Holiday's unhappy ending

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The Independent Online
JERRY FOULKES, a BBC television director, was delighted when the Co- operative Bank sent him a leaflet offering a 5 per cent discount on holidays booked through the bank's Visa Travel Club.

Around 17 March he booked a holiday in Kenya and he left at the end of March. He paid pounds 1,168, for two people, after a pounds 60 discount.

'I was away for 15 days,' he says. 'The holiday was put on to my credit card while I was away. I got back on 15 April and the bill had to be paid two days later.'

This did not give Mr Foulkes long enough and he ended up with a bill for pounds 23.96 interest.

He complained to the Co-operative Bank, which offered to refund half the amount, although Mr Foulkes felt it should refund the whole lot.

'What is the point of having a discount for using the card if nearly half the amount you save is eaten up by interest charges?' he asks.

His card is a Co-operative Bank Gold Card. This charges no fee - and has undertaken never to charge one - but cardholders have only 15 days from their statement date in which to pay their bill rather than the 25 days allowed by most other cards. If they do not pay in full they are charged interest back to the date each debit hit their account.

Mr Foulkes is one of thousands of people who rushed to take out the Co- op card because of the free-for-life promise, only to discover the disadvantages of the short repayment period. It is a system that makes money for the Co-op, however, and is being watched closely by other card operators.

The bank told the Independent it was unwilling to refund more than half Mr Foulkes's interest and it had not acted unreasonably. A spokesman said cardholders could arrange to pay by variable direct debit if they wanted to ensure their bills were always paid off in full. Furthermore, Mr Foulkes should have realised that the holiday bill would arrive while he was away and should have arranged to pay in advance.

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