How to Earn Major Free Travel Money with Barclay Travel Community

Recently, I was perusing my favorite travel hacker websites and came across a Milevalue post about the Barclay Travel Community. When you post short travel stories to the community board, you earn points redeemable for Amazon e-certs, but if you also have the Arrival+ credit card, you benefits can really start to add up. In this post, I'll go deeper to explain the potential of combining Barclay Travel Community stories with the Barclay Arrival+ card to earn serious travel play money!

The Travel Community Point-Earning Basics

  • Write a 100+ word story (+1 photo) and you receive 150 points
  • Add up to 25 "details" to that story for 10 points each
  • Every "kudos" you get from member is an additional 10 points
  • You can write up to 100 stories per month, but only 5 per city/state/country ever

The way it's typically been described by most bloggers who have written on the topic, you should write a story, add 3 details, and hope you get some kudos every once in a while. That's going to earn you about 180-200 points per story. Let's say you wrote 10 stories like that per month, you would earn approximately 2000 points, which equates to $20 in Barclay Arrival+ points, redeemable for travel charges to the card. Walking this equation out to 1 year, you would earn about $240 worth of free travel for an hour per month of reminiscing about your travels. Sounds pretty good, right?

Barclaycard Travel Community on Expert Mode

If you do as much travel as me, there is much more potential to this program than just a couple hundred dollars per year in travel credits. While other bloggers have written a bit about the program, I'm going to dig deeper and give you a specific outline for serious earning. Here's the system I plan to employ, step-by-step:

  1. Sign up for the Barclay Arrival+ if you don't already have it - This travel hack really only works well if you stack the participation points earned in the travel community with the credit card. In addition, the card has a 50,000 point sign-up bonus right now, so that's an extra $500 in travel money!
  2. Write 100 stories each month - Pick 20 cities you know best and start there. Write 5 stories per city, focusing on a specific topic so that as the months go on you will still have things to write about. The city/state/country limit makes this tough, but in practice I have been able to select counties and districts within the same area as the city I am talking about, so that's your workaround. If you complete just this step, you will earn 15,000 points or $150 in travel money per month for about 8 hours of work.
  3. Add value with details - After you have completed your stories, go back and add as many details as time allows. Since the stories take time, don't bother with the details unless you have more than 8 or 9 hours per month to spend (more on why later). I was able to bang out 2 details per minute and feel I could probably write about 6 details per story without working too hard. A good method for this would be to make a list of easy details to add to any story (every story could include info about which metro is nearby, where you ate and stayed, etc.). Adding six details per story equals 600 details per month for an additional 6,000 points.
  4. Build a kudos machine - Perhaps the most interesting possibility for adding value where other bloggers have not written is in the extra 10 points per kudos. You don't have to be an Arrival+ cardholder to have a Barclay Travel Community account, so there's no reason you couldn't enlist some friends, find other enthusiastic community members, (or let your multiple personalities chime in). If you got 10 kudos per story, that would add an additional 10,000 points per month, worth $100 in travel. How long would it take for ten accounts to sign in and essentially push the like button over and over? Not long at all.

Adding It All Up to Rake in the Arrival+ Points

Here's my math for the system I just suggested:

15,000 + 6,000 + 10,000 = 31,000 Arrival+ points per month

8 hours + 5 hours + 1 hour = 14 hours of work per month

31,000/14 = 2,214 points per hour or $22.14 per hour

And here's why I did the steps in that specific order:

15,000 points/8 hours = 1,875 points per hour

6,000 points/5 hours = 1,200 points per hour

10,000 points/1 hour = 10,000 points per hour

The least efficient point-earning opportunity here is adding details and the most profitable is getting kudos. Therefore, getting stories up quickly so you can maximize the kudos opportunity is the first priority and details are really just a lower-value add-on. However, if you are 100% sure you're going to hit 100 stories per month, it might make sense to add a few details while writing stories, just so you don't have to click back and re-acquaint yourself with the story later.

The Bottom Line 

While I think it would be difficult to keep this earning strategy up year after year, by combining the Arrival+ signup bonus of 50,000 points with the 31,000 points per month from the travel community, you could earn 422,000 Arrival+ points in the first year, netting you $4,220 in free travel credits, which could be used for flights, hotels, Airbnb, Uber, and on and on!


Miles & Points: My Goals for 2016

Over the last few years, I have been working towards becoming an expert in the field of miles and points, learning and applying many tricks and travel hacks to help us explore the great, wide world. One of the things that has become most obvious from my studies is that you ought to have a strategy mapped out. There's no point in earning miles if you don't have a plan to use them and if you don't stay organized, things will slip through the cracks. This post will describe the goals I've set forth for the coming year.

Accumulate Alaska Miles

Alaska miles are one of the most valuable reward currencies out there and many people don't even realize just how much you can do with them. Yes, award availability is above-average and Alaska runs a great service, but did you know Alaska miles can get you to Patagonia or New Zealand?

Alaska is not part of a major alliance, preferring instead to partner with an excellent mix of other airlines, like Fiji Airways, American, AeroMexico, Korean, and Qantas, just to name a few of the more useful ones. For example, it's possible to fly from LAX to Buenos Aires via Mexico City on Aeromexico for just 25,000 miles each way. The industry average to Southern South America is 30,000 miles, so this is a great redemption.

The best way to earn Alaska miles is to sign up for the Bank America Alaska Credit Card, which typically nets 25,000 miles. For the best offer available at any time, check this flyertalk resource page. You could then fund a CitiGold checking account (and savings!) with this card like I did to earn another 20,000 miles. For more information on how to do that, check out this Doctor of Credit post.


Get AMEX SPG Cards Before They're Gone

Starwood Hotel Group recently announced that it will become part of the Marriott umbrella in the coming months/years. Nobody knows how soon this merger will happen, but the move spells an eventual end to one of the most valuable and flexible rewards currencies out there.

SPG points can be used toward hotel stays at Westin, Le Meridien, and a few other very nice hotels, but transferring to airline miles provides even higher value. For every 20,000 points transferred to airline miles, SPG adds an extra 5,000 points to the pot. SPG has a ton of airline partners (full list here), but after singing the praises of Alaska's rewards program I will mention that they are an SPG transfer partner.

As an example, if I signed up for both the personal and business SPG credit card from AMEX, I would net 2x25,000 point bonuses after 2x$5000 in spend. I'd also earn an extra 10,000 points from that spend, meaning my SPG account would hold 60,000 points. I could then transfer 20,000 points at a time to say, Alaska, earning the 5,000 point bonus three times. All said and done, these two cards combined could net 75,000 Alaska miles...or that amount of miles with any other SPG transfer partner.

AMEX only allows applicants to earn a sign-up bonus once per card, so I'm weary of getting anything AMEX unless I know it's the best offer they're going to make. The SPG card traditionally goes to a 30,000 point offer briefly in August, but who knows what will happen this year. Since this card is going the way of the dinosaur at some point during the merger, I think it's time to make a move!

Requalify for the Southwest Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass is, without question, one of the best travel hacks out there. Johanna and I have gotten incredible value out of the one we earned in January 2015 and it'll still be serving us well in 2016. However, it's time to start thinking about how to get it again; 2-for-1 flights and the ability to use it even on award travel make this the best companion pass feature out there. I'm even considering getting it this year instead of waiting for next January, since deals that are almost too good to be true typically don't last.

For information about how we got our Companion Pass for 2015-2016, I provided some details here. We'll look to go a similar route in earning the necessary points either this year or next, but one thing is for sure, this is a must-do if you have a lot of domestic travel or trips to Mexico in your future!

US Bank FlexPerks Olympics Offer

During Olympic season, US Bank has made a habit of offering its Visa FlexPerks card with a special promo that improves its signup bonus significantly. Over the last two Olympic Games, this offer has averaged over 30,000 points, which translates to as much as $600 in flights or up to $450 in hotels. This is also a 2x everything card, so its easy to rack up a lot of points on every-day spend. Here's what the last promotion looked like:

On my miles and points spreadsheet, the notes section next to the Flexperks card I got during the Sochi Olympics says "s***** olympics scam." It says that because, while I called in to take advantage of the Olympics offer, the person on the line switched me to a lesser offer for 15,000 points, despite me saying I wasn't interested in that offer. As a result, I'm out to make sure Johanna gets the right promo offer for the Rio Games and I'm considering a business card for myself. If things go well, that's at least 60,000 points or up to $1,200 in value between us. Go USA!

The Bottom Line

There are some great credit card signup bonus opportunities out there in 2016 and we plan to take advantage of a few, while staying reasonable with our expectations. We've racked up a lot of miles over the last few years and even after booking most of our travel for 2016, we've got plenty in reserve. At times like these its important not to go overboard and keep collecting just to have more. With these goals, we will maintain our balances, secure nearly-free domestic travel, and take advantage of a few offers that are rare or may disappear altogether by the end of the year.