Tooth Fairy Tightening Purse Strings As Recession Bites

The Children’s Mutual’s annual Tooth Fairy Index has revealed that the average cost of a child’s tooth has fallen six per cent from £1.22 to £1.15. The index shows that even the Tooth Fairy is having to fight the economic gloom, giving away £1.3* million less this year than last, as the credit crunch extends its clutches to the magic realm of Fairyland.

Tooth Fairy Index

In 2008, the Child Trust Fund provider’s Tooth Fairy Index found the average cost of a tooth had risen by an impressive 16% on the previous year. But 12 months on, the tooth market is showing signs of decay as parents resist the ‘fairy pressure’ reported in previous years, with 24% now happy to pay less than average, stating this helps their children understand the value of money.

David White, Chief Executive of The Children’s Mutual said: “The fall in the value of teeth provides the perfect opportunity for parents to talk to their child about the value of money and the impact of the credit crunch. Talking about the value of money in terms children can easily understand can help them appreciate the importance of saving.”

Encouragingly, 55% of all children save some or all of the money the tooth fairy leaves in exchange for their teeth. Children in the South West have the most bulging piggy banks as over three quarters (77%) are saving their tooth pennies, while those in Scotland are choosing to splash their cash, with 51% spending all the money the tooth fairy leaves under their pillow.

The Children’s Mutual’s Tooth Fairy Index reveals that attitudes towards the tooth fairy vary widely across the UK. Children in Northern Ireland benefit the most from the tooth fairy’s generosity, as one in 8 children (12.5%) receive £5 or more for each tooth that wobbles free, whereas 12% of children in the Midlands have a gap in their purses as well as their mouths as they are forgotten by the tooth fairy altogether.

The report also indicates that the tooth fairy herself has changed over the years. Traditionally, the tooth fairy has been known for leaving money, letters, and a sprinkling of fairy dust on her nightly rounds, though some parents recalled receiving an orange, toys or a book as a special treat from the tooth fairy. Their children in turn are now the recipients of mobile phone credit and magazines as the tooth fairy flies into the twenty-first century.

About The Childrens Mutual
The Children’s Mutual’s mission is to help parents, grandparents, family and friends fulfil their hopes for today’s children and secure their financial futures. The company specialises exclusively in family-focused finance products, and is currently the choice of 1 in 4 parents for Child Trust Funds.

The Children’s Mutual, as an expert in savings for children, made a significant contribution to the Government’s Child Trust Fund consultation process and is widely recognised by the business community and press as an industry expert on family finance. This expertise has led several financial institutions and family-focused high street retailers to choose The Children’s Mutual as their stakeholder Child Trust Fund partner.

A breakdown of the average amount of money left per tooth in each region of the UK is available upon request.

All research conducted by 72 Point who interviewed 2070 parents with children aged 5-15 in May 2009
* Average number of children aged 6-11(4.8m) losing 4 teeth per year x the average tooth fairy rate of £1.15 – average number of children = 4.8m x 4 teeth per year = 19.2m; 19.2m x 1.15 = £22.8m. Last year’s value = £23.4m – this year’s value of £22.08 = £1.32m

The Children’s Mutual has a large database of case studies available. David White, The Children’s Mutual Chief Executive, is available for interview. 

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Lloyds TSB Insurance Reports Rogue Traders On The Rise

Lloyds TSB Insurance has revealed that more than 4.6 million ‘botch’ home jobs have been reported in the past 12 months, as a growing army of unqualified traders target unsuspecting homeowners.

New research from Lloyds Home Insurance reveals that one in 10 Brits has been forced to correct sub standard work in the last 12 month – a 16 per cent increase on last year – costing an average of £460 to put right.

The rash of ‘rogue’ trading is being fuelled by a tougher economic climate, as unqualified workers seek out ‘cash in hand’ maintenance work and homeowners look for the lowest possible price.

With nearly a third (32 per cent) of victims admitting that they made no checks at all on workers’ qualifications, the insurer is urging homeowners to confirm traders’ full credentials and avoid the false economy of unqualified labour.

The research shows that Britons view the initial quote they get as the full amount they will eventually pay, without considering any additional costs should the job need correcting. Unhappy customers were forced to pay an average of £1,250 to amend botched conservatories, £840 to correct building work and £640 on roofing.

Those aged 45 – 54 are the worst affected, paying an average of £900 to correct the botch jobs done to their property, with West Midlands residents most affected (20 per cent), followed by those in the East of England (12 per cent).

Commenting on the research, Lloyds TSB Insurance Managing Director, Phil Loney said: “Rogue traders are on the increase and costing unsuspecting homeowners thousands. To help the public feel more confident about employing traders, we’ve produced a comprehensive guide to ‘rooting out the rogues’ which is available on the Lloyds TSB Insurance website.”

Research was commissioned by Lloyds TSB Insurance plc and conducted by YouGov in April 2009.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total online survey sample size was 2,404 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken in April 2009. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+)

About Lloyds TSB:
Lloyds TSB offers customers a wide range of current accounts, savings accounts, travel and homeowners insurance, home contents insurance, personal loans and credit cards, investment and cash ISA accounts designed to meet different customers’ needs.

Lloyds TSB Bank plc and Lloyds TSB Scotland plc are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and signatories to the Banking Codes.

Lloyds TSB Bank plc Registered Office: 25 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HN.
Registered in England and Wales no. 2065. 

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LV= Life Insurance Online Customer Experience Score Continues To Improve

LV= has been recognised as one of the leading online life insurance providers by independent customer experience benchmarker, Global Reviews. The news comes hot on the heels of the launch of LV=’s redesigned website,

Against 13 competitors in the Q1 2009 online life insurance provider category*, LV= came second for its overall content, with a customer experience score of 57%. LV= topped the study for its online claims information, and its life insurance tips and advicesection. LV= was ranked second for the customer support and prospective customers categories.

Overall, the LV= Customer Experience score was 57%, an increase of 4% from Q4 2008, and 10% higher than the online life insuranceindustry average.

LV= ecommerce director Paul Wishman said: “We are delighted to receive such positive external feedback about our website, particularly after a major redesign and re-launch. Slick online purchasing capability is increasingly important in today’s financial services marketplace and we are committed to continually developing content and usability to enhance the overall online customer experience.”

LV= re-launched its website in March 2009. New features include a ‘top tab’ navigation system giving users ‘one-click’ access to all products, and a financial advice tab which consumers can click on to complete an online financial health check and book an appointment with one of LV=’s financial advisers.

Notes to editors:

* Independent research company Global Review measured LV=’s life insurance website against more than 650 criteria across 34 categories, interviewing more than 1,000 people to find out how they rated the experience during Q1 2009.

About LV=
LV= is a trademark of Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society Limited (LVFS) and LV= is a trading style of the Liverpool Victoria group of companies.

LV= employs more than 3,800 people, serves around 3.5 million customers and members, and manages around £7bn on their behalf. LV= is also the UK’s largest friendly society (Association of Friendly Societies Yearbook 2006/2007) and a leading mutual financial services provider. LV=’s services include car, travel, pet and home insurance, financial advice and retirement plans.

LVFS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and entered on the Financial Services Authority Register No. 110035. LVFS is a member of the ABI, AMI, AFS and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF.

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National Savings And Investments (NS&I) Has Increased The Interest Rates On Its Income Bonds By 1%.

The revised interest rates came into effect from 20 May 2009 for Income Bond customers.


Guaranteed Income Bonds are intended to provide investors with a100% secure monthly income at a competitive variable interest rate. This no risk guarantee to the investment capital is possible because National Savings and Investments is backed by HM Treasury. Income Bonds can be cashed in at any time with no notice and no penalty and income can be paid directly into a bank or building society account or into a NS&I Investment Account or Easy Access Savings Account.

The combination of complete security and the increased interest rates are expected to make NS&I Income Bonds especially attractive in the current economic climate.

NS&I constantly reviews savings products offered by other providers and has made this decision to take into account the rates available on other types of products which might be considered by Income Bond customers. NS&I continues to follow a pricing strategy designed to balance the interests of its savers, the taxpayer and the stability of the financial services market.

The interest rates on NS&I’s other savings products, including NS&I’s Guaranteed Income Bonds, will remain unchanged.

This brings the new Income Bonds variable gross rates* to 1.7% p.a. (1.71% AER**) for savings of £500 – £24,999 and 2% p.a. (2.02% AER) for savings of £25,000+.

*Gross means the taxable rate of interest without the deduction of UK Income Tax
**AER stands for Annual Equivalent Rate and enables the comparison of interest rates from different financial institutions and across different products on a like-for-like basis. It shows what the notional annual rate would be if interest was compounded each time it was credited or paid out. Where interest is credited once a year the rate quoted and the AER will be the same


About NS&I
National Savings and Investments is one of the largest savings organisations in the UK, offering a range of savings and investments to almost 27 million customers. NS&I is best known for Premium Bonds, but also offers a range of savings accounts including easy access savings accounts, savings bonds, investment accounts, and children’s bonus bonds. All products offer 100% capital security, because NS&I is backed by HM Treasury. Further information and digital images are available from the NS&I media team. An ISDN line is available for interviews. 

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Leading Child Trust Fund Provider, The Children’s Mutual, Has Announced The Launch Of A Very Different Return Of Premium Term Life Insurance Policy

Traditional Term Insurance products ask people to pay regular insurance premiums on the understanding that if the person insured dies during the policy term a payment will be made to the family or executors. But, if the person insured survives the term neither they nor the family will receive anything back.

The Children’s Mutual has teamed up with insurance experts ACE Europe Life Ltd to offer customers the ACE Return of Premium Term Life Insurance policy, which gives families the financial security of up to £100,000 cover in the event of death, combined with a guarantee that if the worst doesn’t happen all premiums paid will be returned. This ensures that, as well as peace of mind throughout the term, policy holders will have something to look forward to at the end of it too.

Designed to be easy and affordable as well as rewarding, the Return of Premium Term Life Insurance can be applied for online by simply completing 4 straightforward questions to check eligibility. There is no medical to pass and the length of term is selected by the applicant at the time of submission – f r o m 5 to 18 years – to reflect personal circumstances and requirements.

David White, Chief Executive Officer of The Children’s Mutual, leading Child Trust Fund provider, commented: “We are delighted to announce the launch of what we believe to be the only product of this kind in the UK. We have worked closely with ACE to develop a form of Term Insurance that will offer our customers reassurance and value throughout as well as giving them an added reward at term end.”

The new ACE Return of Premium Term Life Insurance policy has been created to provide a win-win situation for policy holders – with protection for loved ones should the worst happen, and money back if it doesn’t.

Benefits include:

– Peace of mind for the whole family
– Up to £100,000 of cover 
– All premiums back if the holder survives the full policy term
– Quick and easy application process 
– Variable length of policy – f r o m 5 to 18 years 
– Affordable monthly payments

To celebrate this innovative new product, a special introductory incentive is being offered, where policy holders pay just 99p a month for their first 2 months of cover. Additionally, if the partner of a policy holder also takes out cover, then they will pay just 99p a month for the first 2 months as well, plus receive 15% off all their monthly premiums after that.

About The Children’s Mutual

Home of the Child Trust Fund The Children’s Mutual’s mission is to help parents, grandparents, family and friends fulfil their hopes for today’s children and secure their financial futures. The company specialises exclusively in family-focused finance products, and is currently the choice of 1 in 4 parents for their child’s Child Trust Fund.

The Children’s Mutual, as an expert in savings for children, made a significant contribution to the Government’s Child Trust Fund consultation process and is widely recognised by the business community and press as an industry expert on family finance. This expertise has led several financial institutions and family-focused high street retailers to choose The Children’s Mutual as their stakeholder CTF partner.

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“Land Pirates” Threat To Truck Drivers

Europol, the EU’s police Agency, has reported that truck drivers on European roads are facing the same threat of hijack as shipping off the Somalian coast. Organised crime gangs, nick-named ‘land pirates’ by truckers, are behind the robberies and they view truck drivers as an easy target.

A spokesman for Staveley Head, one of the UK’s leading HGV insurance providers, said “Many of the policyholders who have their truck insurance with us have Green Cards, or European travel extensions, to their policies and we feel they should be made aware of these recent statistics from Europol for their own safety. Hijacking on European roads is definitely on the increase and although Europol will do their part to counter these crimes, it is up to every truck driver to be as vigilant as possible.”

It is the Eastern European countries, such as Poland, Hungary and Rumania, which pose the greatest risk. Cargoes being targeted are those which are valuable and easy to dispose of or sell on. Alcohol, tobacco, computers, designer clothing and prescription drugs are high on the list but nickel and copper appear to be the most attractive target for the thieves.

The International Road Transport Union recently released a survey indicating that one in six truck drivers has been attacked in the last five years, and of those victims one in five had been targeted more than once. Nearly half of the crimes took place in truck parking areas.

Europol director Rob Wainwright said “Road-related cargo crime threatens the principle of free movement of goods across Europe.” He went on to advise national police forces “Close co-operation and joint efforts are necessary, otherwise we will not be able to match criminals who are both innovative and cruel in their actions and behaviour.”

If you want further information about this subject, or any aspect of lorry insurance or simply want a truck insurance quote Staveley Head will be pleased to assist.

Staveley Head is one of the UK’s leading transport insurance brokers and will give you all the advice and assistance you need, including a very competitive truck insurance quote, if you log onto their website at

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New Premium Club By M&S Money Will Offer Shopping And Travel Membership Benefits Exclusively To M&S Credit Card Holders

M&S Money has launched its new Premium Club which will offer shopping and travel membership benefits exclusively to M&S Credit Card holders – including both new and existing customers.

M&S Money

M&S Premium Club membership benefits include triple loyalty points on the M&S Credit Card* for all shopping at M&S, both in-store and online, special treats throughout the year, including birthday gifts and seasonal treats, and worldwide multi-trip family travel insurance, which includes extra cover for winter sports and independent travel.

Amanda Newman, M&S Premium Club Manager, commented: “Premium Club offers our credit card holders more of what they want from M&S, with exclusive access to a collection of benefits and rewards with an overall value several times the cost of membership.

“Our customers love the M&S loyalty scheme and, with Premium Club, they will get their money back in many ways. Being able to earn triple points has created great excitement with customers, as they will get three times the reward for the same amount of shopping at M&S.”

Existing M&S Credit Card holders can apply to join Premium Club at M&S stores, by phone or online. New customers can apply for the credit card and M&S Premium Club via the same methods, using just one application form.

New research** commissioned to celebrate the launch of M&S Premium Club confirms that shoppers are on the look-out for value. In order to save money, over a third of those questioned (35%) said they’d buy a package of goods that’s worth more than the price they paid. A further 19% regularly collect loyalty vouchers and money off coupons.

Shoppers are even more intent on being rewarded for their loyalty, with nearly two thirds (64%) expecting to receive extra loyalty rewards, and a further 50% wanting discounts on items they buy regularly. On the customer service side, 38% would like recognition and being treated with courtesy, and another 24% want to feel special and receive free gifts.

* M&S Credit Card 15.9% APR typical variable (the rate received will depend on assessment of the customer’s circumstances). 
** Research carried out on behalf of M&S Money by YouGov 24th to 27th April 2009, among 2,221 people aged 18 and over.

About M&S Money:
M&S Money (the trading name of Marks & Spencer Financial Services) was founded in 1985 as the financial services division of Marks and Spencer Group plc. The company is now a top ten credit card provider and the second largest travel money retailer in the UK. M&S Money also offers a range of insurance cover, including home insurance, car insurance, pet insurance, and wedding insurance, as well as loans, savings and investment products. In November 2004, Marks & Spencer sold M&S Money to HSBC. The Group serves customers worldwide from around 9,500 offices in 86 countries and territories. With assets of US$2,527 billion at 31 December 2008, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations. HSBC is marketed worldwide as ‘the world’s local bank’. M&S Money has an executive committee comprising an equal number of representatives from HSBC and Marks & Spencer.

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Struggling Borrowers Should Get Debt Advice Before Cutting Back

Financial solutions company Think Money have advised people who are struggling to repay debt tocarefully consider how and where they cut back on their spending, following the release of a study showing that millions of people have cut back on insurance in the past 12 months in order to save money.

The report from Sainsbury’s Finance estimated that almost one million (946,000) people have either cancelled or reduced their home contents insurance cover in the past 12 months as a direct result of their financial situation, while over half a million (532,000) have cancelled their life insurance policy for the same reason.

Meanwhile, 432,000 car owners were estimated to have reduced the amount of car insurance they had, while 349,000 people reduced their home buildings insurance and 104,000 reduced their pet insurance.

A debt expert for Think Money said that while cutting back in certain areas could be a good way of saving money in the recession, people should be careful about where they decide to cut costs.

“For example, increasing numbers of people are buying food from ‘budget’ stores, rather than the ‘big’ supermarkets they are used to, which can save a lot of money. Likewise, people are buying more second-hand cars, eating out less, etc. – and these are all relatively sensible areas in which to cut back.

“However, when it comes to cutting back on insurance, people are taking a risk. Insurance is there for a reason: it protects against unexpected large bills that can occur at any time. Without it – say, the person’s house is flooded – people can find themselves in a far worse financial situation than if they had simply kept their insurance policy, and that brings a real risk of falling into debt.”

The Think Money spokesperson added that even cutting back in ‘sensible’ areas is not the key to financial security, unless people are strict with their finances.

“Setting a strict budget is a very important part of financial management, and that budget must be realistic in terms of how much needs to be put aside for essential costs and how much can be kept back for non-essential spending.

“People should also ensure that if they are freeing up money by cutting back, that money should be put towards their debts rather than non-essential purchases.

The spokesperson said that anyone who finds that cutting back on costs alone is not enough should seek professional debt advice.

“Ideally, anyone who finds themselves struggling to repay debt should speak to a professional debt adviser at the earliest opportunity. A debt adviser can help the borrower to establish the best course of action for reducing their debts – and the sooner this happens, the less difficulty the borrower is likely to face.”

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Caution Advised Over Student Debt

Responding to a new survey suggesting that students were spending more money and receiving more financial support than ever before in the last academic year, financial solutions company Think Money has advised students to remain aware of the longer-term costs of using credit during their education.

The company added that while student finance is a useful and necessary means of funding education, students should be aware of the potential implications of getting into large amounts of debt, and should ideally avoid using credit that may have strict repayment terms, such as credit cards and personal loans.

The study by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, which looked at the 2007/2008 academic year, found that higher tuition fees have increased first-year student spending by 12% in just three years.

This means that students are now completing their first year of university education with an average of £3,500 debt. If this continued each year on a three-year course, the average student could end up with over £10,000 of debt.

Despite this, the study found that fewer students were taking part-time jobs to help fund their education, falling from 58% in the previous survey (2004/2005) to 49%.

Although spending had risen by 12%, students’ income had risen by 15%, including loans for tuition fees (which are paid directly to universities).

Melanie Taylor, Head of Corporate Relations for Think Money, said that students should be careful to distinguish between normal student debt and additional credit.

“Student Loans from the Government are designed to be paid back in relatively small instalments after the student finishes their education, and only once they are earning enough to meet the minimum repayment threshold – currently £15,000 per annum. In that respect, student loan repayments are rarely a worry for graduates.

“Many students are concerned about the levels of debt they may be faced with on leaving university, but in reality this should not impact much on their lives at all, and people should not feel ‘priced out’ of further education, regardless of their background.

“However, it can become a more serious issue if the student uses other forms of credit, such as credit cards. Since these usually require repayment shortly after they are first taken out, these forms of credit can place a burden on students’ finances that they may not be able to manage.”

Mrs Taylor added that anyone who does find themselves with debts that they cannot manage should contact an expert debt adviser at the first sign of trouble.

“For anyone who gets into debt and realises they are unable to make their repayments, the most important thing is that they seek advice as soon as possible.

“There are a range of debt solutions available that can help people in various situations. A professional debt adviser can discuss the borrower’s situation in confidence and help them to decide which is best for their individual needs.

“Most debt solutions require a constant income, which can put some students at a disadvantage – but a debt adviser can still offer free, valuable advice that could help them to get their finances back in order.”

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Barclaycard To Pilot New Visa Corporate Card

Barclaycard has announced its involvement in piloting a new a payment card, in association with Deloitte and Visa Europe.

As well as being a standard Visa Corporate card, this innovative new card enables Deloitte employees to remotely access their company IT system via a virtual private network (VPN). The card has a keypad and LCD screen embedded into it, to allow users to enter their PIN and generate a one-time use passcode. This passcode is then authenticated by Deloitte’s VPN. In addition, the card ensures that cardholders have the convenience of only having to carry their Corporate Barclaycard without the need to carry a separate security token or device. The technology that the card uses was developed in conjunction with EMUE Technologies.

The Barclaycard pilot is the first corporate card pilot of the Visa Credit Card with one-time code functionality in Europe and is expected to reduce user costs substantially compared to using a separate token device for remote network access. In addition, Barclaycard’s proven capability will provide improved information on card usage with up to date transaction statements available online.

In addition to supporting remote network access, The Visa Corporate Barclaycard features other applications. It is compatible with Verified by Visa which could prevent card not present (CNP) fraud and identity theft associated with online banking, telephone authentication and other remote channels.

Barclaycard’s leading role in the piloting of this new card was recognised when it won the ‘Best use of innovation within Visa systems or services’ award at the recent Visa Europe Insights event.

The award highlighted Barclaycard’s commitment to using technology in an innovative way to bring additional benefits for its customers.

Neil Radley, Managing Director of Barclaycard Commercial, commented: “This product is an ideal solution for our corporate customers as it effectively combines two items in one; as well as being a standard Visa corporate card it incorporates a token which enables safe and secure virtual private network (VPN) access. We are delighted to be developing this innovative card with Visa Europe.”

Simon Owen, Senior Partner who leads the Information and Technology Risk practice at Deloitte, said: “The EMUE technology enabled Visa Corporate Barclaycard offers real benefits for card issuers based on our own experiences of providing staff with one-time code functionality for remote access. We estimate that we could save up to 65% per user over having a separate traditional token device.”

Sandra Alzetta, Senior Vice President for Innovation at Visa Europe, commented: “Innovation is a key factor in Visa Europe’s continued success and growth. We are continually working to make Visa the most secure and convenient choice for both corporate and consumer cards. By embedding a battery, PIN pad and LED screen in a payment card, we believe we are offering the most innovative card product in the marketplace.”

About Barclaycard 
Barclaycard, part of Barclays Global and Retail Commercial Banking division, is a leading global payment business which helps consumers, retailers and businesses to make and accept payments flexibly, and to access short-term credit when needed.

The company is one of the pioneers of new forms of payments and is at the forefront of developing viable contactless and mobile payment schemes for today and cutting edge forms of payment for the future. It also issues credit and charge cards to corporate customers and the UK Government. Barclaycard partners with a wide range of organisations across the globe to offer their customers or members payment options and credit.

In addition to the UK, Barclaycard operates in the United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle and Far East.

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Barclaycard Reduces Balance Transfer Fee

Barclaycard has announced that it is reducing the balance transfer fee on its 0% for 12 months Barclaycard Platinum balance transfer deal with immediate effect.

The change means that the current balance transfer fee on the Barclaycard Platinum card has been reduced to 2.5% of the amount transferred from the previous level of 3%. This offer is available for any transfers made within 60 days of opening an account, on amounts up to £5,000. The reduction means customers will be able to save £25 on a £5,000 balance transfer onto the Barclaycard Platinum.

The reduction in the balance transfer fee following the Barclaycard announced in February that it was reducing the annual percentage rate (APR) on its Barclaycard Platinum credit card from 14.9% down to 12.4%. This means that at the end of the promotional balance transfer period, the rate on the card will revert to ne lower rate of 12.4%.

Commenting on the reduction, Amer Sajed, Managing Director of Barclaycard UK said, “This reduction will mean customers looking to move their balance now have to pay less to get a market leading deal”.

Along with services like identity protection, fraud monitoring, purchase delivery protection and contactless payment technology, the new lower rate will help to further consolidate Barclaycard Platinum’s position as the market leading credit card in the UK.

Notes to Editors
The reduced balance transfer fee is available through the Barclaycard website. Barclaycard reserves the right to withdraw this offer at any time. Terms and Conditions apply. Barclaycard is subject to application and status. This offer is only available to new customers.

About Barclaycard:
Barclaycard, part of Barclays Global and Retail Commercial Banking division, is a leading global payment business which helps consumers, retailers and businesses to make and accept payments flexibly, and to access short-term credit when needed.

The company is one of the pioneers of new forms of payments and is at the forefront of developing viable contactless and mobile payment schemes for today and cutting edge forms of payment for the future. It also issues credit and charge cards to corporate customers and the UK Government. Barclaycard partners with a wide range of organisations across the globe to offer their customers or members payment options and credit.

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Debt Management: The Earlier, The Better

Responding to news that the Credit Services Association (CSA) has agreed that its members will grant 30 days’ ‘breathing space’ to borrowers who have fallen behind on their debt repayments, debt management company Gregory Pennington has advised struggling borrowers to take advantage of the opportunity to seek expert debt advice.


The CSA, which represents debt recovery agencies in the UK, says the addition to its code of practice is “one of a series of positive measures being introduced […] to ease the pressure on debtors”.

It comes after discussions between the CSA and the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) aimed at helping the increasing number of people getting into trouble with debt.

The CSA said that it “acknowledged that the present economic environment is placing greater pressure on debtors, and debts are increasingly being passed to agencies for collection”.

Starting from the moment that the borrower informs the debt recovery agency that an accredited debt adviser has been appointed to the case, debt recovery agencies will take no further action to recover the debt for a 30-day period. Borrowers can use this time to establish the best way to tackle their debts, with the assistance of their debt adviser.

Consumer Minister Gareth Thomas said: “This new 30-day rule will give people a breathing space to help them take control of their finances as well as encourage them to seek help from debt advisers.”

A spokesperson for Gregory Pennington said: “This 30-day period will give struggling borrowers some room to do something about their debts before a debt collector will take any action. This has become more important in recent months, with the economic downturn putting pressure on many people’s finances.”

However, the spokesperson reminded borrowers that their situation with debt doesn’t have to go as far as dealing with debt collectors, as taking the right action early can often set the borrower on their way to becoming debt-free.

“A debt collector will rarely get in touch with a borrower unless they have fallen quite significantly behind on their debts. With that in mind, the best course of action for anyone struggling to repay debt is to get in touch with a debt adviser at the first sign of problems.

“Debts can grow very quickly – and the higher the interest rate, the more rapidly they will grow. That means that the further the borrower falls behind on their debt repayments, the more costly it may become.

“We advise that people who are having difficulties with their debts should not hesitate to get expert debt advice. The sooner the problem is addressed, the sooner it can be solved.

The spokesperson added that finding the right kind of debt solution can be a huge step forward for people who are looking to clear their debts.

“There are a number of debt solutions available to help people in various situations with their debts, and a professional debt adviser can offer guidance on the most suitable solution for a borrower’s circumstances.”

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Saving & Debt: Base Rate Should Not Discourage Caution

Commenting on the recent spate of base rate cuts – and the resulting 0.5% base rate – financial solutions company Think Money pointed to the potential implications of the Bank of England’s actions over recent months, and urged savers not to risk debt problems by turning their backs on saving.

“In the short term,” a Think Money spokesperson began, “it’s important to realise that many people – the vast majority of the country – haven’t benefited from these cuts in any way at all. A full 50% of the UK’s 11.75 million mortgages are fixed-rate deals, 40% tracker and 10% SVR (standard variable rate).

“Clearly, anyone on a fixed-rate mortgage won’t benefit any more than someone who’s renting their home. As for SVR deals, lenders aren’t obliged to pass on any reductions, and many have passed on only part of these cuts. Even people on tracker deals haven’t universally seen their interest rates drop by the full 4% since October, as many of those deals have come up against their collar.”

In the longer term, there’s the question of what lessons people will take with them once the recession is over. Many people on fixed-rate mortgages will be looking at the low rates on offer today, calculating how much they could save if they switched and comparing this against the cost of the early repayment charges they would pay if they left their current mortgage early.

“In future, they may be unwilling to sign up to fixed-rate deals – or at least reluctant to sign up to the longer-term fixed-rate deals which come with more substantial charges for early repayment.

“In other words, some may be tempted to sign up to a tracker or SVR deal the next time the base rate reaches 5 or 6%, believing that another fall will soon follow. There’s nothing inherently wrong with variable deals, but they’re not suitable for everyone: people whose monthly finances can only just cover their mortgage payment should think very carefully before committing themselves to a deal with an interest rate that could go up as easily as down. For people in that situation, erring on the side of caution – and taking a fixed-rate mortgage – could be far more sensible.”

The other long-term effect of these base rate cuts, of course, could be in the country’s attitude to savings. Now that the average interest rate on instant access accounts has plummeted to little more than 0%, interest is simply not keeping pace with CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflation – and for people who aren’t paying variable mortgages, this figure is more relevant than the RPI (Retail Price Index) measurement.

“We would, however, stress that interest is by no means the only reason people should build up their savings. With or without interest, a savings account is its own reward, helping people cope with financial challenges without running into debt problems.

“Even so, the thought of watching savings shrink in real terms may be enough to put many people off saving in a standard savings account. This could be terrible news: whether they stop saving altogether or feel they need to ‘gamble’ their money in higher-risk investments, they could be leaving themselves open to all kinds of debt problems in the future.”

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Barclaycard Announces The Conclusion Of A Project To Create A New Range Of Corporate Imagery, Whilst Simultaneously Fostering Some Of The Best Up And Coming Talent In The UK Industry

Barclaycard undertook a project to hire four semi-professional photographers in order to create a new set of imagery that moved away f r o m the traditional metaphors and financial services conventions.


Unusually for a big business, when Barclaycard realised it needed fresh creative images to sit with the new visual identity, and its customer promise, “One Step Ahead”, it decided to bypass the usual route of enlisting established corporate photographers. Instead the credit card and payment acquiring business set up a new programme to uncover some of the most talented semi-professional photographers and help them to get their career on the road.

The four photographers chosen – Australian Noel McLaughlin, Russian Natalia Urazmetova and fellow Brits Stuart Hendry and James Ellerker – were tasked with producing shots around a central theme of liberation that were warm and had a natural feel. The brief requested genuine situations with real people and with a clear focus on a key moment within the image.

Sharon Zimmerli, Senior Design and Identity Manager, Barclaycard said: “Our image content needs to remain optimistic and positive and must be intelligent and imaginative enough to engage our audience. By entrusting our brief to photographers who are inventive and talented, but not yet accustomed to the conventions of corporate photography, we were able to create fresh and engaging imagery to fit with our brand.”

The project was in many ways inspired by the success of social media photo sharing site flickr. When Barclaycard sourced notional images to demonstrate the style of photography which fit best with the new visual identity, most of the images that were deemed a neat fit were f r o m flickr.

About Barclaycard 
Barclaycard, part of Barclays Global and Retail Commercial Banking division, is a leading global payment business which helps consumers, retailers and businesses to make and accept payments flexibly, and to access short-term credit when needed. The company is one of the pioneers of new forms of payments and is at the forefront of developing viable contactless and mobile payment schemes for today and cutting edge forms of payment for the future. It also issues credit cards and charge cards to business banking customers and the UK Government. Barclaycard partners with a wide range of organisations across the globe to offer its customers or members payment options and credit. In addition to the UK, Barclaycard operates in the United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle and Far East.

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NS&I Issues New Inflation-Beating Savings From National Savings and Investments

NS&I has announced the release of two new issues of Inflation-Beating Savings, also known as Index-linked Savings Certificates. These give savers the chance to invest up to £15,000 tax-free* per issue. The Certificates are the only form of savings available in the retail market that offer a 100% safe, tax-free* home, with a guaranteed inflation-beating return.

The value of the Index-linked Savings Certificates moves in line with inflation as measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI), and interest is added on each anniversary. The Certificates are designed to be held for the whole investment term to receive the full guaranteed compound interest, as the guaranteed rates of extra interest increase each year during the term. This means the returns outstrip any rise in RPI inflation and, as nothing is taken away in tax, the spending power of the investment is increased by the end of the term.

This is the first time that a continuous period of deflation has been experienced since NS&I’s Index-linked Savings Certificates were launched in 1975. Interest and any positive index-linking are applied annually on each anniversary date. However, if index-linking is negative from one anniversary to the next, it is ignored and the extra interest is still added.

With the introduction of these new issues, the previous issues – which were available from June 2008 – have been removed from sale. People who already have an investment in a former issue of Inflation-Beating Savings are also eligible to invest in the new issues.

NS&I Inflation-Beating Savings key features:

– Savings grow ahead of inflation, as measured by the RPI
– Minimum investment of £100, maximum investment £15,000 per issue
– All returns are tax-free*
– Interest and any index-linking added at the end of each year
– Designed to be held for 3 or 5 year terms, no interest or index-linking paid if cashed in during the first year
– Capital invested is 100% secure

*Tax-free means that interest and index-linking are exempt from UK Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax.

About NS&I
National Savings and Investments is one of the largest savings organisations in the UK, offering a range of savings and investments to almost 27 million customers. NS&I is best known for Premium Bonds, but also offers a range of savings accounts including easy access savings accounts, savings bonds, investment savings accounts, and children’s bonus bonds. All products offer 100% capital security, because NS&I is backed by HM Treasury. Further information and digital images are available from the NS&I media team. An ISDN line is available for interviews.

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Debt Advisers Direct Have Underlined The Importance Of Seeking Debt Advice Before Financial Problems Reach The Stage Where They’re Insurmountable

“In the midst of a recession, professional debt advice has an even greater role to play than usual,” said Melanie Taylor, Head of Corporate Relations for Debt Advisers Direct. “With repossession and unemployment figures rising and many households living with the threat – or the actuality – of reduced income, people across the country are realising that once-manageable debts are suddenly taking up much more of their monthly budget. In many cases, the strain is simply too much.”

The insolvency trade body R3 recently expressed its concern ‘that those with financial problems do not think they ‘need’ debt advice‘. Quoting from YouGov’s quarterly ‘DebtTracker’ of February 2009, R3 pointed out that only 37% those who had fallen behind with many bills or credit commitments had actually taken action and sought debt advice in the previous six months.

Of those who acknowledged that they were struggling with bills and commitments, a full 65% were of the opinion that they simply did not need advice about their financial problems.

“It’s alarming to see so many people in trouble and not looking for help,” Mrs Taylor continued. “Financial problems rarely resolve themselves unless the individual takes positive action. Clearly, many people are able to do so on their own, but while it’s good for people to have confidence in their skills, even the most financially capable people may find they benefit from the insights which someone who specialises in debt could supply.

“Particularly worrying is the thought of people who desperately need to look for debt advice but have yet to do so – either because they’ve not realised the severity of their financial problems or because they’re nervous about asking for help.

“Regarding the first of these two groups, we would like to stress the need for everyone to keep a close eye on their income and expenditure at all times – and this is especially important during challenging economic times when incomes are more likely to fluctuate and access to debt solutions such as debt consolidation or remortgagingmay be relatively restricted. One call to a debt adviser should help them gain some clarity on their situation, helping them understand exactly where they stand and what their options may be.

“Regarding the second group (those who acknowledge their financial problems but may be embarrassed about seeking help), we would like to make three specific points. First, that there are plenty of people in their situation; second, that debt advisers are there to help, not to judge; and third, that the solution to their debt problems could well be much simpler than they expect.

“Many people don’t want to face up to their debt problems because they dread hearing that bankruptcy, repossession, or some other ‘extreme’ scenario is the only way forward. In the vast majority of cases, however, these fears are unfounded. It’s true that there were 10,400 repossessions in the final three months of 2008, yet this only represents 1 in 1,100 mortgages – just as the 19,000 bankruptcies in that period represent an extremely small percentage of the people facing debt problems.

“Once they take the step and talk to a debt adviser, borrowers may be surprised to realise their lenders are willing to consider ways of repaying their debts in a way that’s actually quite manageable.

“Nonetheless, the earlier they seek debt advice, the more options they’ll probably have open to them. By taking action sooner rather than later, they’re likely to save themselves a great deal of time and worry, as well as money (in the form of fees, legal costs and interest charges).”

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Saving Is Important, But Debt Should Be Priority

Debt management company Gregory Pennington ( has welcomed news that more consumers are concentrating on putting money towards their debts rather than making savings, saying that this may make the best financial sense in the current economic conditions.

Gregory Pennington

However, the company added that consumers should be careful about where to draw the line, as savings can be a particularly important and useful aspect of people’s finances.

In Nationwide’s latest Savings Index, its senior economist Martin Gahbauer said that households were looking to increase the amount of money put towards their debt repayments “in response to the uncertain economic environment”.

He added that the negative level of housing equity withdrawal reported by the Bank of England earlier this month reflected this trend, and showed that households were using their available cash to reduce their mortgage balances more quickly, rather than spending it on non-essentials or putting it into a savings account.

Indeed, the Bank of England’s figures showed that in the final quarter of 2008, homeowners put a collective £8bn more towards their mortgage debt than they took out in equity withdrawals. It was the third consecutive quarter in which homeowners repaid more than they withdrew, although 2008 was the first year in a decade in which this had occurred.

A spokesperson for Gregory Pennington said that given the current state of the economy, repaying debt should be a priority for anyone who feels that their debt could become a burden.

“Debt repayments can be a burden on anyone’s finances, and that can become even more the case in times of financial hardship. In a time when many essential costs are rising, and when the risk of unemployment is higher than usual, reducing debt is particularly important.

“Even if a person’s debts seem relatively manageable now, a few unexpected events could change that. It’s essential that anyone who borrows money considers their long-term ability to repay the debt. Equally, anyone who finds themselves struggling should contact an expert debt adviser as soon as possible.”

However, the spokesperson added that savings are still very important, and people should look to save money whenever it is sensible to do so.

“Technically, it makes more sense to repay debt than save, even if that means using up those savings,” she said. “That’s because interest on debt nearly always grows faster than on savings, meaning that the person will spend less in the long run by tackling their debts first.

“However, being in debt doesn’t always mean people should avoid saving. If the borrower’s debts are entirely manageable – especially if their terms and conditions do not allow them to make overpayments – then there is no real reason why they should not put money into savings at the same time.

“Savings can offer a great deal of protection against debt, as well as long-term security. For example, a person who puts money aside every month is much better placed to manage any unexpected costs that may arise, or to get by in a period of unemployment.

“It can be difficult to decide whether it’s worth saving money or putting it towards debt repayments. We advise anyone who is unsure what to do with their money to seek free, impartial advice from a professional financial adviser.”

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Lloyds Banking Group Has Announced Its Participation In The New Electronic ISA Transfer Process Which Is Being Introduced

The Group has been working with the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) and other savings providers to adopt the process ahead of the new tax year.

cash isa

Lloyds TSB, Halifax and C&G will now be able to send and receive cash ISA transfers electronically via the Bankers’ Automated Clearing Services (BACS). These changes will speed up the transfer process by reducing the delays caused by sending cheques in the post.

Colin Walsh, managing director of savings and investment with Lloyds Banking Group said: “The industry wide delays experienced by customers last year were largely due to the outdated cheque and postal system on which the ISA transfer market was dependent. The move to electronic transfers is an important step forward but it is essential we continue to work together as an industry to improve the process.”

Ahead of the new tax year, Lloyds Banking Group has conducted a thorough review of its own internal procedures to ensure the transfer process is as efficient as possible. As a result, the bank has invested in its tracking systems to provide customers with up to date information on the progress of their funds.

The BBA estimates that during the peak ISA season, up to 1000 transfers a day could move more efficiently thanks to electronic transfers.

Colin Walsh continued: “Given today’s unprecedented low rate environment maximising your full tax free allowance has never been more important. As the UK’s largest provider, with a market share of 24 per cent, Lloyds Banking Group is fully committed to participating in the ISA transfer market, both through the use of electronic transfers and by allowing customers to transfer in historic ISA funds.

“However, we have always said this needs to be an industry wide initiative and, as and when other providers introduce the electronic transfer process, more customers will be able to reap the benefits. I believe there will be significant improvements this year, but there is still work to be done.”

About Lloyds TSB:
Lloyds TSB offers customers a wide range of current accounts, savings accounts, insurance, personal loans and credit cards, investment and cash ISA accounts designed to meet different customers’ needs. Lloyds TSB Bank plc and Lloyds TSB Scotland plc are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and signatories to the Banking Codes. Lloyds TSB Bank plc Registered Office: 25 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HN. Registered in England and Wales no. 2065.

The following savings providers are participating in electronic transfers:
* Lloyds Banking Group: Lloyds TSB, Halifax, Bank of Scotland and Cheltenham & Gloucester
* Full participation from Birmingham Midshires, IF and Scottish Widows is currently being rolled out 
* RBS Group: RBS, NatWest, Coutts
* Santander: Abbey


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Here Are Some Of The Best Ways To Save Money On Your Health Insurance

No-one likes to spend money when they don’t really need to. If we have to, we look for the best deal to make sure we’re not paying over the odds and the same is true of your health insurance. Here are some of the best ways to save money on your health insurance:

Have you throught about whether you actually need health insurance? In the UK, our taxes pay for the provision of a free health service – the NHS. So private health insurance is sometimes seen as a luxury. Indeed, private healthcare doesn’t normally cover GP check-ups or accident and emergency treatment. It can also exclude the treatment of long term illnesses which you may have had before you bought the policy e.g. cancer, diabetes or cosmetic surgery.

Essentially, if you’re looking for a vastly improved service and you don’t fall into one of categories above, health insurance could be a vital purcase for you. If not, you could be wasting your money.

Another option is to simply pay for treatment as and when you need it. This is great if you’re cash rich or manage to put away a small amount each month into a savings account. The main benefit being if you don’t end up needing any private treatment, you’ve still got the money you’ve put aside. However this method requires a lot of discipline and generally isn’t a recommended form of protection.

You may be covered by your employer, as many now include some level of private health insurance as part of their renumeration packages. It’s worth checking this out before you buy health insurance to ensure you’re not paying for cover you already have. It’s always worth checking the details however, as it may be that you need cover beyond the level offered and you could top-up that policy with your own funds.

Buying health insurance is the same as any purchase – you won’t know whether you’re getting the best deal unless you’ve got a price from everyone. You could go to the big names (AXA PPP, BUPA, Standard Life, etc) but it’s much easier to do your health insurance comparison online where you’ll be comparing all of the big names in one place, as well as the specialist providers. The service offered by Insurancewide not only finds the best health insurance or broker, it allows you to talk to a representative to discuss your options in more detail – there’s nothing quite like the human touch.

As you near the conclusion of your health insurance purchase, you should try to get the best deal possible out of the premium you’re about to agree to. Firstly, haggle as much as you like – the health insurance brokers all work to various levels of commission so they may have some room to manoeuvre. Secondly, you can go through the various treatments you’re covered for and remove those which you don’t believe are likely to apply to you.

Another option is to ask the health insurers about budget policies which will pay for your treatment only if you need to wait for more than six weeks (or another defined period) on the NHS. This can cut premiums by anything up to a third.

Also don’t forget that your circumstances and the health insurance premiums will change over time. So each year, make sure your carry out a health insurance comparison to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

About Insurancewide
Insurancewide, also known as Services Limited, is an online insurance comparison website offering insurance comparison tools that allow users to search the market and procure the best insurance policies and quotes.

Insurancewide was launched in August 1999 as the first insurance comparison website on the internet. The site also powered tools used on popular website

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