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The Universa Credit Card was the first card I applied for, and I chose it for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was just turned 18 and so had no credit history, so needed some way to build it up. Secondly, it's a MasterCard, so it's widely accepted and thirdly it's issued by Style Financial Services Ltd., an offshoot of the Royal Bank of Scotland, so I knew they were trustworthy.
The Universa MasterCard is a credit card designed for people with either a "sub-prime" or below average credit history. This is seen in both the credit limit and the APR. When I had mine (which I've now closed) the APR was roughly 25%, which is below that of the likes of Capital One but far higher than your average card (for example, the Abbey flat rate card has 10.9% for everything, with no extra charges for drawing from the hole-in-the-wall or writing cheques).
The Universa MasterCard is also quite high on the charges front. Miss a payment and that will be £15 please; write a cheque and that will be 2.5% or £2.50 please.
Aside from this, the card does have a number of advantages. Unlike most cards, you can pay using a debit card as opposed to the normal "ring your own bank" rigmorole. It also gives you, I think it's up to 55, days interest free, if you pay your bill in full and on time (which thankfully I did), which is not bad in the credit card stakes. Capital One and Egg both only give 45 interest free days, however slightly better deals can be found with Barclaycard (56 days), and the highest I've found is MBNA, Abbey and Alliance & Leicester, which all give 59 days, but a squeaky-clean credit history is required.
The Customer Services at Universa are second-to-none. Upon dialling the national rate telephone number, you're connected with the helpful souls at the call centre in Southend-on-Sea. No getting through to India or South Africa with the Royal Bank! They always sounded as if they had a smile on their face and nothing was too much trouble for them. This compares favourably with Barclaycard Customer Services, who sound as if they'd prefer to have ten teeth extracted with no anaesthetic than take your call.
All in all, if you have no credit history or have made a few blips in the past, Universa is a good card. The interest rate is slightly better than Capital One (by about 5%) and they give out slightly higher credit limits (£500 from Universa against £400 from Capital One). Their Customer Services Team are also very, very, helpful. However, if you have a slightly better record, you may prefer to get one of the 0% deals with one of the bigger players (Barclaycard, Abbey, etc.) or even Royal Bank of Scotland (MINT Card) - which would mean you'd still benefit from the excellent customer services offered.
Interesting review, although I think you should make it clear which Capital One card you are referring to, or someone could take umbridge with your references to them. Capital One offer a range of cards, some with interest rates as low as 5.9%. Also, most credit cards now take debit card payments.
MAFARRIMOND 06.07.2004 08:57
The additional charges seem a little excessive but the card does have a place in the market where others may not. Maureen