<![CDATA[Latest guides from cardsmart]]> www.cardsmart.co.uk Latest guides from CardSmart en <![CDATA[New ways to pay in 2013: How mobile and contactless technologies are changing the way we pay]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/new-ways-to-pay-in-2013.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/new-ways-to-pay-in-2013.html Contactless cards

Contactless cards are set to revolutionise the way we pay for purchases, from coffee and newspapers, to groceries and transport. “Tap and go” payment systems, as they are also known, are cashless, and allow you to pay by simply tapping your credit or debit card across a special till reader, without having to enter your pin. You can pay for purchases up to £20 in value, but this limit is set to increase. The cards are now available from mot major high street banks, including Barclays and Lloyds, and are available for both debit and credit cards. Tap and go cards are quick and easy, and thousands of retailers already accept them. With many more set to adopt the technology this year, contactless cards are rapidly establishing themselves as the future of retail payments.

Pingit

Have you ever wished that your current account was linked with your mobile phone? With Barclay’s Pingit app, this is now a reality. Anyone can register and use the app to send up to £750 a day using their mobile phone, without having to login to online banking or share anything other than your mobile phone number. It’s quick and easy, and available to everyone (not just Barclay’s customers). Pingit is secure, and doesn’t share your account details with anyone, and is quick and easy, making it a great option for sending cash to friends and family.

Near field solutions

Turning your phone into a payment device has been touted as the next big thing by retailers and mobile phone manufacturers. Using near field chip technology, any phone can be turned into a contactless payment device, and be used just like a contactless card in any retailer that accepts them. The only drawback is that you have to attach the chip to your phone yourself, but they are ideal if you are on the go and don’t want to have to rummage around for change when making a quick purchase.

e-wallet solutions/mobile device solutions

E-wallet technology has been around for a while, but is seeing an increase in popularity since many mobile networks, like O2, and even Google, have launched e-wallet smartphone apps. E-Wallets allow you to set a master password, and access your bank details, credit cards, and other important information all in one place on your phone. The apps allow users to upload money from their debit card, with cash, or by text message, and sync it directly with your e-wallet account. Once the transfer has been made, you can pay for almost anything using your phone! More than 100 retailers have already signed up to the service, and there are even plans to add an option for buying train tickets instantly in the works.

These new payment options are secure, reliable, and fast, and are revolutionising the way we pay. Compare credit card options now to find the right card for you >>

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Tue, 19 Mar 2013 09:56:27 +0000
<![CDATA[Christmas with CardSmart: Our 3 Top Credit Cards for Christmas Spending]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/top-cards-for-christmas-spending.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/top-cards-for-christmas-spending.html We know that it can be hard to find the cash for Christmas, especially in this difficult economic climate. In fact, 60% of Britons say they are worried about funding Christmas this year*.

That’s why our top card picks this season are the ones that give you added value – like extensive interest free periods on new purchases, meaning you can spread the cost of Christmas over several months. Others, like the new Santander 123 card offer clever cash back on the purchases you make every day. Used sensibly these cards can provide a wealth of flexibility and savings. If you’re in the market for a new credit card, it would be smart to get one of these exciting offers now before the Christmas rush begins.

Santander 123 Cashback

The innovative new Santander 123 card lets you earn cash back rewards on your everyday shopping! The benefits include:

• 1% cashback at supermarkets including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, The Co-operative, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer or Budgens.

• 2% at your favourite shops and department stores, including BHS, Debenhams, House of Fraser, John Lewis, Fenwick, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges plus many others. You can also receive cash back when shopping online with these retailers.

• 3% at petrol stations Including BP, Shell, Esso, Texaco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and many others (on spend up to £300 per month between your statement dates).

These great rewards are yours for an affordable annual fee, and a low 22.8% APR Representative (variable).

Tesco Clubcard Credit Card

The Tesco Clubcard Credit Card offers both great value and convenience. Make the most of 0% for 15 months on purchases offer from the day you open your account. If you transfer a balance from another card, you will also enjoy 0% interest on that sum for 9 months. You can also transfer up to 95% of your credit limit.

It is one of the most rewarding cards on the market today. Earn redeemable Clubcard points on every purchase, and even more when you shop at Tesco!

Capital One Classic

Strengthen your Credit Rating and enjoy an exclusive period of 6 months interest free on purchases with this top credit building card. The Capital One Classic offers no annual fee and has an average APR of 34.9%. This low-limit, easy-to-manage credit card is a fantastic way to spread the cost of Christmas if you have a poor credit rating and manage your money in 2012 and beyond.

*source – MoneySupermarket.com

Written by Sarah Adams

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Mon, 07 Nov 2011 12:12:14 +0000
<![CDATA[Virgin Atlantic American Express credit cards offer great rewards]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/virgin-atlantic-american-express-credit-cards-offer-great-rewards.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/virgin-atlantic-american-express-credit-cards-offer-great-rewards.html The stylish Virgin Atlantic White and Black cards both offer a 0% balance transfer rate for six months from the date on which the account is opened, with a 2% handling fee. But this is not the only benefit of spending with one of Virgin's American Express credit cards.

Card holders can put away airmiles to contribute to their next getaway or business trip with every purchase they make. Those lucky enough to have the Virgin Atlantic White Card are also given 3,000 airmiles with their first card purchase. Meanwhile, travellers flashing the Virgin Atlantic Black Card are given a massive 6,000 airmiles with their first purchase. Furthermore, with both cards, travellers earn two miles for every £1 spent. Double airmiles are offered when cardholders buy directly from Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays. This means cardholders could be earning four miles for every £1 spent.

Airmiles earned using the Virgin Atlantic American Express credit cards can really add up. For example, 40,000 airmiles can translate to an economy roundtrip for two to a selection of European destinations. Meanwhile, 50,000 airmiles earn cardholders £200 in Virgin Vouchers to spend on delicious luxuries such as fine wines and holidays.

Cardholders can also spend away knowing they could be saving up enough airmiles to gain entitlement to a complimentary companion reward ticket for a qualifying flight. This could be perfect for anyone wanting to treat a friend or loved one to a short break or a shopping trip abroad. White Card holders must spend over £15,000 on card purchases in a year to be eligible for the complimentary ticket, while Black Card holders must spend over £7,500. These seats must be booked on full-priced, qualifying Virgin Atlantic flights.

Another advantage to the Virgin Atlantic American Express credit cards is the complimentary insurance scheme offered. This means that if users' cards are lost, stolen or used fraudulently, they will be entitled to a full refund so long as they report the missing card immediately. When abroad, even more free insurance is offered to cardholders. They are entitled to free travel accident insurance up to £250,000, free lost luggage insurance to £1,500 and up to £500 for emergency clothing if luggage is delayed by over 48 hours.

So that Virgin Atlantic credit cardholders can keep track of their account with ease, online and phone services are available. Those who choose the online service can log on to check their balance and credit limit any time of the day or night. They can also make payments and set up direct debits using their online account.

Those considering getting hold of one of the cards may want to note there is an annual fee of £115 with the black card. The typical variable rate on the Black card is 37.1% APR, while the rate on the White card is 17.9% APR. The variable rate for card purchases is 17.9% and 18.9% on the White and Black cards respectively.

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Mon, 11 Jan 2010 20:27:40 +0000
<![CDATA[The Best Payment Methods for a Skiing Holiday]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/the-best-payment-methods-for-a-skiing-holiday.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/the-best-payment-methods-for-a-skiing-holiday.html One advantage is that prepaid cards must be preloaded in advance. This means that card holders can only spend they money they have so there is no chance they will return home having spent more than they intended to.

The cards also save skiers money on currency exchange as the rates on many of these cards is often much better than rates at high street bureau de changes. The FairFX currency card, for example, can save travellers between 5% and 10% on the cost of foreign currency. Rates are generally considerably better than those offered last minute at the airport. These can seem like good value because rates at the airport are advertised as commission free, but often the money saved is outweighed by the poor exchange rates offered.

Another advantage to prepaid cards which could prove particularly valuable to those spending a week or two on the slopes is that they are much more secure than carrying a wad of cash around that could easily fall out of a pocket during an elaborate skiing manoeuvre or even just at the pub after a long day of winter sports. The cards have chip and pin technology, making them even more secure.

Using a card such as the Caxton FX prepaid currency card means there are no fees, commission or extra charges on transactions used while abroad. This means that a delicious meal after a long day on the slopes costing 100 euros actually costs 100 euros with no hidden charges.

The cards can be loaded using a UK debit card online, over the phone or via text.

Exchange rates change all the time so it may be worth considering in advance of a trip abroad when to buy currency using a prepaid card, because rates can be locked into in advance.

The cards are often cheaper to use abroad than traditional debit or credit cards, as most of these make charges for spending abroad. Prepaid currency cards can be used in all the places traditional debit or credit cards are accepted. The Caxton FX currency card, for example, is a MasterCard so it can be used anywhere that accepts this type of payment method.

Travellers who would prefer to use traditional payment types may want to consider applying for a debit or credit card with no charge for use abroad. The Zero credit card from Santander, for example, does not charge for foreign exchange transactions. It also does not charge for cash withdrawals. The typical variable rate on the card is 18.9% APR. Holders of the Santander Zero credit card could be entitled to 0% on all purchases made within three months of the date the account is opened. This could be perfect for those planning to book a skiing holiday. Another advantage of this card is there is 0% for 12 months on balance transfers from the account opening date, with a 3% balance transfer fee and a minimum of £5.

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Sun, 03 Jan 2010 21:38:22 +0000
<![CDATA[Prepaid cards could suit many different types of consumer]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/prepaid-cards-could-suit-many-different-types-of-consumer.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/prepaid-cards-could-suit-many-different-types-of-consumer.html The prepaid cards work in much the same way as a traditional credit card, except they must be topped up with funds before they can be used to make purchases. This can be a real advantage for many types of spender as it is only possible to spend as much money as is on the card. In this way, prepaid cards make it impossible to overspend because the card simply will not work if there are insufficient funds available. Since it is impossible to spend more than what you have, there is no risk of running up late payment fees either.

Young people who would like to be able to keep track of their finances could find this aspect of the prepaid cards useful. Parents may also have peace of mind giving these cards to their children, knowing that they have enough money on hand but will not run up huge debts by overspending. Many of the prepaid card accounts allow additional card holders as young as 13.

Some of the card providers also send real time text messages to card holders informing them of their balance to help them stay in control of their finances.

The cards can be used in much the same way as traditional credit cards, in that holders have a pin number unique to their card which they enter when paying for an item and the total amount is taken from the card immediately. As well as in store payments, the cards can also be used online. This could prove very useful for shopping over the festive period without having to traipse through the busy shops.

One of the best cards available on the market is arguably the O2 Cash Manager Prepaid Card, as this can be bought free of charge with no set up cost. The downside is that this card is only available to O2 customers.

For others looking for a good prepaid card, the Freedom PAYG Prepaid MasterCard may be the solution. Although it costs £9.99, there is no service fee on the card. The fee for any transactions is 2.75%, with a minimum of 99p and a maximum charge of £1.50. Load fees vary from location to location. At the Post Office, for example, the charge is 2% with a minimum of 99p, whereas PayPoint charges 3%. Card to card transfers online, however, are free of charge.

Those looking for a card without a transaction fee may want to look at the eclipse Prepaid Pay Monthly MasterCard, which costs £8.95 with a monthly service fee of £4.45.

Prepaid cards can also be a great option for those who would like to be able to make purchases with a MasterCard or Visa card but perhaps lack the credit rating to be accepted for a standard credit card.

Card companies' policies on insurance against fraudulent activity can vary so it could be worth looking into this when applying for one of the cards.

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Mon, 07 Dec 2009 20:58:12 +0000
<![CDATA[Credit Scoring Can Affect the Rate Offered by Credit Card Companies]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/credit-scoring-can-affect-the-rate-offered-by-credit-card-companies.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/credit-scoring-can-affect-the-rate-offered-by-credit-card-companies.html Credit scoring is how a lender such as a credit card company rates potential customers and their history with loans and other types of credit. Someone who has not paid their mobile phone bill or loan payments on time in the past may have a poorer credit score because they may be judged to be less reliable when it comes to paying bills of any nature on time. That is why it is always important to pay your credit card bill on time, paying off at least the minimum amount each month.

Those who do have a good credit score are more likely to be offered the advertised interest rate on a credit card, rather than a higher rate.

They could, for example, be offered 17.% APR variable (representative) on the Barclaycard Platinum with Balance Transfer credit card. Holders of this card can also benefit from 0% on balance transfers for 22 months, so long as the balance is transferred within 90 days of account opening, with a 3.2% handling fee. Those with a lower credit score may be offered a rate lower than the one advertised.

However, not all lenders may have the same attitude to credit scoring. Different companies may be looking for different things so looking unattractive to one lender does not necessarily mean someone will look unattractive to all lenders.

Those considering applying for a credit card can access their credit report ahead of time through an agency such as Experian, Equifax or Callcredit, which will show the credit score information that card companies have access to. Other factors likely to improve credit rating include being enrolled on the electoral register, having the same home address and employer for a significant amount of time and having a landline as opposed to just a mobile number.

For people who know they have a poor credit score and are unlikely to be offered one of the most popular credit cards, there are cards that can help them build up their credit rating. Capital One, for example, offers the Capital One Classic credit card. This has a rate of 34.9%, but this rate can be reduced once holders have shown they can manage their account responsibly and pay off bills on time. Holders can also apply for email alerts to help them stay in control of their finances and can be offered a low, easy-to-manage credit limit from £100. Those considering the Capital One Classic credit card are more likely to be accepted if they are on the electoral roll and are over 18.

Another option for those with a low credit scoring is a prepaid credit card. These do not require a credit history as they must be preloaded with money before they can be used for payments, so it is impossible to get into debt when using them. The cards work in much the same way as a traditional credit card; they can be used for in-store payments using a chip and pin device, or for shopping online.

The O2 Cash Manager Prepaid Card is one of the best on the market since it is available free of charge with no set up cost. However, it is only available to O2 customers. Another option is the Freedom PAYG PrePaid MasterCard, which costs £9.99 with no service fee.

Written by Alex Adams

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Sun, 06 Dec 2009 12:10:57 +0000
<![CDATA[O2 Money card could help holders to control their cash flow]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/o2-money-card-could-help-holders-to-control-their-cash-flow.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/o2-money-card-could-help-holders-to-control-their-cash-flow.html An O2 Money card could be a great way for card holders to keep control of their spending. It is impossible to spend more money than what is already loaded on to the card, so there is no danger that holders of the O2 Money card will go into the red. The card can be used in conjunction with any account as is it possible to transfer spending money from any bank account on to the O2 Money card.

Card holders are also never stuck not knowing how much money they have available as free real time balance alerts can be sent directly to their mobile phones. Once they have found out how much money they have available, card holders can then use the unique budget calculator online to work out what they can afford to spend.

The cards were launched earlier this year with Visa and are powered by NatWest. For those joining now, a special reward scheme is currently on offer. A £5 thank you will be given to those who join up and load £50 on to the card in two consecutive months. The offer is available to those who sign up for a regular monthly load of £50 or more.

Whereas in the past prepaid cards may traditionally have been seen as cards designed for those with imperfect credit records, the O2 Money card could have benefits for a much wider audience. It could be a perfect solution, for example, for those who would like to ring-fence their spending money away from money that goes towards their mortgage and bills. The card is also great for those who worry about incurring penalty fees or charges when spending money on cards, as on the O2 Money card it is impossible to go overdrawn and thus to be charged penalties.

Parents may also want to consider taking out an O2 Money card for their children. Parents are able to load money onto their child's pre-paid cash card online. It could also help children 13 or over because the cards offer the benefits of a Visa card but within a safe framework.

Other prepaid cash cards are also available, such as the Eclipse and Freedom prepaid pay-as-you-go MasterCard and the White Eagle Prepaid Maestro Card. The advantage that the O2 Money card has over these and other alternatives is that it there is no charge to purchase the card. There is also no monthly service fee, which is the case for some other prepaid cards. However, the O2 Money card is only available to O2 customers.

Ronan Dunne, O2's UK chief executive, explained on the card's launch earlier this year: "By bringing a fresh, transparent and customer-focused approach to pre-paid cards, we plan to drive this market and take a significant share. In partnership with NatWest, O2 Money is delivering new ways of helping our customers better connect with their money."

There are also other prepaid cards on the market, specifically aimed at those who travel abroad. FairFX, CaxtonFX and MyTravelCash all offer prepaid currency cards, allowing travellers to buy their foreign currency before they go abroad. This could save those going on holiday or travelling for work money, as buying currency last minute can be more expensive than buying it in advance.

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Sun, 08 Nov 2009 10:36:28 +0000
<![CDATA[Benefits of using travel money cards abroad]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/benefits-of-using-travel-money-cards-abroad.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/benefits-of-using-travel-money-cards-abroad.html Travellers planning to hit the slopes this autumn or escape from the dreary British evenings as winter draws on could benefit from taking a travel money card on their trip.

Travel money cards by issuers such as FairFX, CaxtonFX and MyTravelCash can save travellers money on currency exchange, leaving them with more cash to spend when they reach their destination.

FairFX, for example, offers rates for euros and US dollars at less than 1% above wholesale rates.

This means that all travellers, from those on city breaks or half-term ski trips to sun seekers, can have access to business level foreign exchange rates when using the cards.

Those who choose to buy their currency last minute at the airport rather than purchasing it in advance using a travel money card can risk paying more for currency exchange.

A new survey by FairFX.com found that holidaymakers who choose to buy their currency last minute at the airport can end up paying as much as 14% more for their money than if they had bought it in advance. The travel money card provider found that Luton and Birmingham airports offer the worst deals.

Travel money cards have the additional benefit of being very easy to use. They can be topped up online or by text and work in much the same way as a debit card. The FairFX currency card, for example, is a MasterCard chip and pin enabled prepaid debit card. The cards are issued in euros or US dollars and can be paid for using a sterling debit or credit card or internet bank transfer.

MyTravelCash is also a prepaid MasterCard issued in euros or US dollars. Travellers who do not use all the money loaded on their MyTravelCash cards can withdraw the outstanding amount from an ATM abroad or in the UK, ask for a refund, or save the money for their next trip.

As well as offering good foreign exchange rates, the cards can also be bought ahead of time, meaning that travellers can take advantage when the exchange rate between sterling and the dollar or sterling and euro is up.

According to chief executive of prepaid travel money card issuer FairFX, Stephen Heath, exchange rates are likely to continue to fluctuate as sterling continues to lose value against the euro.

"As the pound is expected to be weak for some time to come it is more vital than ever that people take steps to get as much as they can," he advised.

Meanwhile, senior analyst at CaxtonFX Duncan Higgins said that analysts have predicted an increase in retail sales of 0.6% for last month, which could lead to a strengthening in the pound.

"Signs that consumers are increasing their spending habits will reaffirm a level of optimism about Britain's recovery, which in turn would be suggestive of a tighter monetary policy and a stronger pound," he explained.

If the pound does strengthen against the euro or dollar, this could be a good time for those planning a trip abroad in the future to buy or top up their currency card.

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Sun, 08 Nov 2009 10:16:48 +0000
<![CDATA[Airmiles Credit Cards]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/airmiles-credit-cards.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/airmiles-credit-cards.html Airmiles Rewards Schemes

If you like to travel to foreign destinations by air, by using the right kind of Airmiles credit card, you could earn points to help you take your next flight for less.

For every pound you spend on an Airmiles credit card, you'll be rewarded with a number of miles which you can trade in for discounted tickets, upgrades, or even free flights. However, these rewards don't come for free - there's typically a cost involved in redeeming your points.

Airmile reward schemes are only worthwhile if you are able to pay off your monthly balance in full, otherwise you'll find that the interest you pay outweighs the reward you’ll earn. If you do manage to pay off the balance, you'll effectively be earning points whilst you spend.

What are Airmiles?

Airmiles are a type of points reward scheme - the rewards being air miles which can be converted into flights to various destinations. The miles are earned by spending on a particular card, which offers Airmiles, or a similar Airmile reward scheme.

There are several options available to you as a consumer, and it can be quite difficult to work out the actual value of the points you have earned. This guide will show you what you need to consider when choosing a new Airmile card.

What are the benefits of an Airmile Credit Card?

  • First off, you need to use your card. The best way to get maximum return from holding this type of card is to use it for as many transactions as you can each month. But be sure to set up a direct debit to pay off the balance every month, or else the benefits you receive will be negated by the interest payments.
  • Multiply your reward! Some cards will offer double (or more) points for money spent on certain goods or services, such as their partner's stores.
  • Free flights and free (or cheaper) upgrades are the primary benefit of this card. Upper / Business / Premium Economy tickets will cost more miles than economy.
  • Spend Miles and Pay. If you have a desire to head to foreign shores, but don't have enough miles accrued to get there, some schemes allow you to redeem your miles towards a flight, and then pay to make up the miles you're missing. Terms and Conditions and/or Restrictions normally apply, such as destinations, or number of miles you can redeem at the same time you pay. Some cards offer companion tickets, offering a free ticket for a partner to accompany you on a trip - however, this ticket normally comes with restrictions.
  • Loyalty + Discounts. A number of cards also offer discounts at the card providers' partner stores.

What are the disadvantages of an Airmile Credit Card?

  • Free flights are seldom completely free - often the customer has to pay a charge to cover applicable taxes, fees, and surcharges.
  • Cost of building up enough miles to convert to a ticket - A study by Which? in 2006 found that many people have not claimed a flight simply because of the amount of money they would have needed to have spent in order to build up the miles to do so.
  • Transfer Fees - Many of these types of cards offer a balance transfer interest free period, but they tend to be subject to fees. These vary from a set fee, to a percentage of the balance transfer. If you need a balance transfer card, take a look at our balance transfer tables.
  • Fees. Some cards charge an annual fee, which is something you may not want to pay. Check before you apply!
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Sun, 11 Oct 2009 23:57:35 +0000
<![CDATA[Football Credit Cards]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/football-credit-cards.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/football-credit-cards.html Loyal supporter

You can show your loyalty to your favourite football team even more by using an affiliated credit card, which gives back to your club.

If you want to demonstrate your passion for your football team through your spending, as well at the ground, it is likely the club will have a branded football credit card with your club’s badge and colours. It works like an affinity card with the card account linked to your football club.

Many football credit cards earn your team money every time you spend, at no extra cost to you. The card itself features the logo of your team displaying your allegiance to your team. This support goes further as your card provider will donate a percentage of your spending to your team.

Become an asset to your team

By using a football credit card:

  • Your spending will have direct financial contribution to your club.

  • You may receive interest free deals on season tickets.

  • Receive a discount in the club shop.

  • Some give reward points that you can redeem against ticket sales and merchandise.

Rewards

Many Football Credit Cards reward you for spending, enabling you to redeem points against merchandise, experiences, travel packages and retail vouchers.

Football Credit Cards are affiliated to more than 50 English football clubs, the England team, the Premiership and Championship competitions and the Scottish Premier League.

Good introductory offers

If you take a look at the range of football cards almost all of them offer 0% on balance transfers for an example 12 months, and 0% on card purchases for a limited time. After this the APR is a typical 15.9%.

Balance transfers can be useful if you have a balance or several sitting on other cards at any rate of interest. If you transfer the amount onto a 0% card this will give you the chance to pay as much as possible off, safe in the knowledge that all your repayments are paying the debt alone, without having to service the added burden of interest.

The 0% on purchases that many football cards offer is also handy. Say you want to make a large purchase; you’ll be able to spread the payments over a period of time without creating any extra interest.

The cost-effective way to use this type of card however, is to ensure that you pay for the purchase within the 0% offer period otherwise the item will cost more than you originally paid for it, in interest payments.

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Wed, 07 Jan 2009 17:09:36 +0000
<![CDATA[Student Credit Cards]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/student-credit-cards.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/student-credit-cards.html Learning by degrees

A recent survey conducted by the National Union of Students (NUS) and HSBC released in August 2008, has found that prospective students tend to underestimate their spending, compared to current students.

The average weekly underestimate was just below £20 which blow a major hole in the month’s budget.

Financial products such as a student credit card can help with juggling and managing finances but it could be tempting to open one up and use it without thinking about it.

There is no point in splurging on a card and buying stuff you think you need without making a financial plan. This may cost you more in interest payments in the long term, especially if you can’t pay for your purchases quickly enough.

It all sounds a bit grim especially as starting a new college or a new term should be an exciting time. But by taking control of your finances from the start you can concentrate on the more interesting aspects of student life.

All sorts of perks come with student credit cards but the most sensible thing to do is to look at the market, work out what your needs are and see what card best fits your profile.

What to look out for

  • Low interest rates, and/or 0% on purchases and balances.

  • No annual fee.

  • The types of rewards or incentives that are being offered – are they relevant to you?

  • An understanding by your credit card provider that you are a student and what your needs are; e.g. ease of use, and easy to understand terms and conditions.

  • Card security.

  • A competitive interest rate, if you on a 0% period and when it expires.

How do I get a card without a regular income?

Student credit cards have been designed for students on the understanding that there is no regular income. However in some cases, the APR can be higher to make up for this and it is essential to shop around to gain the best rate of interest.

You may also consider regular credit cards such as cashback cards or life of the balance cards that have a low interest rate. Make a call to a provider who is offering a good interest rate about whether you could be accepted for one of these alternatives.

If you are going to use a credit card, shop around for the best offers, such as a limited period of 0% on spending. Once you have identified which credit card is best, you can identify what you need to facilitate your student life and then budget accordingly.

The perks

Card providers often offer free book or record tokens, discounts in shops and even travel discounts when you open up an account. These can be useful but, boring though it is, weigh up the value of these discounts against the value of a good interest rate.

A card offering both is a good bet!

Your NUS student card also offers discounts so check the details on this to make sure you can advantage of all that is on offer.

See also prepaid credit cards

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Wed, 07 Jan 2009 16:47:31 +0000
<![CDATA[Prepaid Credit Cards]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/prepaid-credit-cards.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/prepaid-credit-cards.html Limit your spending to a budget

One way to keep a tight rein on expenses is to opt for a prepaid credit card. Put money onto the card before spending and you will receive the benefits of a credit card with the peace of mind that you are spending money you actually have.

Who can benefit from a prepaid credit card?

Young people who want the convenience of card payments but need to remain within a budget.

Anyone who wishes to budget using money they already have. Anyone who has been refused credit but still wants the convenience of a credit card. You may find pre-paid cards much easier to get than credit cards.

How can you use this product?

Prepaid credit cards can be used for shops and services in the same way that usual credit cards are. You will have a PIN that is unique to your card. Input this number at the cash desk as normal, and the total amount of your purchases will be taken from the card straight away.

When shopping online, fill in the details of your card as usual and as long as there is enough money on your card the transaction will be completed.

Some fees are associated with the card, such as:

  • A £5-£10 cost to buy the card.

  • Some have annual or monthly charges.

  • Some charge to load the card. Check the small print as there is quite often at least one free option to this.

  • There are charges on overseas transactions and on cash withdrawals from an ATM. A few cards also charge on UK transactions so look around for one that doesn’t.

The benefits to the user are:

  • There are no credit checks, which means you gain access to a card without worrying about your credit history. However, card providers will check that you are who you say you are.

  • No danger of getting into debt as you can only spend what is loaded onto the card.

  • You won’t be charged interest.

  • There will be no late payment fees.

  • You will have the convenience of shopping with a credit card.

Other people can also load money onto this type of credit card. For instance it is popular with parents wishing to help their children and keep them to a budget. It is also possible to have your salary loaded onto the card.

It is also possible to have a secondary cardholder but this often comes with a fee and the primary cardholder is responsible for the account.

Card fraud

If your card is stolen it is essential to inform your provider immediately as they will block your card. The card can’t be used without a PIN and in the event that it is, only the amount loaded on the card can be used. This can be distressing if your salary has just been paid onto the card so shop around to see what the card policy is regarding fraudulent use and if there is any insurance against this.

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Wed, 07 Jan 2009 16:33:03 +0000
<![CDATA[Instant Decision Credit Cards]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/instant-decision-credit-cards.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/instant-decision-credit-cards.html Click for credit

Instant decision credit cards do what they say on the tin. They offer a decision within minutes when you apply online.

This can be handy if you want a decision quickly in order to make a special purchase or simply don’t want the hassle of filling in a form.

How can you get an instant decision?

Many credit card providers will provide an instant decision if you apply online on their website.

You will have to give all your details and, as always, it relies on you filling in the form correctly. All the usual information is asked for, such as age, address, employment details and bank details.

Once you have submitted the details, in most cases the decision will come back to you within minutes.

Where is the information going?

Your details are sent direct to the financial services provider to whom you have applied. Your application is looked at immediately and a decision is made.

How is the decision made?

As with all credit card applications the provider checks your credit rating. In this case the process is speeded up and the provider can look at your details straight away.

What happens if I have a poor credit history?

It is likely that you would be turned down for a credit card whether you applied for either it in the regular way or online for an instant decision.

There are ways to rectify this. Start by getting hold of your credit report and see why it is poor. Take steps to repair this and slowly you will see an improvement in your credit rating and therefore in the credit card provider’s confidence in you as a user.

Before you apply

Take a moment to shop the market and look at the cards offering an instant decision. It is possible that some of these don’t offer quite as good rates of interest as their counterparts.

It is worth considering:

  • Is the APR as good on an instant decision card and can you wait for a longer decision to apply for a card with a better rate of interest?

  • Does the card come with any extra benefits such as cashback, rewards or travel points and could you use these?

  • Does the card offer a period of 0% on balance transfers or purchases?

  • Is an annual fee attached to the particular credit card?

Eliminate the paper trail

The advantages of applying online are that you don’t have to juggle with numerous forms, the post or wait long periods for it to be processed. There are times when an instant decision can be very helpful, such as if you need the convenience of a card to make a large purchase or to use it for travel.

Just make sure that you have informed yourself of the best online deals on the market and use your card wisely. That instant decision is not one that you would want to regret.

See also How to improve your credit rating.

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Wed, 07 Jan 2009 16:10:24 +0000
<![CDATA[Charity Credit Cards]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/charity-credit-cards.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/charity-credit-cards.html Keeping up the good work

The perceived wisdom about charity credit cards is that even though the intentions of the product are good, the annual percentage rates are not always favourable and nor is the proportion of donation.

Nevertheless, using a charity card can be a consistent way to give money to your favourite cause, especially if you are always meaning to make a one-off donation but never get around to it.

Every little helps

Typically, the card provider will pay the charity a sum of money, anything from £5-£20 when you open the card and then an additional percentage of your spending. This ranges from around 0.25% or 0.4% of each purchase made or it can be a set figure such as 30p for each £100 you spend.

Some cards also pay the charity an additional £2 each year you continue to carry the card. So if you spend £400 a month and your provider paid 0.4% on this sum of money, your charity would receive £19.20 a year plus a possible £2 extra if you continue to use the card.

Look at donating in a different way

There are other ways to use different types of credit cards and still donate to charity. For instance if you use a cashback card that gives a good rate on your spending, when you receive it simply donate some, or all of it to your favourite charity. If you do it through Gift Aid your money will go even further, as Gift Aid treats donations as if the donor had already deducted basic rate tax from them. The charity can reclaim this tax to increase the value of a donation.

Ethical Credit

The way to make your charity credit card really work is to shop around for the best rate and most generous donation. You can then combine this with using another card such as a cashback card and make your own further contribution from the cash you receive and make real a difference.

Charity cards exist so why not use them. Continuous spending and small regular donations are better than no support at all.

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Wed, 07 Jan 2009 15:48:55 +0000
<![CDATA[Charge Cards]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/charge-cards.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/charge-cards.html Charge cards are more rewarding

Charge cards were first introduced onto the American market in 1950, with the first UK charge card available from 1951. The market has inevitably become more sophisticated since then but the concept remains the same.

Charge cards are similar to credit cards and allow the user to pay for goods and services on interest free credit. However, it is important that - unlike credit cards - you pay back the full balance at the end of the month or you may be liable to a hefty penalty interest charge.

Charge cards can also be called travel and entertainment cards and there isn’t a credit limit on them. You can usually charge as much as you want – as long as you pay off your balance in full. This is on the proviso that the card provider thinks you can afford your spending. You may have to show proof of resources when you apply.

The higher end of the market

In order to qualify for a card you will need to have a good credit rating and a certain salary level. But the rewards to the user are plentiful, with the number of perks rising with the level of card – standard, gold or platinum.

The benefits

These range from supplementary cards, travel accident benefit, savings on flights and travel benefits, hotel discounts and entry to VIP airport lounges for example. You usually pay an annual fee for the card but this can outweigh the benefits and convenience of holding one.

Business charge cards

There are a few major players in the consumer charge card market although it is possible to have a business charge card as well. These are usually for partnership and limited company customers. The emphasis, as expected, is much more on simplifying day-to-day finances, discounts for the business, greater security and cash flow control.

Business charge cards are worth considering for the extra benefits they provide such as travel accident insurance and discounts on goods and services. The annual charges aren’t too prohibitive either with an average £23 on a business card and an average £79 on a business premium card.

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Wed, 07 Jan 2009 15:17:12 +0000
<![CDATA[Credit Cards for Bad Credit]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/credit-cards-for-bad-credit.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/credit-cards-for-bad-credit.html What is bad credit?

This means that if you apply for a credit card or any other type of financial services product such as a loan or mortgage you are likely to be turned down.

If you have defaulted on a previous loan or hire purchase agreement, or missed credit card payments, or have a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against you, or have been made bankrupt, this all contributes to a bad credit history.

Missing payments on a credit card, even by just one or two days, can adversely affect your credit score. Mortgage arrears are seen as more serious.

When lenders see evidence of ongoing late payments, this suggests that the borrower is struggling to repay month on month and this is more detrimental in the long term.

Check your credit record

If you are refused credit don’t continue applying anywhere else because each credit check leaves ‘footprints’ on your record and can further damage your chances of obtaining credit.

Instead, get a copy of your credit rating and then start improving your profile, which will help you apply for a credit card.

It costs around £2 to look at your credit record. The Data Protection Act 1998 gives you the right to have information on your credit file amended or removed if it is wrong.

It is best to avoid ‘credit repair agencies’ as you can check your details and get any anomalies corrected by speaking to the credit reference agencies directly.

How to get out of bad credit

  • Check your credit report and make sure it holds the correct information about you.

  • Don’t feel threatened that providers have information about you that you don’t know about. They don’t – you have the right to see your credit report in the same way that they do.

  • Don’t apply for several credit cards at once. Apply for one that offers a card for bad credit. If you are turned down look at your credit report to see why and then consider the options.

What can you do if you need a credit card?

There are a number of providers who will consider people with a poor credit history. If you need a credit card it is sensible to stop making numerous general applications for the reasons listed above. Instead, have a look around for one of several providers who target consumers with bad credit. Consider making a call to one of the credit card companies and explaining your situation. We have a list of the companies and the credit cards available on our Bad Credit Credit Cards table.

Higher interest rates

The downside of taking out a credit card with a poor credit history is that you may have to pay a higher rate of interest. In this situation it really pays to shop around, so speak to various providers and see what they can offer you.

One of the ways to combat high rates of interest is to keep your spending down and make a monthly budget. A bad credit record is a difficult situation to be in and if you have access to a credit card it will help if you take control of your spending from the beginning.

Improve your credit rating

Once you have made a budget, plan to either repay the entire amount or make a considerable dent in the balance every month.

Regular repayments will improve your credit score and enable you to look at better rates of interest in due course. The best way to ensure that you don’t miss a repayment is to set up a direct debit as soon as you have opened up the card.

Check your first statement to see if the card provider has taken the amount. If it hasn’t, pay manually and then check with your provider that the direct debit will kick in for the next payment.

See also prepaid credit cards.

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Wed, 07 Jan 2009 14:51:22 +0000
<![CDATA[Business Credit Cards]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/business-credit-cards.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/business-credit-cards.html Business to business

Gone are the days when a company director had to carry around large amounts of cash or, more antiquated still, a company chequebook. And while a debit card is a good way to pay your way, a credit card can be even better as it gives the company finances a period of interest free credit.

Credit cards are so widely accepted across the globe that they are also a convenient way to help you conduct business in person, online and over the phone.

Businesses should shop around for credit cards in the same way that an individual would. Whether you are a sole trader or a medium-sized business with employees, here are a few rules of thumb that will help you find the card best tailored to your business needs.

Ask yourself:

  • How much credit does the company need and do you want to apply for a slightly higher credit limit for a ‘just in case’ scenario? You may want to set a spending limit for the company and for each employee.

  • How many cards do you need and do all of your employees require cards?

  • How are you going to keep a record of employees' expenses?

  • What type of business are you in? If your business demands a high level of travel or entertainment then a card offering travel rewards, discounts on hotels and/or car rental will be useful.

  • Keep costs down. Look for a card without an annual fee and a good rate of interest.

The costs of a business credit card

The best way to use this type of card is to put your monthly expenses on it and repay it in full every month. Although these cards do offer benefits such as travel insurance, card protection and discounts with business services there is quite often a high APR attached.

Typically, this can be 22% APR for regular business cards and 29% for premium business cards. Of course, this won't kick in if you pay the card off in full each month.

Shop around

You can open a business credit card account with your existing bank or with another provider in much the same way as you would as an individual consumer. Do your homework and look around at who is offering what and how this is compatible with your business needs.

Some cards offer an international payments service which might save you time and money if you are paying manufacturers overseas. There may also be links with courier partners, information technology outlets and business suppliers.

The reduction of administration can be a benefit. If you pay for all your services and purchases on one business card it will be easy to keep track of your outgoings. If you are worried about this, budget first and then spend when you have a secure financial plan.

Your card provider may also be able to supply a report of your annual expenditure and a breakdown of VAT charged on purchases.

Check the terms and conditions of fraud and purchase protection with your particular card provider. According to APACS, the UK payments association, counterfeit card fraud increased by 46% to £144.3 million in 2007.

However, this was largely comprised of phone, internet and mail order (known as card-not-present or CNP) fraud, which was up by 37% last year, totalling £290.5 million. This type of fraud accounts for more than half of all card fraud losses.

Fraud is so damaging to business that it pays to look at the protection your provider offers and what they will do for you if you are caught in this unfortunate situation.

Other things to consider

  • It is best to avoid using your business card for cash. The interest charged can be very high and interest is charged as soon as you withdraw the cash.

  • Choose a mainstream card from an established provider – they are more likely to have the support (such as 24 hour customer service) and other customer support infrastructure that your business will need.

  • If you are going to issue a card to an employee be sure about how they will be using the card. You may wish to set guidelines as to what they can spend and for what purpose.

  • If your company has been established for a while and is in profit this will help your credit rating in gaining a credit card. Using the card wisely with regular payments will also help build an ongoing favourable credit record.

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Wed, 07 Jan 2009 14:27:34 +0000
<![CDATA[0% Purchase & Interest Free Credit Cards]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/zero-percent-and-interest-free-credit-cards.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/zero-percent-and-interest-free-credit-cards.html Buy Yourself Some Time

Even though the credit card market has changed since the first 0% APR cards were introduced, they are still a popular way to manage your money.

One of the biggest credit card trends in recent years has been to use a 0% card to do a balance transfer. If you have a balance - or several – sitting on other cards at any rate of interest it can save you money to transfer the amount onto a 0% card.

You can then concentrate on paying off as much as possible, safe in the knowledge that all your repayments are paying the debt alone, without having to pay additional interest.

Don’t Forget the Fees

Most 0% credit cards do carry a balance transfer fee. This can be anything up to 3% of the amount transferred, which can mount up if you have a large balance. It may still be worth paying the fee if it enables you to use the 0% period to pay off as much as possible on the balance.

The art of using the 0% interest period is to transfer again at the end of the interest free period if you have balance remaining but want to use 0% interest to continue paying the debt, but it is essential that you do this in time. It takes around six weeks for a new transfer to be processed. Making a note to do this in advance will enable you to move seamlessly from one 0% offer to another without any interest rate glitches.

Purchase with Free Credit – But Hurry the Offer is Limited!

Many cards now offer 0% interest on purchases and this can be useful if you want to make a large purchase and spread the payments over a period of time without racking up interest.

The cost-effective way to use this type of card is to ensure you pay for the purchase within the 0% offer period, otherwise the item will cost more than you originally apid for it, in interest payments.

For instance, if you buy something costing £1,200 and the offer period is ten months you will need to repay £120 onto the credit card every month. One of the best ways to ensure you do this is to set up a direct debit for the amount and then factor this payment into your monthly budget.

Some card providers will only set up a direct debit for the minimum amount but ask them to set it up for more – many will oblige. If they won’t allow this, make a diary date to send a cheque to pay the remainder or to pay over the phone each month without fail.

Don’t Mix and Match

If you are using the same card for a 0% balance transfer and also 0% on purchases be careful.

If the 0% on purchases offer runs for a shorter time (say three months) than the 0% on balance transfer it is likely that the credit card company will offset any repayments you make after the three months against the transferred balance rather than any balance remaining against purchases.

This means that you will be accruing the full rate of interest on any purchases that you made in the offer period but did not repay. This can be a typical APR of say, 14% to 16%.

Therefore keep your balance transfer card separate to your purchases card. If you don’t want to carry too many different credit cards just make sure you pay off all the purchases within the offer period.

See also how to escape the 0% credit card trap.

Written by Sarah Nyman

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Wed, 07 Jan 2009 14:01:57 +0000
<![CDATA[What Protection on Purchases can Credit Cards Provide?]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/credit-card-purchase-protection.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/credit-card-purchase-protection.html Buy with confidence

Imagine buying a holiday or flights to that dream villa, only to hear at the last minute that the travel company has gone bust and you may not get your money back.

This is a very upsetting situation and it does happen, especially when economies experience a downturn.

It is just as bad if you purchase a wedding dress, for instance, that arrives damaged, or a special toy for your child’s birthday. The pleasure of the purchase is ruined if, to add insult to injury, you have to haggle with the supplier over liability. This is stressful if you have made a purchase for a make or break situation and just plain irritating if the goods are for more everyday needs.

Use your credit card for consumer protection

If you use your credit card rather than a different form of payment this will give you extra consumer protection. Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you pay for items from £100 up to £30,000 both the card issuer and the trader have responsibility under a rule called equal liability. If anything goes wrong such as the goods are damaged or the company goes into liquidation, you will have protection.

This is why many people book flights or a package holiday on their credit card and then pay it off immediately after they have made the transaction. This consumer protection does not exist if you pay by cash or debit card.

Using a credit card, this protection also applies if you part pay for something.

The same rights are also applicable to goods brought abroad using your credit card rather than another form of payment. This also includes buying goods for delivery to the UK from overseas by telephone, mail order or over the Internet.

Price protection

Check the small print of your credit card to see if it includes price protection. This means that if you make a purchase at one price and it becomes cheaper in a sale or a special discounted period, you may be able to claim back the difference. A time limit usually applies to this of 60 days from your original purchase and generally covers from £10 to £1,000.

Purchase protection

If you use more than one credit card it might be wise to use the one that has purchase protection in the lead up to special occasions such as Christmas, a wedding or a holiday. But do weigh this up with the other benefits of the card. The best combination is a card that offers a good rate of interest or none at all, cash back and purchase protection.

But whatever type of card you use, your rights under the Consumer Credit Act remain. A card that offers purchase protection is an added extra. As always, check the small print to ensure that the cover you seek actually exists in the particular card’s policy.

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Wed, 07 Jan 2009 12:55:31 +0000
<![CDATA[What to Do if your Card is Stolen]]> http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/what-to-do-if-your-card-is-stolen.html http://www.cardsmart.co.uk/guides/what-to-do-if-your-card-is-stolen.html Finders, keepers…

Imagine this. You are just about to pay for your groceries on a busy Saturday afternoon. Last job done then home for a nice cup of tea, soak in the bath or a swift half in the local and a relaxing evening ahead.

After ten frantic minutes of searching handbag, jacket and shopping trolley you realise with a heart pounding thud that your wallet has gone and along with it all your means of paying for your immediate goods as well as your cards.

Nightmare.

First things first

It is awful to be in this situation but it is imperative that you report the theft to all of your card providers immediately. If your wallet has been stolen it is likely that the thief is already trying to use your cards before you notice. The cards need to be cancelled so they cannot be used anymore

Emergency numbers are on the cards themselves (no longer with you), on your statements or online through your card provider’s website. The introduction of chip and PIN makes it more difficult for the thief to use your card in stores but they could be using your cards on the phone or the Internet where the PIN is not required.

Stressful as it is, when you call your provider make sure give them as much detail as possible, including when you last had your wallet and when you last paid for something with the card.

Report it to the police

It is important to report the theft to the police and this may help with covering the losses on your card. You may need to give your provider a crime number, which the police will give you. Call your local police station to report the fraud.

Your cards will be replaced

As soon as you have informed all the relevant parties your cards will be stopped and you will have to wait for replacement cards to be sent to you. Make sure that you know when they are due to be delivered as fraudsters have also been known to intercept cards by post – a double whammy you could do without.

Who pays?

Under the terms of the Consumer Credit Act and the Banking Code you are liable for damages only up to a maximum of £50. If the thief has run up a large bill on your card but you inform your provider as soon as you realise it has gone, you will be covered.

However if you are shown to have acted without reasonable care, such as keeping your PIN with your cards, you may have to meet all the losses.

If your wallet is stolen and the PIN is with the card then the thief is going to have a field day so never, ever, keep your PIN with it or even write it down.

Identity theft

The long-term problem with a stolen credit card is that you may also become the victim of identity theft. Click here to learn more.

Contact the credit reference agencies

If you are a victim, contact the three main credit reference agencies, Experian, Equifax and Callcredit immediately. If someone is trying to apply for credit in your name or impersonate your identity, they will place an alert on your record and talk you through how to get your credit record up to date.

See also Credit Card Protection and how to check your credit rating.

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Wed, 07 Jan 2009 12:11:47 +0000