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what's new in the world of investments

Co-op promises base rate for life on Visa card

Which is the most widely held gold credit card in the UK, indeed in Europe? No, not them, or them either. Give up? It is the Co-Operative Bank's, issued in 1991 and now used by 300,000 people. Customers split into 70 per cent who pay off outstanding balances every month and 30 per cent who borrow.

The bank is now planning to target them separately. Those who pay off balances regularly will stick with the existing card, which has no annual fee but charges 21.7 per cent on unpaid balances. Those who want to borrow can apply for a Base Rate for Life card. It levies an annual fee of pounds 120 but guarantees to charge no more than base rate on outstanding balances each month.

Even with the fee it works out at an APR of just 11.4 per cent on an average balance of pounds 2,000, less than many personal loans and roughly half the charge on typical credit cards. To qualify individuals need to earn at least pounds 20,000 a year and pass a credit test.

Bank of Scotland is launching its own Gold Visa card charging an annual fee of pounds 35 and interest at 14.5 per cent until next June, rising to17.9 per cent APR. Applicants must earn pounds 20,000 a year but anyone spending more than pounds 4,000 a year with the card pays no fee.

Users also get a free second year of extended warranty on most household electric appliances bought with the card, savings on five-year warranties,and access to emergency medical and legal services.

Premium rate company rings up cheap telephone calls

B roadsystem, the company that brought you premium-rate telephone calls that encourage you to dial specialised services from sexy chatlines to football fanclub information lines, is now promising to save telephone subscribers up to 20 per cent off UK national and regional (but not local) calls, and up to 30 per cent off international calls. "We pioneered expensive phone calls so now we are helping subscribers to save money", says chief executive Stephen Kirk.

For a one-off joining fee of pounds 1, members can channel their calls through Broadsystem by dialling 1602 before the number they want. Broadsystem buys the telephone time in bulk from BT and Mercury and bills its subscribers monthly in the middle of the following month.

The service is not yet universally available but call 0345 160200 to sign up.

Mortgage deals from GA, Barclays and Chelsea

General Accident Direct has cut the premiums on its standard mortgage protection policies by 10 per cent to an average of pounds 4.50 a month for every pounds 100 of mortgage interest payments covered. Premiums vary according to the borrower's age, sex and occupation, but the majority are within 20-30 per cent either side of the average.

Payments start 60 days after policy-holders lose their jobs through illness, accident or redundancy, and continue for 12 months. GA Direct has also introduced five new options with different starting times, from immediate to 60 days' and up to 18 months' cover.

General Accident Life has extended its Flexi-Mortgage offering six options from a 5 per cent cashback up to pounds 12,500 and no discount to a 5 per cent discount on the interest rate until end November next year and no cashback. Redemption charges apply until November 2000. A new fixed rate of 4.49 per cent is available until October 1997, with up to 95 per cent loan to value. The reservation fee of pounds 250 is refundable if the application is refused. A six-month redemption penalty applies to redemptions within the first five years.

Barclays Bank is offering new capped and fixed-rate mortgages at 3.99 per cent for a year or 5.99 per cent until the end of January 1998. Redemption charges are applied for redemptions before end January 2000.

Chelsea Building Society has launched two new fixed-rate mortgages, 4.74 per cent for up to 80 per cent loan to value and 5.09 per cent up to 90 per cent loan to value, both fixed until February 1998.

Both feature free redundancy insurance until the end of next year (this is not available to the self-employed). A 5 per cent redemption fee is charged within the first five years, and an arrangement fee of pounds 195 is payable, of which pounds 50 is upfront

Investment news at Hambros, Redland, and NatWest

Redland has launched a corporate bond personal equity plan invested in a new loan stock issued by the company for the purpose. It will initially offer a tax-free yield of 7 per cent.

Hambros Global Investment Fund is launching a new open-ended investment company . It will be listed in Dublin and invest in Asia, with the emphasis on South Korea.

The minimum subscription is $2,000 with a 5 per cent charge and an annual fee of 1.25 per cent.

NatWest has launched a guaranteed growth plus bond, guaranteeing standard rate taxpayers a 25 per cent return on their investment over 5 1/2 years. The maximum return is 75 per cent if the FT-SE 100 share index performs well.

Save & Prosper has launched a similar bond with a minimum pounds 2,500 investment.

Cheltenham & Gloucester has unveiled a new 90-day notice account paying 5.75 per cent gross on amounts from the minimum pounds 10,000 up to pounds 25,000, rising to 6.5 per cent and then 6.75 per cent gross on amounts over pounds 100,000.

Free advice for the asking at Commerical Union

Commercial Union has produced a guide "Investing for Income" that is available free to readers. Call 0800 100155.

Hill Samuel is offering small investors a free 12-page guide to investing abroad. Call Freephone 0800 336600

Help The Aged has launched a new free advice leaflet, "Thinking About Money" with practical tips and information on where to go for advice.

Send a sae to Information Department (money) Help The Aged, St James Walk, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0BE or from all the society's shops.

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