Santander restricts credit card dealsCredit card offers are confused and unclear

12 May 2010

Card fan

Unless you really need to, try not to withdraw cash using your credit card - the interest rates are eye-wateringly high

In a move that will confuse consumers, Spanish banking giant Santander has changed the deals it offers on its two credit cards, depending on whether you are a current account holder and how you apply for the card.

Branch and telephone versus online

Santander offers two different cards, the Santander Credit Card and the Santander Zero credit card. The Santander Credit Card is available in-branch and by telephone with a 13-month 0% balance transfer deal (with a 3% transfer fee). Apply online though and the balance transfer deal increases to 15 months.

Furthermore, the typical APR you'll pay on the card is 15.9% if you apply online, but increases to 16.9% if you apply by telephone or in-branch.

By contrast, the Zero card, which charges no foreign exchange fee on worldwide purchases, is no longer available online unless you hold a Santander current account, mortgage or investment. Non-customers can, however, apply for the card in-branch or by telephone.

Existing customers rewarded at expense of non-customers

For consumers looking to transfer a balance to the Zero card, existing Santander customers won't be charged the 3% balance transfer fee. Non-customers are charged this fee.

And to complicate matters further, existing current account, mortgage or investment customers don't have to pay the balance transfer fee of 3% if they apply for the Santander Credit Card, but only if they apply for the card by telephone or in-branch.

Santander credit card range is confusing with below-average customer service

Martyn Saville, Which? credit card expert, commented: 'Santander's new credit card structure is ridiculous - how on earth are consumers supposed to work out which card is best for them? By restricting the best deals to current account, mortgage and investment customers, Santander is clearly hoping to entice more consumers into its other products. However, if the other product offers poor value or disappointing customer service, it's not worth taking out just to get your hands on the Santander Credit Card or Zero card.

'Whoever at Santander dreamt up the new system needs to go back to the drawing board. While the best deals on the Santander Credit Card are available online if you're a new customer, anyone looking for the Zero card will have to visit a branch, opening them up to a potentially unwelcome sales pitch for other products by bank staff. If you try to apply online, you'll find yourself encouraged to take out a current account in order to get the card, even though Santander scores poorly for current account customer satisfaction in our survey.

'If you're unsure whether you're getting the best deal or if Santander bank staff try to sell you additional poor-value products, walk away and find an alternative credit card elsewhere. For 0% balance transfer deals, for example, Yorkshire and Clydesdale Bank currently offers a Santander-beating 16 months at 0%, while the Post Office offers an excellent deal for using your card for purchases on holiday abroad.'

Get the best credit card for your needs

If you need advice to help you choose the best credit card for your needs, read the free Which? guide to choosing a credit card.

Once you know the best type of card for you, check out Which? Best Rate credit cards to find the most competitive deal available today, whether it's a cashback card, a card for borrowing or the longest 0% deal on balance transfers.

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