NatWest offers cheap calls to card users

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NatWest, the high street bank, is preparing to raise the stakes in the battle for credit card customers by introducing Visa and Access cards which will allow users to make cheap telephone calls. The cost of the calls will be charged to their cards.

Credit card users can already use their cards to make calls from many payphones. But holders of NatWest cards will be able to make calls from any phone. Moreover, the calls will be roughly 25 per cent cheaper than credit card payphones.

Users will pick up any phone and dial a freephone number, followed by their credit card account number and a PIN number. They can then make as many calls as they like, and the costs will be charged to their credit card.

The bank already offers the service to firms who issue NatWest cards to their employees for use as corporate credit cards.

Companies are especially keen to make sure that employees on business trips use the cards when making calls because the charges - all of which are handled by the telephone service group World Telecom - dramatically undercut the cost of phoning from a hotel room.

However, NatWest is ready to offer the service to its retail cardholders in an attempt to stop them from switching to rival card companies offering cheaper borrowing rates. The service will first be introduced to the bank's 500,000 Gold Card customers before being extended to users of the remaining 3.5 million NatWest credit cards later this year.