This article is out of date
The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® just became a much more valuable “get out of debt” credit card.
On Thursday, the issuer added an introductory no-interest period of 15 months. It previously charged interest of 8.5% APR on all purchases and balance transfers.
What makes this news even better is what didn’t change: The card still comes with an annual fee of $0 and never charges balance transfer fees.
This makes it the cream of the crop among balance transfer credit cards, which let you pay down your high-interest debt at a lower rate. It also puts it in fierce competition with the Chase Slate®, one of the most cost-effective balance transfer credit cards available.
Why 0% APR makes it better
Three things make a credit card a home run for balance transfers:
- A 0% balance transfer APR
- A way to avoid balance transfer fees
- A $0 annual fee
It’s uncommon for a credit card to hit all three marks. Before this week, only one card from a major issuer — the Chase Slate® — offered this trifecta of saving features. (The Chase Slate® doesn’t nix balance transfer fees completely, though. It has an introductory balance transfer fee of $0 for the first 60 days after account opening. After that, the fee is 5% of the transferred balance or $5, whichever’s greater.)
The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® was launched in 2012 with a $0 annual fee, a low ongoing APR and no balance transfer fees. It also has a robust online community, where cardholders can vote on new features. This made it a strong choice for some. But unlike many cards, it didn’t offer a 0% interest period.
By adding that 0% APR, the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® makes it possible for cardholders to pay down their credit card debt without spending a penny in interest or fees. And unlike the Chase Slate®, it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
An emerging trend?
The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® isn’t the only credit card to up its balance transfer game. The Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer also temporarily extended its balance transfer APR period. This trend could signal that major issuers are focusing now on sweetening deals for the middle class — a shift from last year, where we saw a sign-up bonus arms race on high-end cards.
“The 0% promotion was provided in order to present a more competitive offer in the marketplace,” Nicole Dye-Anderson, Barclaycard U.S. spokeswoman, said in an email. “We wanted to provide a very compelling introductory offer for customers who are specifically looking for a low interest rate product.” The change only applies to new applicants, not existing cardholders, she noted.
What didn’t improve
For years, the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® filled a niche no other major issuer seemed to be interested in: It offered a low ongoing APR on all transactions. That made it a great choice for people who carried credit card debt constantly.
But as the issuer introduced the 0% APR, it also raised the card’s ongoing APR by about 5 percentage points. That makes it significantly more expensive for people planning to carry credit card debt long-term, though it still compares favorably to the Chase Slate®, which offers a higher ongoing APR: 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.49% - 25.24% Variable APR.
But tradeoffs are to be expected when cards make changes, and these aren’t that bad. If you have excellent credit, and you can get into the habit of paying down your credit card in full every month after you pay down your debt (interest-free!), you could avoid interest altogether. If you’re still keen on getting a card with low ongoing interest, try a credit union card, like the Lake Michigan Credit Prime Platinum Card.