Personal Finance: Test your plastic on the internet

BORROWERS who are looking to save on their credit cards will find the internet a valuable source of information. The web has sites that compare card costs and even some that calculate the value of "perks".

RBS Advanta's normal interest rate is 17.9 per cent; its introductory rate is a far more inviting 6.9 per cent. Its website holds standard information about the card, as well as details on how to transfer from another card to either its standard or gold account. It also provides its own illustration of how much switching can save. The savings calculator lists some of the most popular rival credit cards. All you have to do is enter the balance owed on an existing card and RBS Advanta works out how much payments would be with its lower interest rate. It also takes annual card fees into account. Note that the calculator uses the RBS Advanta introductory rate, rather than the normal rate.

Alliance and Leicester's selling point for its credit card is that holders receive money back, based on their spending. You enter your spending into fields such as groceries, entertainment, travel, holidays and car. The computer then adds these up and shows how much money the A&L card would give back in a year.

Other websites worth visiting include those run by the Co-operative Bank and Barclaycard. The Co-op is promoting its low-cost card, with a rate of 5.9 per cent on borrowing. But the bank also integrates its credit cards with its internet banking service. This means Co-op current account holders can see their statements online and pay bills, all by automatic transfer.

Barclaycard also offers internet bill payments to Barclays customers, but any Barclaycard holder can register to use the Barclaycard account services website. This requires an up-to-date browser - either Netscape Communicator or Internet Explorer version 4.02. The site gives access to statements online, as well as a secure link to the customer services desk.

Links: RBS Advanta: www.

rbsadvanta.co.uk; Barclaycard Netlink: www.barclaycard.co.uk; Co-operative Bank: www.co-operativebank.co.uk; Alliance and Leicester: www.alliance

andleicester.co.uk

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