Readers' lives

Your Money Each week we answer your letters on everyday financial concerns
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I have received information concerning the arrangements for N&P credit cards following the society's takeover by Abbey National. It seems they are doing away with the ID photo on the cards. Does anyone else issue cards with a photo?

AW, West Sussex

Only the Royal Bank of Scotland. It offers bank and credit cards with a laser-etched photograph and signature.

The bank says the cards have been a huge success, with a 99 per cent reduction in fraud on its Highline multi-function card and an 85 per cent reduction in credit card fraud. RBOS says photocards cost around pounds 1 more to produce than conventional cards. Abbey says the extra cost does not justify the savings from reduced fraud.

RBOS offers credit cards with rates of 23.2 per cent for purchases and 25 per cent for cash withdrawals. There is the usual interest-free period and the annual fee is pounds 10.

From October, the photocard option will be extended to holders of RBOS's Low Cost Mastercard - no annual fee and an APR of 14.5 per cent. But there is no interest-free period. This won't suit those paying off bills each month, but could appeal to those running card debts.

The bank says photocards do not provide perfect security. But developments in biometrics, which measure unique features such as fingerprints and voices, should lead to better security.

How long after a husband's death can a woman claim the widow's bereavement allowance?

ST, London

Widow's bereavement allowance lasts for a maximum of two years. It can be claimed for the tax year during which your husband died and the next, unless you have remarried before the start of the new tax year. Like the married couple's allowance, widow's bereavement allowance is worth a fixed 15 per cent of pounds 1,790, or pounds 268.50 a year.

You can claim it up to six tax years late. There is no equivalent tax break for widowers.

Write to Steve Lodge, personal finance editor, Readers' Lives, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, and include a telephone number. Do not enclose SAEs or documents that you wish to be returned. We cannot give personal replies and cannot guarantee to answer every letter sent to Readers' Lives. We accept no legal responsibility for advice.