Barclaycard Ring is out to disrupt the way Americans use credit cards.
Barclays Bank Delaware started accepting applications from the general public in April, capping months of research and testing on a new "crowdsourced" credit card that allows online cardmembers an opportunity to "shape and share in the product's financial success."
Paul Wilmore, managing director for Consumer Markets, Barclays Bank Delaware, tells CardRatings.com how Barclaycard Ring has evolved since making its debut at the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin earlier this year.
Barclaycard Ring by the numbers
Here are the basic specifications of Barclaycard Ring's credit card offer, which compares favorably to the best credit card deals on the market:
- A single, 8 percent variable APR for purchases, balance transfers and cash advances
- No annual fee
- No balance transfer fees
- $1 cash advance fees
- 1 percent foreign transaction fees
Though connected to one of Europe's most dominant banks, Wilmore notes that Barclaycard's "clean brand" in the United States gave his team an almost blank slate to envision a new kind of credit card experience.
Barclaycard US operates rewards credit cards in partnership with recognizable brands like US Airways, Apple, and Barnes & Noble. However, Barclaycard Ring marks the company's biggest attempt yet to launch a new card stateside under its own moniker. Instead of debuting with a splashy -- and expensive -- media campaign, Wilmore's team touted the card's features online, emphasizing that unusual 8 percent variable APR.
Communication and transparency
"The fact that we chose 8 percent and not 7.99 percent reflected the fact that we wanted to be transparent," Wilmore says. "We were surprised by the reaction that we saw in people from the pilot that said, 'thanks for not trying to insult my intelligence, that you're not trying to take me for that extra one one-hundredth of a penny.'"
Clear communication defines the Barclaycard Ring experience, including an instant-decision credit card application that clearly states the minimum credit score (680) and other requirements for prospective cardholders.
Wilmore says that his team used guidance from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to craft a simple summary of the card's terms and conditions that reads in plain English, at about one-sixth the length of the industry standard.
Sweep your rewards to Ring
Although Barclaycard Ring is not a rewards credit card, it does come with a groundbreaking feature that could attract existing rewards credit card users to Ring.
Barclaycard Ring includes an innovative "sweep" tool that allows members to accumulate benefits from other rewards credit cards while enjoying Ring's low interest rate.
The Ring website lets you store payment details from other credit cards. The website later reminds you when your other credit card payments are due, offering you the option to pay your bill with a fast, no-fee balance transfer. That way, you can still funnel your everyday purchases through your favorite rewards credit card, then surf unpaid balances to Ring's 8 percent APR at no extra cost.
The fellowship of the Ring
On the company's website, a virtual "Ring" turns your account experience into a kind of game. "Cardholders can earn badges for things they do with their credit card," Wilmore says. "For instance, paperless statements are good for the environment, but they also save the community $5 per year."
Barclaycard Ring members can also earn recognition for active participation in community discussions. Wilmore enthusiastically describes ideas that current Ring cardholders have already shared, many of which involve charitable giving and broader community engagement. "We're encouraging community members to post their ideas about how to evolve this model further," Wilmore says.
Engaging through social media
Wilmore reveals that attending SXSWi proved how social media has challenged the credit card industry.
"We met with several key social influencers," Wilmore says. "People were saying it's not enough just to have a link to social media, even if you have this community. You need to engage with people where they're already aggregating, whether that's Facebook or LinkedIn or YouTube or Twitter."
"Through our pilot phase, we really attempted to integrate discussion and community on our blogs with some more public facing social media sites," Wilmore says. "We have our own Facebook page, we have our own Twitter feed, and in the future we're looking to do things like YouTube videos about how a credit card works."
Looking to the future
Although Wilmore declines to share specific membership projections or financial goals for the new product, he says Barclaycard has been pleased with Ring's launch.
"We're very optimistic, based on the pilot, based on the media attention we've gotten, and, quite frankly, based on the level of social media coverage around this," Wilmore says. Americans meeting the card's minimum requirements can apply online at the Barclaycard Ring website.