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UPDATED: 14/12/2004. This op was correct at the time of writing. Note that while the Timecard is still valid for making purchases at Comet in the same format to a credit card, it has now generally been replaced with the "Your Way" card issued by GE Capital and all interest free purchases are now made through GE and treated on an application by application basis, therefore having a card with a generous limit does no guarantee you Interest free credit, unlike its predecessor.
===========================Timecards are typically issued by Comet Stores for those customers signing up for one of their 'payment plans', 'buy now, pay later' or 'interest free options'.
APPLICATION PROCESS Your application will more than likely be for an interest free or payment plan option rather than a Timecard; this Timecard is issued without request as an added invitation for you to spend more money with Comet and their partners.
The application process is fairly simple, they are (frighteningly) not interested in your income, they will require a debit/credit card as ID and also a minimum 10% deposit and something such as a driving licence or utility bill with your address on it. If you cannot supply this, i.e. if you have just moved house as I had when I first got mine, they should accept delivery as proof of address, although as I have had my card for a number of years, I should check current policy before making this assumption.
They will want information such as employer, time in current role, bank account details, your addresses for the last three years and be warned that the staff will undoubtedly offer you some form of discount or free gift if you take out the extended warranty; think very carefully about this as they can cost nearly as much as the goods, and if you find for some reason you are not in a position to complete the interest free period, could end up costing you more than simply replacing the item new, as you WILL pay interest on any warranty taken out on a product.
INTEREST RATES When customers receive their authorisation paperwork for their very first purchase, they will receive a Comet Timecard through the post without being offered it, usually with a fairly meagre credit limit of around £250 and an astronomically high interest rate of 29.9%APR if paying by Direct Debit and 31.9% for payments by other means. Your credit limit for interest free purchases and payment plan options will be separate and different (usually higher) from that of your Timecard.
CREDIT LIMIT AND MONTHLY REPAYMENTS Credit limit is based on the 25 times the monthly amount you are expected to pay, i.e. for a minimum monthly payment of £10 you would expect a credit limit of £250, for £11 - £275 and so on.
The minimum monthly payment is always based on your credit limit and therefore your monthly payment remains the same whether your outstanding balance is £50 or £200, although with these interest rates the only sensible way to use this card is to pay the balance off in full before the payment due date, it is a very expensive way to borrow money. As with normal credit cards you can repay any amount between the minimum payment and the full outstanding balance.
ISSUER & CUSTOMER SERVICE Timecard is issued on behalf of Comet by Time Retail Finance (TRF), a fairly little known Company based in Leeds, who, like most of their competitors sport an 0870 – national rate customer help-line (it was originally 0845 – local rate) but obviously changed once the company realised they could make more money this way.
The customer help-line is open: o 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday o 8am – 6pm Saturdays o 11am – 5pm Sundays
To be fair, I have seldom had to wait more than about a minute to speak to a customer care representative, who without exception have always been courteous, helpful and understanding, although over the recent bank holiday I did manage to exceed my credit limit through making a number of purchases including a new combined TV/Video and dutifully rang TRF to advise of them accordingly.
I was reassured that as my overall credit limit was far in excess of what I had spent (this includes allowances for interest free options and payment plans) and that I shouldn’t worry about it; it did not however stop me getting a really s****y letter from them today advising me that my card had been stopped until I had made a payment of £11 to accommodate my new credit limit, wow a whole extra £25 credit and an extra £1/month payment, needless to say I was somewhat unimpressed with this turn of events and gave the rather pleasant and patient gentlemen on the other end of the line some serious grief as I have now had an account with Timecard for several years and have spent many thousands of pounds with them through authorised outlets, only once in all that time running a balance when I was between jobs for a few weeks at Christmas a few years ago after being made redundant.
WHY HAVE ONE? Many people may ask what on earth is the point of having one of these when there are so many good low credit card deals around. Well for one thing, the low credit limit stops any foolish spending and the high interest rates forces me to clear the balance in full every-time I spend, whereas when paying interest rate of 10 or 12%, it is much easier to spend too much thinking I can spread the payments.
In addition, if I decide I need a new piece of electrical equipment, I can merely go into the store, select what I want and acquire immediate authorisation for any of the excellent interest free options that Comet offer, to date I have bought 4 computers from them, and with the exception of a 10% deposit and a small monthly payment of approximately 3% of the value of the goods, I don’t have to pay any more until the interest free rate expires; this can be anything between 6 and 18 months, depending on the product range and its price. (This facility is dependant on the amount of available credit you have on your account at that time).
The card also allows you automatic authorisation for Comet’s payment options, but at 29.9% APR I usually give these a miss, if I can’t pay it in full, or obtain interest free credit I usually give it a miss. Interest Free options usually start from around the £200 mark.
WHERE CAN YOU USE IT When I was initially issued with this card, Comet were part of the Kingfisher Empire that included Woolworths, B&Q and Superdrug although these liaisons have now been broken up. In spite of this the list of stores that the Time Card can be used in continues to expand, at the present time, you can enjoy up to 8 weeks interest free credit in:
o Comet (in-store and on-line) o B&Q o Woolworths o Big W o NEXT o Interflora (On-Line only) o The NEC Group o JJB Sport o Holiday Time Direct
UPDATED: 26th May 2003 - it appears now you can no longer use the Timecard in MVC and Superdrug - I suspect this is only the start with the break-up of the Kingfisher empire and it will only be a matter of time before the card either stops altogether, or is limitedto use in Comet.
You will also regularly be sent offer brochures allowing you to use the card for a wide range of tour operators through a third party agent, whilst simultaneously offering you a range of discounts on the holiday itself and complementary products. You can also apply for a cheque to pay your road fund or TV licence, neither of which I have tried, but I guess could be quite useful if you happen to have a temporary cash-flow problem, naturally as with other purchases, if you don’t clear the balance in full you will get stung big-time for interest charges.
THE CARD A rather uninteresting little grey number with images of all the vendors who take the card in store imprinted on it - a big red and white COMET stamp and name TimeCard. It has the usual 16 digit card number across the centre and valid to date.
Validity is usually for one year, and no from date is shown. The rear of the card contains slightly more colourful and obvious range of vendors that take the card just in case you get the assistant blanche at the fact he/she has never seen one before.
PAYMENTS Payments can be made via giro slip into any bank, sending a cheque in the post or through Internet telephone banking. TRF used to accept Visa/Delta debit payments over the telephone, but stopped this practice around a year ago, because of something to do with new legislation, although I am not aware of any other credit providers that have stopped this service and was somewhat bewildered, as up until that point, payment could literally be made up to the day before the payment due date without penalty. Now however, using internet banking, I have to allow a minimum of 7 days before the payment due date to ensure receipt. I do however quite like this method, as I tend to find that when I have interest free options running I make the minimum payment immediately and then make additional payments at any time during the month when I have extra funds.
If you are buying interest free on Timecard, it is imperative that you repay the balance in full BEFORE the due date, as even if 1p is outstanding, you will be charged the full amount of interest on the initial outstanding balance and will be expected to make regular payments until the balance is cleared (you have been warned).
STATEMENTS Statements are issued monthly and usually arrive around the 6th of the month, with payment due around 16 days later, although I am pretty certain they will agree on a payment date to suit individuals' cash-flows. My dad typically takes his statement into the bank of the day payment is due and pays the balance off in cash, he has never once been penalised for this.
The one thing I do not like about the statements is that the outstanding balance and available credit are based on assuming that you are not going to clear it during the interest free period and include the total interest for the purchase, this is quite irritating and requires a telephone call to the customer services department to establish exactly how much is outstanding, as I tend to make regular yet erratic payments.
So if anyone does take advantage of one of the many offers Comet have, don’t fall off your chair in shock when you get your first statement, like I did.
Not recommended if you are not disciplined and cannot be sure that you will clear the balance in full every month – if this is you, then there are much cheaper credit deals around.
Highly recommended providing you are disciplined to pay the balance off in full, and like interest free options when you can save your money and earn interest on it until final payment becomes due.
I used to have one of these cards. After buying a computer on interest free credit in 1989 they provided an unasked for Timecard. Like you I would always endeavour to pay off the balance, since the APR was ridiculously high. Back in the early days only Woolworths and Charlie Browns were affiliated to the card, and on many occasions Woolworth's staff didn't recognise it and had to check it's validity. Very detailed, informative work. Well done.
mrpaella 28.09.2002 23:28
I heard never heard of this card. Thanks for your description...Paul