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Bloggers with credit card representatives on their speed dial have long reported the most likely scenario for Barclays-issued US Airways credit cards is that eventually in the AA-US merger the cards will be discontinued and converted to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.
The Arrival is attractive as a 2% cash back card (2.2% when redeemed for travel) and the current sign-up bonus is 40,000 points. However it is quite different from the US Airways cards that have companion passes, club passes, award discounts and in some cases, anniversary 10,000 point bonuses, that many cardholders hoped to retain indefinitely.
How will it likely play out? We have a case study with the recently discontinued Virgin America Visa. The Virgin America Visa was a specialist card that similarly had value for that airline’s flyers as well as some strategic award opportunities on partner such as Honolulu – Pago Pago, American Samoa, previously for 20,000 miles roundtrip, recently raised to 25,000. Virgin America points are difficult to earn and transfers from American Express are a dismal 2:1 ratio.
Barclays recently mailed cardholders of the discontinuation of the card and set up newcardprogram.com with a FAQ. Later Virgin America emailed cardholders confirming the change and hinting that a new card partner will be announced in early 2014.
The key items:
- Existing cardholders have until December 15, 2013 to opt out by canceling their Virgin America Visa.
- Existing cardholders will earn with Virgin America through January 1, 2014. From January 2, they will earn Arrival points and receive an Arrival card.
- Virgin America companion passes will be valid until their original expiration.
- Arrival $89 annual fee waived for the first year.
There are reports that some in their Barclays letter have received an offer of 10,000 Arrival miles for $1,000 spend in the first 90 days, see a picture of one letter on FlyerTalk. Others, like me, have received no such offer.
Also, the Virgin America Visa had two versions, one with $49 annual fee and one with no annual fee and less benefits. All reports of the $49 version are that it is being converted to the Arrival. One report, again via FlyerTalk, is that no annual fee Virgin America Visas are being converted to the no annual fee Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®, the main difference from the $89 annual fee version is that 2x miles are only on dining and travel, everything else is 1x.
Barclays this year by many reports has gotten extremely tight on approving new card applications. Calls to the credit department to reconsider applications, even by moving credit or closing existing accounts, succeed much less frequently than with other issuers. In contrast, in 2012 I got 4 cards from them at once and others got more. It was also relatively easy to get multiples of the same cards and many have done so with the US Airways cards. I myself have 2. That is also more difficult now. I spoke to a friend this week who just tried for his second and the denial letter specifically cited that he already has a US Airways card.
I do not want my Virgin America to be converted to an Arrival because I am worried I may not later get the sign-up bonus as a new applicant. So I started calling Barclays and have only disappointing results.
Trying to get the 10k offer has gone nowhere.
Trying to convert to a different Barclays card has gone nowhere.
Saying I will cancel has not produced a retention offer. I have not pushed it to fully canceling because I may squeeze in a little more spend to get up to that 25,000 balance needed for Pago Pago.
So far I have not seen reports of anyone doing better.
Even though I previously said I would not apply for Lufthansa card, in light of this I decided to do so as a test. My application was denied. I called the credit department offering to move credit or close my Virgin America. I got through the first gate but a supervisor overruled and would not budge, citing the newness of my accounts, oldest with them is 17 months, and that they are not willing to extend more credit at this time. That I was not asking for MORE credit, just to MOVE credit did not sway them.
If you have US Airways cards now, enjoy them while they last, and get ready for a whole lot of Arrivals coming your way.
Disclaimer: I will receive a referral commission if you use my links and are approved for the Arrival or Lufthansa cards. Thank you.