Credit card battle shifts to forecourt: Customers offered big discounts on cars for using their plastic

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The Independent Online
THE BATTLE between credit card companies shifted to car showrooms and petrol station forecourts last week, with the announcement that GM Card has teamed up with Esso and a large travel company to offer additional benefits to its customers.

Cardholders who use their GM Cards at Esso stations or at the travel firm Going Places will be credited with a pounds 10 discount on a new Vauxhall vehicle for every pounds 100 they spend.

In addition, the existing pounds 2,500 five-year ceiling for discounts on new vehicles can be avoided if the card is used at Esso stations and for booking holidays at Going Places's 550 branches.

However, once the yearly pounds 500 discount limit is reached, the credit given for each pounds 100 purchase is halved to pounds 5, the same as for every other item bought with the card. The move comes as more card issuers offer loyalty bonuses and special deals to win more customers and encourage them to use their cards more often.

Rob Dargis, manager of GM Card, said the tie-up with Esso and Going Places, renamed last year after the merger between the Hogg Robinson and Pickford travel firms, followed research into cardholders' spending habits.

'Motor fuel and travel came out as the two sectors that would be most beneficial to our cardholders, with fuel as the number one category for usage,' Mr Dargis said.

The move would benefit both customers and the companies themselves, he added: 'Retailers are set to reap the benefits from loyal customers and new business. Consumers are much more likely to buy fuel and convenience-store items at Esso and book holidays at Going Places because they will accumulate more rebate points. They can therefore save enormously on their next car.'

GM will be expanding its links with other retailers in the next few months, although it plans to restrict the number of deals it strikes.

Barclaycard, which offers its own card through rival car manufacturer Ford, is competing with GM by offering 15 per cent discounts off leisure breaks booked at 200 Forte hotels throught Britain.

Cardholders can also get discounts from more than 80 tour operators by booking through the Barclaycard Holiday Club service.

A Barclaycard spokeswoman said a further advantage was that its card users could be part of the existing Profiles loyalty scheme.

'It enables customers to select gifts from a wide range of suppliers, from hi-fi to kitchenware. This is in addition to rebates on Ford cars in exchange for points accumulated by using the card.'

One Profile point is awarded for every pounds 10 spent on the card.

Ford Barclaycard users can get a discount of up to pounds 1,800 over three years on any of the motor manufacturer's vehicles. So far, about 6,000 new cars had been bought using rebate certificates late last year, the company said.

Meanwhile, Texaco has also launched its own Visa card jointly with Bank of Scotland. The card has an annual interest rate of 21.7 per cent (APR).

The pounds 10 annual card fee is waived in the first year and in subsequent years, as long as at least pounds 2,000 is spent on the card. Cardholders earn a bonus point for each pounds 10 spent with the card, or two for the same amount spent in a Texaco service station.

A glass coffee-maker would cost 180 points, equivalent to spending pounds 1,800 with a Texaco card or pounds 900 if the card is used at one of the company's service stations. Other gifts, such as toasters or kettles, require far more points.

Texaco said: ''The important point to note is that people are not buying the item for that price. They would be using a card to buy their petrol in the normal course of events and are simply receiving an additional gift from us for doing so.'

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