Plastic bullets for borrowers at Barclaycard

"We've made some big changes", trumpets Barclaycard's website.

It sure has. Instead of charging 0 per cent interest on new purchases for 12 months, it will give new customers this offer for just three months. After this time, they will pay a standard annual percentage rate (APR) of 15.2.

Those switching a balance to a Barclaycard will also feel a sting in the tail. The 0 per cent offer on transfers until 1 September 2005 still applies but you'll be charged a 2 per cent fee. This is capped at £35.

And beware if you transfer a big balance to your Barclaycard: you'll be charged 6.9 per cent on anything above £5,000 as well as the 2 per cent fee.

Watch out when making repayments during the 0 per cent period: your cash will be put towards your transferred balance (where interest is charged at 0 per cent for 12 months) before chipping away at the balance on new purchases (which incurs 15.2 per cent interest after three months).

It's a far cry from Barclaycard's 12-month, 0 per cent, introductory offer on balance transfers and new purchases that fired it to the top of the "best buy" tables earlier this summer.

That window of credit opportunity, opened on 1 June, has now shut. The high demand is partly responsible for Barclaycard's decision to end the offer, says Richard Mason of financial information provider moneysupermarket.com. "This new offer is giving it a breather; it had such a significant number of applications. There are about 40 better credit card deals out there at the moment. On new purchases, for example, Sainsbury's Bank offers an APR of 0 for 12 months."

A Barclaycard spokesman denied that its new offer was a poorer deal and said it would still appeal to new customers.

Change was also in evidence at the Halifax last week as its charity credit cards became more attractive. The Halifax will donate £20 to charities such as the NSPCC, Mencap and Cancer Research UK when you first use the card - four times what it offered previously. This also puts it ahead of other card providers, including the Co-op's £15 for Amnesty International and £10 for Greenpeace.

The Halifax also donates 25p for every £100 you spend, in line with many other card providers. However, Nationwide building society pays 50p to Comic Relief on every £100 spent.

The other advantage of the Halifax card is that the rate of interest for customers isn't based on risk pricing. It has a standard APR of 12.9 once a 0 per cent deal on new purchases and balance transfers runs out after nine months.

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