- No annual fee
- 2 points per $1 spent on gas, groceries and utilities (1 point per $1 on everything else)
- Only fair credit needed for approval
- Rewards expire
- 3% foreign transaction fee
- Above-average regular APR and no low introductory rates
The Verdict: The Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard® is rewarding in more than just the “points, miles or cash back” sense. Sure, this particular Barclays credit card does indeed offer at least one point per dollar spent – two when you’re paying for gas, groceries or utilities – but its real value stems from the lack of an annual fee and the fact that it’s attainable for people with fair credit. That combination makes it one of the best options for low-cost credit improvement available today – particularly for those who don’t plan to carry a balance from month to month.
The best ways to use this card are to either pay your bill in full every month or to simply refrain from making purchases with it altogether. That’s because the Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard® is ill-suited to financing, sporting an above-average APR and absent low introductory interest rates. The first strategy will enable you to maximize your rewards earnings while building credit and establishing responsible habits. The second allows you to salvage credit-building benefits if you don’t trust yourself to spend responsibly.
- No Annual Fee: If you have below-average credit, your top two credit-card priorities should be getting approved and minimizing costs. The Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard® offers people with fair credit the chance to check both boxes, providing a free bridge from a starter or secured credit card to the world of good credit, where lucrative initial rewards bonuses and 0% intro rates make paying for particularly attractive terms actually worthwhile in certain situations. It is rare for an unsecured credit card for people with fair credit that doesn’t have any store affiliations not to charge an annual fee.
- 1–2 Points Per $1 Spent: In addition to 1 point per $1 spent on most purchases made with this card, you will also earn 2 points per $1 spent on gas, groceries and utilities – categories that do not change over time, as is the case with some rewards cards. The average person spends roughly $8,457 per year in just those three bonus categories alone, which means annual earnings stemming from that spending would amount to 16,914 points. That bounty would in turn be worth nearly $170, considering that points can be redeemed in 1,000-point increments for $10 each.
- Rewards Expire After Inactivity & Irresponsibility: If you don’t use your card for three months or you miss two consecutive monthly payments, the points that you’ve earned will expire. Likewise, you’ll lose your points if your creditworthiness changes, which means mistakes in other aspects of your financial life directly put your credit-card earnings at risk. Other credit cards have similar provisions, but most extend the inactivity limit to a much-more-generous 12 months.
- Unfavorable Financing Conditions: A 0% introductory interest rate for either new purchases or balances transfers, let alone both, is likely too much to ask of a “fair-credit” credit card that does not charge an annual fee – particularly one with “Rewards” in its name. The Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard® does not surprise in this regard. It even charges a 3% balance-transfer fee for good measure.But a decent regular APR is another story. Not that this card provides one – it doesn’t – but rather in the sense that it might be expected from class-leading credit cards such as the Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard®. Alas, the card disappoints, offering a 25.24% variable APR that is well-above the 16% market average among credit cards for people with fair credit.
- 3% Foreign Transaction Fee: This is not the card with which to make purchases through foreign-based merchants or travel abroad. Unlike a growing number of credit cards, including all of those offered by Capital One and Discover, the Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard® adds a surcharge to purchases processed outside the U.S. At 3% of any such purchase, this foreign transaction fee is above the 2.13% average for all cards.
Other Things To Consider
- Complimentary FICO Score: Barclays is among a handful of major credit-card issuers that provide free FICO scores to customers. This just adds to the Barclaycard Rewards Card’s preeminence as a credit-building tool, making it easier for you to evaluate your starting point and then track your progress over time.
- Credit Line Increase Review: You will be considered for a higher credit limit after making at least five consecutive on-time payments. A higher credit limit provides convenience and peace of mind in the sense that you may no longer have to pay your bill multiple times per month, for example, or worry about a relatively large transaction being declined. It also figures to reduce your overall credit utilization while obviously adding to your overall available credit, thus registering credit score gains.Just keep in mind that simply being eligible for a credit-line increase does not mean you will be granted one automatically. You may have to call Barclays and give them a nudge. Learn more in our guide to requesting a higher credit limit.