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The world of credit cards constantly evolves with the market, aiming to satisfy customer’s shifting needs. As the pandemic has changed every area of our lives, credit card issuers respond by updating their products—and launching new ones.
On March 22, 2021, Barclays and AARP announced the launch of two new credit cards: the AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays and the AARP® Travel Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays. The goal behind these new products is to offer rewards that would be most valuable to AARP members. After talking to members about what they’re looking for in a credit card, Barclays has included benefits to promote physical and mental well-being and offer cash back on travel purchases made with the new cards.
“With these new credit cards for AARP members from Barclays, we are offering a suite of products designed to help Americans live life to its fullest, offering valuable cash back and exciting travel reward benefits, while also helping those facing social isolation become active members of their community,” said Nichelle Evans, managing director of travel and affinity programs at Barclays.
What the AARP Essential Rewards Mastercard offers
The new AARP Essential Rewards Mastercard can be a great option for AARP members looking to earn rewards on some of their healthcare expenses.
The card comes with:
- 3 percent cash back on gas and drugstore purchases
- 2 percent cash back on medical expenses
- 1 percent cash back on all other purchases
The card charges no annual fee and offers a 15 billing cycle introductory 0 percent APR on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening (16.74% – 25.74% variable APR thereafter), as well as a $100 intro cash back bonus after spending $500 within the first 90 days. Rewards can be redeemed at a 1:1 rate for cash back, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise and AARP memberships starting at $16 in rewards.
Note that an AARP membership isn’t required to apply for either of the new cards. If you have regular medical expenses and repeat prescriptions, you may want to look into this card regardless of your age.
The medical expenses category is rather broad and includes, according to Barclays, “dentists, orthodontists, osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, optometrists, ophthalmologists, opticians, optical goods and eyeglasses, chiropodists, podiatrists, hospitals, medical and dental laboratories, hearing aids, ambulance services, orthopedic goods, prosthetic devices, nursing and personal care facilities, medical services and health practitioners not elsewhere classified (NEC) and doctors not elsewhere classified, as identified by the merchant category codes.”
There are very few rewards credit cards that allow you to earn cash back on these types of purchases. Among the popular products, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Discover it® Cash Back sometimes offer 5 percent back on categories such as drugstore purchases in quarterly 5 percent cash back categories upon activation (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent). You can also get 3 percent back on drugstore purchases with the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Besides these options, there’s not much variety when it comes to rewards cards for medical expenses.
What the AARP Travel Rewards Mastercard offers
After a year of isolation, many consumers, including AARP members, can’t wait to return to traveling.
The AARP Travel Rewards Mastercard can help them do just that. It offers:
- 3 percent cash back on airfare, hotel stays and car rentals
- 2 percent cash back on restaurant purchases, including food delivery services
- 1 percent cash back on all other purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
For a no-annual-fee product, the card comes with decent cash back rewards on common travel expenses and restaurant purchases. Similar to the AARP Essential Rewards card, the Travel Rewards card will offer options to redeem rewards for cash back, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise and AARP memberships at a 1:1 rate.
You’ll also get a 0 percent introductory APR for 15 billing cycles on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening (16.74% – 25.74% variable APR thereafter) and a $100 intro cash back bonus after spending $500 within the first 90 days.
While the new travel card is a great option for AARP members to look into, if your goal is to earn rewards to use for future travel, a general travel rewards credit card might be a better choice.
For instance, you can earn 2X points on travel and dining and 1X points on everything else with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. While the rewards rate is lower, and there’s a $95 annual fee to consider, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are incredibly valuable. You can get more than 1:1 in value when you transfer points to Chase airline and hotel partners, and the card offers 25 percent more value for your points when you redeem points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Should you get a new card from Barclays and AARP?
The new credit card products from Barclays and AARP can be an excellent addition to an AARP member’s wallet. This is especially true for the AARP Essential Rewards Mastercard, which offers rare cash back categories, including medical expenses and drugstores.
Note that if you currently have the AARP® Credit Card from Chase, you can continue to use it as usual. Barclays will send out information later this summer about the conversion to the new AARP cards from Barclays.
The information about the ARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays and the AARP® Travel Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.