Petplan aims new credit card at 14 million owners

Petplan, the specialist pet insurance provider, yesterday announced plans to target the UK's 14 million owners of cats, dogs and other assorted animal species with its own credit card offering a competitive rate of 18.9 per cent.

The company hopes to attract a significant slice of customers for its card from the one in two households in Britain that own a pet. Anyone switching balances from an existing card will receive a preferential rate of 13.9 per cent APR for the first six months. No annual fee is being charged for the Petplan card.

As an additional incentive, potential cardholders are being offered a choice of cards with pictures of a cat, dog or horse on them.

Paul Cosgrove, commercial director at Petplan, said: "We have about 400,000 policyholders taking out insurance with us. What we find is that they are very concerned about animals and care for them. This is an important market."

Petplan's announcement marks the latest twist in an increasingly diversified card war, with a number of new entrants moving in to challenge traditional issuers by offering more competitive rates.

Big banks, including Barclays, National Westminster, Lloyds and Midland, have long cornered the bulk of the market despite charging between 22 and 23.4 per cent APR. Most also charge an annual fee of pounds 10 upwards.

In the past few months several aggressive newcomers have grabbed a small share of cards being issued by offering slightly more competitive rates.

Royal Bank of Scotland recently teamed up with a US issuer to launch the Advanta card, offering a rate of 15.6 per cent APR, linked to base rates.

Bradford & Bingley's card charges 18.9 per cent APR, the same rate as Newcastle Building Society, while neither levies annual fees.

They join Robert Fleming, which has long offered two of the most competitive cards, charging 14 per cent and 11.5 per cent APR respectively.

MBNA, with which Petplan is linked, offers cards to about 250 separate affinity groups.

These include the National Farmers' Union and the Royal Naval Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen.

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