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The AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays offers generous rewards in useful spending categories like gas and drugstores, even if you're not among AARP’s key demographic of Americans ages 50 and older.
And there’s a travel rewards version of the card as well: the AARP® Travel Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays, which comes with identical benefits and card features, but earns rewards on travel and restaurants instead.
Depending on where you do the bulk of your spending, both $0-annual-fee cards can earn you rewards for everyday purchases. But there are cards that offer more generous rewards in the same useful spending categories.
Here are five things to know about the cards.
1. They earn rewards in valuable categories
Both co-branded AARP cards earn bonus rewards in everyday spending categories. Here’s what they offer:
The AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays: Earn 3% cash back at gas stations and drugstores (excluding Target and Walmart), 2% back on medical expenses and 1% back on all other spending.
The AARP® Travel Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays: Earn 3% cash back on airfare, hotel stays and car rentals; 2% cash back at restaurants; and 1% back on all other spending.
There’s no limit to the amount of cash back that can be earned. Plus, rewards can be redeemed for statement credit, as a bank deposit into a U.S. checking or savings account, for gift cards, merchandise and for AARP memberships.
If a sizable amount of your spending goes toward gas station or drugstore purchases, you’ll be able to rack up valuable rewards easily with the AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays.
And if other travel-related spending eats up a bigger slice of your budget than gas does, the travel rewards version of the card offers rates as competitive as what other $0-annual-fee general travel cards on the market offer.
Plus, the AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays’ 2x earning rate on medical expenses is a particularly rare but potentially beneficial category because it includes a wide berth of medical services and products including dentists, orthodontists, osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, optometrists, opticians, hospitals, medical and dental laboratories, hearing aids, ambulance services, orthopedic goods, prosthetic devices, nursing and personal care facilities and health practitioners.
2. There’s an interest-free period
The AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays and the AARP® Travel Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays both come with the same introductory APR period on balance transfers: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 billing cycles, and then the ongoing APR of 16.99%, 20.99% or 25.99%, Variable APR. This can make it less costly to move existing debt over from another card.
Note, though, that there’s a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
3. Newcomers get a modest sign-up bonus
New account holders are eligible for the following sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 Cash Back Bonus after spending $1000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
That’s a decent amount of cash for meeting the spending requirement. However, there are several cards available with higher sign-up bonuses.
» LEARN: Our best cards for medical purchases
4. You don’t have to be an AARP member to apply
Anyone can apply for these co-branded cards, regardless of age or AARP membership status. In fact, as noted above, you also can use your rewards to enroll in or renew an AARP membership, starting at $16.
The lack of membership requirement stands out because some organization-affiliated cards come with membership-related stipulations. For example, to apply for the Navy Federal Credit Union® More Rewards American Express® Credit Card, you'll have to join Navy Federal Credit Union. This means that you must meet certain eligibility requirements, like having a household member who has ties to the armed forces or Department of Defense.
5. There are cards that can reward you more
The AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays rewards you decently for purchases made at the pump. But if gas and general travel-related spending takes up a significant slice of your budget, there are other cards that can earn you more. Consider the U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card, for example. It offers 5 points per dollar spent on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked through the issuer's travel portal; 4 points per dollar on travel, gas stations and EV charging stations; 2 points per dollar on streaming services, grocery stores and dining; and 1 point per dollar on other eligible purchases. The card charges an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95.
To see how these cards stack up against the competition, take a look at NerdWallet's list of best credit cards.