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Barclays revamps and launches new AARP cards for all applicants

March 22, 2021
4 min read
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Towards the end of last year, Barclays acquired the AARP portfolio from Chase and announced a new lineup of cobranded cards coming in 2021 for AARP members. Today, Barclays announced the launch of a new suite of cobranded credit cards — The AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays and the AARP® Travel Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays which are now open for applicants.

The information for the AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays and the AARP® Travel Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The cards offer a generous cash-back bonus structure for today’s everyday purchases like gas stations, restaurants, drug stores, travel and medical expenses. There is no limit to the rewards that cardmembers can earn and rewards never expire as long as the account remains open and in good standing. Although an AARP membership is not required to apply for the cards and anyone can become a member regardless of age, AARP members can save considerably on travel expenses such as flights and hotels. Let’s take a look at each new card:

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AARP Essential Rewards Mastercard

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: Earn $100 after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days.

Earning structure: 3% cash back on gas and drugstore purchases, 2% cash back on medical expenses, 1% cash back rewards on all other purchases.

Annual fee: $0

AARP Travel Rewards Mastercard

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: Earn $100 after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days.

Earning structure: 3% cash back on airfare, hotel stays and car rentals, 2% cash back on restaurant purchases, including food delivery services, 1% cash back rewards on all other purchases.

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Annual fee: $0

Other benefits: Along with the useful bonus categories for each card, Barclays will donate $10 per new account opened (for both cards) and 1% of all eligible electronic and telecommunications purchases to the AARP Foundation on up to $1 million annually.

Why the new cards are worth a look

While the new Barclays cards are targeted at AARP members, you do not need to have an AARP membership to apply. The AARP Essential Rewards Mastercard offers 3% cash back at drugstores and 2% back on medical expenses. The medical expenses category is a unique bonus category and is defined broadly by Barclays as:

Medical purchases are defined as Dentists, Orthodontists, Osteopathic Physicians, Chiropractors, Optometrists, Ophthalmologists, Opticians, Optical Goods & Eyeglasses, Chiropodists, Podiatrists, Hospitals, Medical and Dental Laboratories, Hearing Aids, Ambulance Services, Orthopedic Goods, Prosthetic Devices, Nursing and Personal Care Facilities, Medical Services & Health Practitioners not elsewhere classified (NEC) and Doctors not elsewhere classified (NEC), as identified by the merchant category codes.

So if you have regular medical expenses and prescriptions, the Essential Rewards Mastercard may be a worthwhile addition to your wallet.

Related: Best credit cards for paying your medical bills

Next, the AARP Travel Rewards Mastercard earns a solid 3% cash back on common travel expenses such as airfare, hotels and car rentals and 2% back at restaurants, including food delivery services such as UberEats, Grubhub and DoorDash. As far as cash-back cards go, the 3% back on those travel categories is competitive.

Both cards offer a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening and no annual fee. While each card comes with a modest sign-up bonus, the low minimum spend requirement makes it easy to earn the $100. Cardholders can redeem rewards at a 1:1 rate for cash back, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise and AARP memberships starting at $16 in rewards.

Bottom line

Though both AARP cards provide valuable cash back rewards on everyday purchases, including medical expenses, drugstore purchases, dining and more, there may be more compelling cash-back and travel rewards cards for your bonus category spend. Still, if you spend a considerable amount on medical expenses — a unique bonus category — the 2x cash back offered by the Essential Rewards Mastercard could be very valuable to you.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more