By AnnaMaria Andriotis 

Gap Inc. is parting ways with its longtime credit-card issuer, Synchrony Financial, and moving the business to Barclays PLC.

Barclays will take over Gap's private-label and co-branded credit cards, including Athleta, Banana Republic and Old Navy, Gap confirmed Tuesday morning after The Wall Street Journal reported on the decision. The portfolio includes some 11 million open card accounts, according to people familiar with the matter, with total balances of roughly $3.8 billion at the end of March.

Synchrony has been issuing cards for Gap -- one of its five largest retail card partners -- for about 22 years. The relationship, one of the bank's longest-running card partnerships, includes private-label cards that can be used only at company stores and co-branded credit cards that cardholders can use at nearly any merchant. Its Gap contract is scheduled to end in April 2022.

The retailer's co-branded credit cards will also change networks, Gap said, moving from Visa Inc. to Mastercard Inc.

In a regulatory filing early Tuesday, Synchrony said it expects to recognize a gain from the sale of the card portfolio and will spend about $1 billion to repurchase shares and make investments.

Gap marks the second major loss for Synchrony in recent years. Walmart Inc. in 2018 decided to end its long-running partnership with the bank, the largest U.S. issuer of store credit cards, and switched to Capital One Financial Corp. The Gap portfolio accounts for about 5% of Synchrony's $78 billion in total balances.

Synchrony and Gap shares were both down around 4% in Tuesday morning trading.

Barclays has been looking to expand beyond the airline, hotel and cruise line credit cards that dominate its U.S. portfolio. The Gap account is appealing because it includes many creditworthy cardholders. Some of the cards, in particular those issued to Athleta and Banana Republic customers, tend to attract more affluent borrowers, according to people familiar with the matter. Slightly more than five million of the roughly 11 million total Gap accounts are used at least once a month, one of the people said.

Gap is undergoing a revamp, closing hundreds of Gap and Banana Republic stores. Gap in March projected that net sales would increase in 2021.

Gap executives last year told Synchrony that the retailer was going to issue a request for proposals from other card issuers to get a better idea of its options, according to people familiar with the matter.

One of the items on Gap's wish list was for the card issuer to take on more of the program's costs, people familiar with the matter said. Under the deal with Synchrony, the people said, Gap incurs about 80% of the card program's costs, including marketing and fraud-related charges. Gap also receives about 80% of the revenue produced by the cards, including from the interest charges that cardholders pay on balances and the interchange fees that are generated when cardholders use their Gap cards at other merchants, they said.

Gap also wanted guaranteed revenue from the deal, one of the people said.

Separately, Gap wants its relaunched card program to closely tie into a rewards program that it launched across its retail brands last year.

Write to AnnaMaria Andriotis at annamaria.andriotis@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 13, 2021 10:20 ET (14:20 GMT)

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