Let's be honest. In today's world, credit cards are not just convenient--in certain circumstances they're necessary. A credit card allows you greater consumer protection than using a debit card or when paying for large ticket items, than paying with cash. The problem we consumers have is getting the credit card companies to play fair--a word that is not synonymous with big banks. One of the big banks has a new credit card in the works, though, and it actually has the potential to put control back in the customers' hands where it belongs.
The Barclaycard Ring MasterCard, a product of the Barclays Group, has a bit of a social media vibe to it. The card offers a cash-back rewards feature, but unlike other cards that reward you for spending money and increasing your debt the Barclaycard Ring card pays out based on how the company itself is doing. Customers with one of the cards will get access to the company's profit and loss statements, giving them an idea of both how the company's doing and allowing them to calculate "Giveback" profit-sharing payments at any time.
There's more to the Barclaycard Ring MasterCard than just its cashback feature, of course.
In addition to being able to see how the company itself is performing, cardholders will also be able to give their input on how the card program works. The Barclaycard Ring community can suggest improvements, discuss proposed marketing campaigns and even vote on features such as annual fees or other changes to the card terms. Though participation in these discussions and votes is optional, the card creators are hoping that a large and active social community will build up around the card.
Right now you're probably wondering what the catch is. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure that there is one.
With the various banking scandals that have cropped up in the past few years, the banking industry as a whole has a very negative reputation. The 'customer focus' of this card and the social network that Barclaycard hopes to develop around it are a significant departure from that reputation. Banks, credit unions and savings and loans used to be built around small communities, perhaps the social aspects of the card could help to bring some of that small town spirit back.
The Barclaycard Ring program is currently in a beta testing phase, and is expected to expand for open enrollment later in the spring. The BarclaycardRing.com website offers an "invite" feature at the moment which will send you an announcement once the card goes public so you can apply. It remains to be seen how successful the program will be, of course, and Barclaycard reserves the right to cancel it at any time. I'm cautiously optimistic about the bank putting its focus back on consumers with this card program and hope it becomes a reality. If handled right they have the potential to make major changes to the credit card industry and the focus of modern banking in general. If not -time will tell.
All told there are a number of unique and innovative offerings that could end up turning Barclay plastic---into Barclay gold ---especially if they keep this promise made by company officials: "As your credit card company we promise to listen to what you have to say." That's orginal and priceless!