AARP Credit Card Holders Endure Bumpy Move to Barclays From Chase

Barclays apologizes for long call hold times, card transition woes. Issuer beefs up call support.
Gregory KarpSep 24, 2021

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Frustrated AARP credit cardholders who may be enduring a problem-plagued transition from Chase to Barclays should activate their new cards online or with an automated phone system to avoid hours-long call wait times.

That’s the advice from Barclays, which has been dealing with new customer ire despite beefing up its customer service ranks in anticipation of higher call volumes as it began the transition on Monday. Cardholder complaints have ranged from card delivery delays and activation issues to lengthy call hold times and problems with recurring payments.

“We sincerely apologize to our cardmembers who have had difficulty transitioning over to their new AARP credit card,” Barclays said in a statement. “We are currently experiencing high call volumes, resulting in longer-than-normal wait times. We are working diligently to assist cardmembers with any issues they may be having and to respond to all calls as quickly as possible.”

Barclays says new cardholders attempting to activate their cards should turn to the following places first:

Barclays also released two video tutorials for new customers:

If fixing problems with your card is not urgent, it’s better to summon extra patience and wait to get help from Barclays after the crisis dies down, which might mean several days of using a backup credit or debit card for payments in the near term.

A change in issuers, a week of cardholder complaints

In March 2021 — when Barclays said it would be taking over the co-branded AARP credit card portfolio from Chase — the issuer announced brand-new products, including the AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays.

But Barclays also noted during that announcement that existing holders of the outgoing AARP® Credit Card from Chase would automatically be converted to one of the new Barclays-issued products, starting in September 2021. Barclays noted that:

  • Account numbers would change.

  • Balances would transfer.

  • Rewards points would transfer.

However, the transition didn’t go smoothly, and Barclays was ill-equipped to handle the volume of customer issues.

Judging by rampant complaints on the Twitter accounts of both Barclays and AARP, major issues centered around not receiving or being able to use new AARP credit cards from Barclays and not being able to reach customer service at Barclays to resolve problems.

Specifically:

  • Activation. Some customers say they saw their Chase cards deactivated before they received their new Barclays cards. That left some with no payment card (if that was their only one). Barclays says all cards have been mailed, and those who didn’t receive cards by September 20 should have received them soon after.

  • Call hold times. Customers claim to have endured hours-long hold times with customer service, along with disconnections during those wait times. Barclays says the vast majority of customers have been able to activate new cards online or with the automated phone system. But some customers who needed to validate data to complete activation were required to talk to a customer service agent. Barclays says it underestimated how many new customers would want to talk with a customer service agent and how long those calls would last. Barclays added to its already beefed-up customer-service staffing, a spokesperson said.

  • Recurring payments. Automated recurring payments charged to some customers’ AARP credit cards didn’t get made, resulting in late payments or cancellation of services for non-payment. Barclays was able to solve that problem soon after the switch. “It was a technical issue, and we were able to make a change that alleviated that problem,” a Barclays spokesperson said.

  • No outage. AARP on Twitter said repeatedly that Barclays experienced an “outage.” However, a Barclays spokesman said there was no outage or widespread technology problem.

While AARP’s name is on the credit cards, the organization had little to do with the card changeover. Still, spokesman Colby Nelson apologized in a statement: “AARP Services is sorry about what has happened and the poor transition some cardholders have experienced. We truly appreciate cardmembers’ patience as Barclays works to resolve these issues.”

Transition problems are not unusual

It doesn’t help frustrated AARP cardholders, but history shows that transitioning a credit card portfolio from one issuer to another is often a fraught undertaking, resulting in rampant problems and irate customers.

What to watch out for

An initial frenzy of angry Barclays/AARP customers seems to have subsided, but it’s still wise to:

  • Monitor statements and rewards. Pay extra attention to your credit card statements for several months to potentially catch mistakes.

  • Keep tabs on your credit. Over the long term, a switch in issuers should neither help nor hurt your credit scores. But it’s not something you want to leave to chance.

Information related to the AARP® Credit Card from Chase has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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