Prolong your plastic

CASHPOINTS
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The Independent Online
n Each year 3 million plastic cards have to be replaced before their expiry date because of damage to their magnetic strip - most commonly caused by magnetic interference from objects such as handbag clasps and mobile phones. Midland claims to be the first bank to introduce "high coercivity" magnetic strips, which it says will improve reliability by 50 per cent. The move follows the launch of the world's first biodegradable card by Co-op Bank in association with Greenpeace.

Savers are putting aside pounds 151 a month on average, compared with pounds 79 in 1990, according to research by NatWest. Foreign holidays are now the top saving priority.

People are waiting longer before buying their first home than in the 1980s. The typical first-time buyer is now 31 and less than a quarter of first-timers last year were under 25, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders. Endowment mortgages continue to fall in popularity while repayment mortgages are enjoying a revival. The number of home loans backed by a tax-free PEP continues to grow.

Retired people think improving pension provision should be relatively low in the Government's priorities, according to a survey by NPI, a pensions company. However, an overwhelming majority think the state pension should be increased in line with average wages rather than inflation, as at present. Only a third believe the state should pay for everybody who needs to go into a residential or nursing home.

n Heading off to Hong Kong to make your fortune after the Chinese takeover on 1 July? Royal Life International has produced a free guide, Making the most of Hong Kong, giving pointers on tax and other financial issues such as the importance of health insurance for expatriates. Call 01624 821116.

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