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Lloyds TSB offer a wide range of credit cards which, despite the category title, are generally available in both Visa and Mastercard options. Cards currently issued by Lloyds TSB include Advance, Classic, Classic Reserve, Create Card, Gold, Platinum, Premier, Trustcard, Trustcard Platinum and Vantage.
Products Available ==================
Lloyds TSB currently has 10 credit card products, all of which may be applied for - excluding Classic Reserve and Trustcard (these are only available to existing cardholders). Advance and Premier have the lowest APR for purchases, which is currently 11.9% (the cash advance APR is currently 19.9% and 14.2% respectively); Vantage has the highest APR for purchases, which is currently 23.9% (the cash advance APR is currently 26.5%). The other products all fall somewhere between this range.
Excepting Create Card, all of the credit card products are fairly standard. Createcard is designed to be a 'flexible' credit card - flexible in terms of APR, cashback and annual fee. You can adjust your Createcard to suit your circumstances e.g. you can trade off a high APR against maximum cashback or opt to pay an annual fee in order to have a low APR. It is an admirable concept that sadly hasn't been maximised; there are many other products available that manage to combine all 3 'flavours', without the need to continually tinker with your account e.g. Egg offers a credit card with cashback, no annual fee and a low APR as standard.
The other credit card products have no annual fee, interest free period and free additional card as standard. APR rates and benefits vary wildly but are all comparable with other high street bank products. Payment Protection Cover and Card Protection are optional.
Personally, I have held a Trustcard for about 6 years. I used to bank with TSB (before they merged with Lloyds) and received a 'reserved' credit card, based on my banking history with them. I probably wouldn't have applied for this card otherwise and, over the years, have used it more as an additional 'stand-by' rather than as my main credit card. My Trustcard has performed consistantly over the years; I have never experienced fraud, payment delays or clerical errors.
Opening An Account ==================
It is very easy to apply for a Lloyds TSB credit card - you can visit your local branch, phone customer services or apply online at http://www.lloydstsb.com/creditcards/. When you apply, you will be asked a few screening questions to determine eligibility e.g. age, residency, etc. If you qualify, you will then be asked a range of specific financial questions to determine your credit risk, subject to verification by a credit agency report. If your credit risk is too high for the particular product you were applying for, you may be offered an alternative product. Otherwise, you should wait between 6 to 12 months before re-applying, to allow for your credit history to change. If you experience particular difficulties, it would be a good idea to apply to a credit agency for a copy of your personal file, to verify your credit history yourself. (The main agencies are Experian and Equifax - details of which are available elsewhere on Ciao.)
Product Benefits ================
The most obvious benefit is the ease with which you can borrow large sums of money. Visa, like Mastercard, is widely accepted - you should be able to use your credit card at most stores worldwide. You can also withdraw money from cash machines (ATMs) worldwide, subject to a handling fee (currently 2%) and a foreign currency fee (currently 2.75%) - this is excluding interest charges incurred, in the usual manner.
A two-edged benefit is Lloyd TSB's credit limit policy. New applicants will be given a set credit limit based on their circumstances, but, unlike some other credit card lenders, Lloyds TSB keeps a close watch on those circumstances. If your account is well maintained - payments are credited on time, etc - then you will find your credit limit is periodically increased (although you can ask for it to be reduced or kept the same, if you wish). This means you could quickly find yourself with increased borrowing options without having to apply for an increase.
In the same vein, customers periodically receive credit card 'cheques', which can be used to make balance transfers or to make cash advance withdrawals. These normally carry a promotional balance transfer APR, and can therefore be quite handy. However, I would be very wary of using them to make cash advance withdrawals, as these carry the standard cash advance APR (dependant on the particular product).
Additional benefits vary but are generally travel related - typically, these include home delivery of foreign currency or free travel accident insurance when you pay for your holiday with your Lloyds TSB credit card. Check the specific details of your credit card agreement before relying on any such benefits though - in my experience, there is always a 'catch'!
Finally, a specific benefit of my Trustcard is the loyalty point scheme. Trustcard holders receive 1 point per £10 spent, and these points can be exchanged for a variety of items. Typically, these redemption items include free prize draws, 2-for-1 restaurant/hotel vouchers and 5% off Argos vouchers. I'm sure it is instantly obvious that these loyalty points are slightly worse than useless.
Operating Your Account ======================
As with most credit card products, you will receive one free paper statement every month; additional copies are £6 each. Your statement will clearly indicate your current balance, payment due, due date, transaction history and methods of payment. You can pay via a bank (non-Lloyds TSB branches may charge a fee), the post (using the un-stamped envelope provided) or via telephone or online banking. The only problem I have with Lloyds TSB is that they do not make it sufficiently clear that non-Lloyds TSB bank account customers can pay via telephone or online banking. It is quite easy to do so; you can call customer services for the specific account details or, alternatively, your own online bank account may have details already set up e.g. HSBC includes Lloyds TSB as one of their pre-set account payees.
The minimum payment is 2% or £5, whichever is greater. If you have made any balance transfers from another credit card account, this requires a seperate minimum payment of 2% or £5, whichever is greater. If you pay the full balance before your next statement is due, you will not incur any interest charges. I strongly recommend that you pay more than the minimum, as it may be less than your next interest payment i.e. you may not otherwise reduce your current balance. It is quite easy to decide how much to pay as an estimate of your next interest payment is included in your statement. On the other hand, I think that Lloyds TSB should set a higher minimum payment in the first place; some customers may have set up direct debits to pay their minimum payments each month and may increase their balance unknowingly.
Customer Service ================
Customer services can be reached through a low rate telephone number. You can use the automated service for basic account details e.g. balance, next payment due date, etc. You have to go through this somewhat tedious automated service in any case in order to talk to a 'real' customer service agent but once you get through, they are invariably helpful and polite e.g. they are quite happy to patiently iterate through your transaction history or answer account queries. I find it quite easy to get hold of a customer service agent - waiting times are generally non-existent - but I suspect this is due to Lloyd TSB's rather confusing mixture of touch-tone and voice recognition technologies. It is incredibly irritating to hear a computer say "I heard 'yes', is this correct?" several times in a row. Many people probably give up halfway through.
Lloyds TSB is a well-known, trusted bank with branches throughout the country. It is very easy to apply for any of their products and it is equally easy to service their accounts. If you require a credit card with a very high credit limit, then they are certainly worth considering. Their credit limits tend to err on the generous side and their cards are therefore very handy as emergency 'stand-bys'. Customer service is very good and security seems reasonable. On the other hand, their products all have high APR rates; although these are competitive when compared with other high street bank products, they are grossly uncompetitive when compared with the wide range of internet bank products available. If you do not normally pay your account balance in full, you would be far better off with a credit card from Smile (current APR for purchases is 9.9%, for Smile current account holders) or Cahoot (current APR for purchases is 7.0%, with no annual fee). Overall, I would recommend Lloyds TSB credit cards (both Visa and Mastercard) with reservations.