The Barclaycard® Ring MasterCard® is a low APR credit card with very favorable interest rate terms (one of the lowest regular APRs of any U.S. credit card) and an innovative social community component that’s not widely seen in the low APR category.
Ring cardholders have the opportunity to voice their opinions and vote on changes to card terms and conditions through an online social community. They also have closer access to staff members – including the product head in charge of Ring and the card’s community managers – than just about any other credit card community. Though Ring doesn’t have a traditional rewards program, its Giveback profit-sharing program does offer the possibility of financial rewards for cardholders.
Ring is unusual, even unique, in many ways. However, it can be compared with other low APR credit cards, such as Chase Slate, Citi Simplicity, Citi Diamond Preferred, and BankAmericard Credit Card. Since it does have a rewards program of sorts, it’s also comparable to entry-level cash back credit cards such as Chase Freedom and Discover it. It’s worth noting that Ring lacks many of the fringe benefits common to other rewards cards, such as trip cancellation insurance.
There is currently no sign-up bonus.
Earning Cash From the Giveback Program
Barclaycard Ring’s Giveback program is the only means by which Ring cardholders can potentially earn cash rewards. Unlike most traditional credit card rewards schemes, it’s structured as a profit-sharing program, similar to what many co-ops use to reward their members.
However, Ring’s terms and conditions state that “this profit sharing feature is not based on the actual profits of the program… Instead, the Giveback program contains a transparent calculation that is used to determine what will be shared with the community members and which may or may not approximate actual profits.” Ring’s cardholder population is eligible to receive payouts from the Giveback pool. The Giveback pool is a set portion of the funds left over (20%, but subject to change) after the deduction of marketing costs, taxes, and shareholder returns, which collectively add up to 2.25% of Ring’s total earnings. In part, individual cardholders’ Giveback pool share is proportional to their spending during each six-month allocation period.
Cardholders can also increase their Giveback shares by referring new customers to Ring, though this aspect is subject to change, and referrals’ contribution to Giveback shares is unclear. Cardholders have the option to donate their Giveback payouts to charity, instead of receiving them as cash.
It’s worth noting that Giveback does not guarantee payouts, and the program did not consistently pay out in 2014 and 2015, so it’s not a good idea to bank on any sort of return from this program. Even when the Giveback pool has funds to pay out, heavy spenders should not expect their earning potential to exceed what they’d achieve with a traditional cash back rewards program.
Barclaycard Ring Community
The Ring Community has some innovative, practical features for current cardholders. These include a discussion forum through which members can start and participate in discussions about various Ring-related topics (as well as general personal finance and other topics relevant to credit card users); a community statistics (“Track”) section that provides detail about Ring’s month-to-month financial performance, including the balance (if any) in the Giveback pool; and an idea-sharing section where users create and submit ideas for changes or improvements to the card, and where ideas that have been vetted by Ring staff are presented to community members for up-or-down votes.
Ring does actually listen to its community’s ideas from time to time – for instance, Ring had a foreign transaction fee until a majority of cardholders voted to do away with it.
Complimentary FICO Score
Ring cardholders have access to a complimentary FICO score through their account dashboards.
Ring’s fees are minimal. The card does not have an annual fee, foreign transaction fee, or balance transfer fee. Cash advances cost a flat $3, regardless of advance size. Late and returned payments cost $26.
Ring comes with a 0% APR introductory promotion on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from account opening. The balance transfer promotion applies to transfers made within 45 days of account opening.
This card requires excellent credit. If you have any significant dings on your credit, you’re unlikely to qualify. A minor blemish here or there won’t necessarily disqualify you.
- No Annual Fee. Barclaycard Ring MasterCard doesn’t charge an annual fee. That’s great news for budget-conscious cardholders who don’t want to pay for the privilege of building their credit (or taking advantage of a super-low APR).
- Long 0% APR Promotion. Ring has a long 0% APR introductory promotion for both purchases and balance transfers: 15 months from account opening. That’s in line with some of the leading low APR credit cards on the market today.
- Cardholders Have a Say in the Card’s Future. Ring community members actually have a say in the card’s direction, thanks to periodic votes on member- and staff-generated ideas. Voting isn’t just lip service – the elimination of Ring’s foreign transaction fee at the community’s behest was a big deal. Few if any other credit cards allow members to vote directly on card-related matters.
- Social Community and Financial Tracking Is Informative and Fun. Ring’s other social components, such as the member discussion forum and monthly financial tracking feature, are genuinely helpful – particularly for cardholders who want to track the performance of the Giveback pool. These features are also fun to use. What other credit card can legitimately claim that cardholders enjoy spending time on its website?
- No Balance Transfer Fee. Ring is one of the few major U.S. credit cards that doesn’t charge for balance transfers. You still have to pay interest on transferred balances, but it’s nice to avoid the 3% to 5% surcharge that most other cards levy on the initial transfer amount.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. This card doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, another favorable distinction with competitors such as Chase Slate and BankAmericard Credit Card (both 3%).
- No Rewards Other Than Giveback Program. Though Giveback is technically a rewards program, it’s not guaranteed to pay out anything. If cash back or travel rewards are your primary motivation, consider cards with spending-based rewards programs, such as Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® .
- No Sign-up Bonus. This card doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus for new cardholders, a distinct disadvantage over fellow Barclaycard cards.
- Requires Excellent Credit. Ring requires applicants to have excellent credit. If you have so-so credit and want to build to the point where you have a reasonable shot at securing approval, you probably need to apply for and get approved for a less generous credit card with higher interest rates.
The Barclaycard® Ring MasterCard® is undoubtedly an unusual credit card. After all, it’s one of the first major cards with democratic governance written into its DNA, and certainly the first to incorporate social media in any form.
Ring is also known for its relatively low regular APR, which is highly attractive for people who want to carry balances from month to month or make sizable cash advances on their credit lines.
So, if you need to carry a balance after either making a large, essential purchase or shelling out for an unanticipated emergency, Ring is a great card for that purpose. However, it’s still better (if you can help it) to avoid carrying a balance and pay off your charges in full each statement period.