Festive discounts, and other offers. By Clifford German
CHRISTMAS shoppers will welcome the news that Barclaycard has teamed up this week with 17 retailers to offer discounts of 10 per cent or more to cardholders who use their Barclaycard for Christmas shopping.

The retailers include Allders, Burton menswear, Dorothy Perkins, opticians Dollond & Aitchison, HMV, Superdrug, Threshers, Whitbread Leisure and WH Smith. Details are being posted to cardholders this weekend. The offer also gives the chance to earn Profile points and purchase protection on items bought.

The retailers hope to persuade shoppers to spend money before Christmas rather than waiting for the sales. The offer should also help boost Barclaycard, whose share of the credit card market has been dropping steadily.

This is not the first time credit cards have offered cashbacks and discounts instead of points and air-miles. Goldfish, the credit card run by British Gas and HFC Bank, offers users discounts on gas and electricity bills from British Gas Trading, or the chance to set savings against BT bills and the TV licence. It offers points for each pound spent, which can be swapped for vouchers at Asda, M&S and Boots.

Alliance & Leicester broke new ground last March with their Moneyback credit card, offering a rebate of 0.5 per cent on spending up to pounds 3,000 a year, rising to 1 per cent on anything over that. In January, 400,000 cardholders will get average rebates of pounds 25.

On top of that, eight retailers, including BP, MFI and Currys, give cardholders instant discounts equal to the rebates from the Alliance. The incentive seems to work: cardholders use their card 12 times a month, four times the industry average.

The Birmingham & Midshires discount card launched this year offers tiered cashbacks ranging from 0.33 per cent up to pounds 3,000 a year, to 0.75 per cent and then 1 per cent on spending over pounds 7,000.

In May the Amex Blue card launched, offering 1 per cent cashback off the value of all purchases made with the card, which will rise to 5 per cent next month only. The annual pounds 12 fee takes a little icing off the cake.

Barclaycard's campaign ends on Christmas Eve. If it wins extra business for the retailers and Barclaycard it may lead to something more permanent. The other cashback cards may also decide to improve and extend their offers. If a recession really is on the way, there might just be a little silver lining for card-users.

Barclaycard: 0151-473 2526; Birmingham Midshires: 0800 0684466; Alliance & Leicester: 0500 838383; American Express: 0800 700111.