor your return and you're not satisfied with your purchase, you can get your money back (up to $500) within 90 days of purchase, up to $2,500 per calendar year.
Auto Rental and Flight Accident Insurance - With car insurance, you can get up to $25,000 in vehicle coverage with your rental provided you rent the vehicle with your card. You also get up to $500,000 worth of travel accident insurance for you and your loved ones when you buy your airline tickets with your card.
You can also get a year-end summary of your card activity as well as your FICO score for free with the Discover It cashback card. Discover cards are accepted at 97% of stores in the U.S.
Do you have to have a checking or savings account with either provider in order to obtain one of their cards? Are there incentives for getting or having an account with either provider?
You do not have to have a checking or savings account with either provider in order to apply for a card. There are currently no incentives for having an account with either provider, however you may not be eligible for certain first-time introductory offers if you are an existing Discover or Barclays cardholder and you apply for a new card.
What aspects of a person's life should they consider to decide which card provider is right for them? E.g. frequent business travel, several grocery shopping trips, etc.
Choosing the right card means taking a closer look at your lifestyle, your goals and which features are the most important for your needs.
You'll never find a card that provides cash back, airline miles and rewards points (however, there is a Barclay Rewards program and a Discover Rewards program) along with low interest rates and no added fees.
So it's worth sitting down and figuring out which benefits are the most important to you in order to choose the card that's right for your needs.
The Barclaycard Arrival - A Strong Choice for Frequent Travelers
Based on our analysis, the Barclaycard Arrival, with its bonus airline miles and general travel rewards structure is ideal for frequent travelers who want to maximize their airline points.
You can earn points quickly and there are no caps. Since you get 2x miles on all purchases, you can potentially earn miles with every swipe, and redeem them for statement credits too, provided they are $100 or more and made within the last 120 days.
There are also no foreign transaction fees, so this is a great card to use both at home and abroad.
Don't forget that you can also redeem your miles for things like gift cards or statement credits too. You also get travel accident insurance simply for being a cardholder. If your baggage is delayed or misdirected, or your trip is interrupted or canceled you could be reimbursed.
To help make financial management easier, you also get free access to your FICO credit score every month as well.
You should know, however, that unlike with some other travel credit cards, you cannot transfer miles with a Barclaycard Arrival. There's also no introductory APR, which could put you off from making bigger purchases with this card (and if you are considering making a larger purchase, be sure to read our detailed article on when to use a personal loan instead of a credit card).
Despite the bonus miles and 2x miles with every purchase, you may be able to earn rewards even faster with a different credit card that has a higher reward rate. Keep in mind that this all boils down to things like personal preference and ease of use.
Remember that with the Barclaycard, you'll need to wait until you hit at least 10,000 miles in order to redeem them for travel.
Discover It Cashback - A Solid All-Purpose Cashback Card
The Discover It Cashback card is a solid card for people who want to maximize their cash back and don't mind if their purchases only fit certain categories.
Considering that Discover matches all the cash back you've earned at the end of the first year, there's a lot to like about getting that on top of the 5% bonus cash back in the rotating categories.
If you want a great all-purpose cashback card with a 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers for 14 months plus no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee, it's hard to beat the Discover It cashback.
Provided you can fit your spending within specific categories, this is definitely a card you'll want to have on hand for shopping - just remember not to get in debt over your head!)
One of the points to keep in mind with the Discover It Cashback card is that you'll need to activate your 5% bonus categories at the start of every quarter. Fortunately, you can activate the bonus categories through the Discover It card account center online or by phone.
Categories change every year, but generally tend to follow a broad pattern. Be sure to check your account center online to see what categories are for quarters beyond 2017.
Credit card and identity theft are a very real and present threat in today's busy and convenience-oriented world.
That's why credit card providers have stepped up to the plate to provide far-reaching protection for your account. They include:
The Barclaycard provides personal identity theft resolution services with the Barclaycard Arrival.
If you believe you are the victim of identity theft, call 1-877-319-4403 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
You'll be given an Identity Theft Affidavit that you can submit to creditors, credit bureaus and law enforcement.
The service can also place an alert with credit reporting agencies and give you a copy of your credit report. It also works to replace your card and provides you with an identity theft resolution kit. You'll also receive sample letters which can be used to cancel existing checks, ATM cards and other accounts.
Discover It Cashback
The Discover It cashback card also offers a free identity theft alert service that is provided in partnership with Experian (one of the three major credit reporting bureaus).
This service sends you an alert if your social security number has been found on the "dark web" (where many illegal and unauthorized activities take place), or if other accounts, credit cards, mortgages or car loans have been opened in your name. This service is offered free to card-members.
It's also worth noting that many new cards, including the Barclaycard and Discover are transitioning to EMV chips.
EMV, which stands for Europay, Mastercard Visa (the three major credit card companies the developed the specifications for the chip). These days, more and more credit card companies support and use the chip technology.
Traditionally, in the U.S., your card number was stored in the magnetic strip on the back of the card. When you swipe the card at checkout, the card reader "reads" the card information and then transfers it to a network so that funds can be moved out of your account to the retailer. Since the number never changes, it becomes easier for hackers and skimmers to steal that card data and use it elsewhere.
With EMV chips, every transaction is given a unique code, so even if a skimmer or scammer grabs the code from the terminal, it won't work a second time, rendering it useless. It also can't be traced back to your original card number. This provides an added layer of protection against not only credit card thieves and fraudsters, but card counterfeiters as well. It's definitely something you'll want to have, no matter which card you choose.
What Customers Say
Probably the best way to tell if a card is worth applying for or not is to know what other people have said about it. Fortunately, cardholders are not shy when it comes to expressing their opinions about the Barclaycard Arrival or the Discover It Cashback card respectively.
Here's what they have to say:
Customers overwhelmingly enjoy the ease of redemption of points from the Barclaycard Arrival card. You can book any flight on any airline and pay for all or part of the flight with miles once the purchase posts to your account.
They also enjoy the ease with which miles can be accumulated. No special categories to keep in mind - just make purchases as you normally do.
Customers also report that the service offered from Barclaycard is very helpful and considerate and that support agents are attentive and friendly.
Discover It Cashback
Many people enjoy the generous cashback option of the Discover It card and the flexibility with which categories tie in with their normal purchases.
Young people with little credit history or those looking to build a credit history find that Discover It is very accommodating to helping give them a chance when no one else did.
Cardholders report that issues are resolved quickly (although, to be fair, this depends on the severity of the issue) and they like the added protection of both purchases and privacy.
The Bottom Line: Which Card is Right for You?
When it comes to choosing a reliable credit card with great benefits and a tempting interest rate, comparing a travel credit card like the Barclaycard Arrival and a cashback card like the Discover It Cashback is a lot like comparing apples and oranges.
They are two different cards serving two very different markets. If you travel often and want generous travel bonuses while racking up miles for the purchases you make on your card, it's definitely worth considering the Barclaycard Arrival.
On the other hand, if you'd rather have a card that gives you a hefty cash back for purchasing in categories you'd typically use anyway each quarter, it's hard not to love the 5% cash back from Discover.
Both cards put security and privacy at the forefront of their business and offer numerous extra benefits like purchase protection at no extra charge simply for being a cardmember.
Of course, as with any card, you'll want to stay on top of your purchases and activate your rewards accordingly, but for savvy card users who want to get the most out of any card they choose, this advice is nothing new.
Each of the cards shine in their respective classes, and although other cards may offer more miles, better rewards or more cash back, both the Barclaycard Arrival and the Discover It Cashback card work hard to get noticed and provide a dependable source of funding for purchases large and small.
While the Barclaycard is typically reserved for those with Good to Excellent credit, and is aimed at frequent travelers, it is possible to apply for the Discover It Cashback card if you are still working on building your credit history.
If what you've read here about each card interests you, why not apply and see what happens?
The bottom line is to think about what your priorities and "must haves" are with regard to any credit card you choose. If you take enough trips to warrant a travel credit card (or you want to earn miles quickly for more travel) or you make enough purchases on your card to get a sizeable chunk of that money back as cash, you'll want to look into each respective card for those benefits.
Don't forget to check out our travel credit cards review as well as our reviews of other cashback cards to learn what options you have available!