Money Grouse: Co-op keeps cards close to its chest

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The Independent Online
THE CO-OPERATIVE Bank stirred up enormous interest last year when it launched a free-for-life gold card, only to dash the hopes of thousands - one in five of those who applied - by turning them down.

Now it is launching the free-for-life Robert Owen Visa credit card for those earning at least pounds 15,000 a year. This time the bank has been more open about the sort of customers it is trying to attract.

It wants people who are going to use their cards at least 10 times a year, and it will charge less the more the card is used, as the bank receives a fee every time the card is used in a shop, restaurant or garage.

Those who spend less than pounds 100 a month pay a hefty 29.84 per cent apr, compared with the (relatively) reasonable 22.42 per cent charged to those clocking up more than pounds 300 a month or paying by direct debit.

David Laulicht, a communications consultant from Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, is an existing Co-op Visa card holder who moved to the Co-op two years ago to escape annual charges.

He believed that he would be offered the new Robert Owen card as he seemed to meet all the criteria. But no - he has just received a letter informing him that he will have to pay the pounds 12 annual charge from next year.

'The founders of the Co-op would spin in their graves. This is an institution which has an honourable reputation. I have nothing against their policy, it is the prevarication and evasion that surrounds it. I was unable to get them to tell me precisely why I was not being offered the card.'

It turns out that there is yet another hurdle to get over before existing credit card customers get the card - the average amount per month spent over the previous 12 months has to be more than pounds 100.

'Why didn't they say that in the first place?' asks Mr Laulicht.

Write to Money Grouse, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Please do not send SAEs or original documents as we cannot guarantee to deal with every letter personally.

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