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Ad watch – NatWest’s 0%uch ad is dangerously misleading

Ad watch – NatWest's 0%uch ad is dangerously misleading

Ad watch – NatWest's 0%uch ad is dangerously misleading

The semi-publicly owned bank has funded a huge ad campaign to declare to people the danger of 0% cards. From full page newspaper ads to viral videos, it’s trying to persuade people its stance is in their favour. So I wanted to bash out a quick blog to put that to the test.

Its newspaper ad screams out at you…

"No to 0% credit card deals because they have rates that jump up and sting you once the rates end".

It then goes on to promote its deals…

"We offer credit cards with no sting in the tail. They’re fair. They’re transparent."

And it even has a propaganda video:

So let’s compare NatWest’s self-vaunted fair offering with what the nasty, boo-hiss 0% stingy cards are offering.

What the NatWest credit cards offers

Its big deal is its NatWest Clear Rate card, a simple low rate card of 6.9% annual interest on all balance transfers and purchases. All sounds nice but as its ads are very concerned about ‘stings in the tail’, I thought I should warn you of, yes you guessed it, a couple of stings in the tail.

  • There’s a £24 annual fee. This is thankfully a rarity for mainstream non-rewards credit cards. Incorporate this into its interest rate and it’s 11.1% representative APR.
  • You may be accepted but pay a higher rate. As NatWest is campaigning for transparency, let’s be very clear. The fact this is a ‘representative’ APR means it, like almost every card, only needs to give 51% of accepted customers the advertised rate. The rest can be charged more.

There are better stable rate cards than NatWest’s

NatWest’s offering isn’t an awful deal, there are far worse on the market. Yet there are certainly far better cards with similar non-0% deals.

As a straight comparison my top pick, similar, stable rate card is the MBNA Low Rate which is 6.6% representative APR – so lower than NatWest – and crucially no annual fee. Overall that’s a big saving.

How does NatWest compare to those 0%uch cards?

Of course, what NatWest’s campaign is all about is bad mouthing 0% deals that sting you by bolting up the rate at the end of the deal. So let’s see how it actually compares. Three housekeeping notes before I do that…

  • I’m comparing it to the best cards on the market. Of course there are poor 0% cards too, but as it’s attacking the entire concept, this seems fair to me.
  • I’m assuming you don’t do the right thing and tart. The best way to use 0% cards is disloyally shift from 0% card to 0% card as soon as one deals ends. That irrefutably cuts card debt far better than any other method; and smashes NatWest. Yet to be generous, I’m going to assume people use 0% cards and don’t shift once the 0% ends.
  • This all depends on acceptance. Of course the calculations are moot if you get rejected. To see which cards you’re most likely to get use the free eligibility checker tool.
  • These are spreadsheet calculations. Interest calculations vary between card providers, so treat these as good back-of-the-envelope calculations rather than exact.

FIGHT 1: NatWest v 0% balance transfers

Let’s start with what 0%’s are famous for – debt shifting balance transfer cards. Here the big beast on the market is Barclaycard’s current offering. It allows you to shift debt at a huge 33 months 0% with a one-off fee of 2.99% followed by 18.9% representative APR afterwards. For more options and info see Top Balance Transfers.

Debt remaining on £3,000 shifted, repaying fixed £100 a month
After 1 year After 2 years After 3 years After 4 years After 5 years After 6 years After 7 years After 8 years After 9 years After 10 years
Barclaycard £1,890 £690 - - - - - - - -
NatWest £1,994 £919 - - - - - - - -
Debt remaining on £3,000 shifted, repaying MIN REPAYMENTS
Barclaycard £2,347 £1,786 £1,412 £1,252 £1,110 £983 £872 £773 £685 £607
NatWest £2,658 £2,354 £2,085 £1,847 £1,636 £1,448 £1,282 £1,135 £1,005 £889

So here Barclaycard smashes NatWest.

  • Repaying £100 a month, Barclaycard is £229 cheaper.

    With Barclaycard, you’d clear the £3,000 in 31 months and the only cost would be the £90 transfer fee. With NatWest, it’d take 34 months and you’d pay £298 in interest and £48 in annual fees.

  • Repaying just the minimum repayments, Barclaycard’s 0% still wins.

    Barclaycard is far cheaper in the first three years (when it’s mostly at 0%) and by that point, you’’ have cleared £600+ more debt; meaning you’’e less debt to accrue interest. Of course the best practice at that point is to shift the debt again to another 0% deal (see Cheap balance transfers).

    But even if you don’t, the fact that during the 0% period so much of your cash has gone to clearing the debt not serving the interest, means that while NatWest has a lower interest rate – even if you left it hanging for 10 years, you’d still owe Barclaycard less than NatWest.

    However it’s worth noting Barclaycard does have a slightly higher minimum payment at the start, which impacts this too. If you look at the amount you’ve paid as well, then after about nine years NatWest does become a slightly better deal than Barclaycard in this.

FIGHT 2: NatWest v 0% borrowing cards (ie, new spending on the card)

If you were planning to use the card to spend on, the top new cardholder 0% deal is Tesco 19 months 0% with no fees followed by 18.9% representative APR after. More options and full help in Top 0% cards.

I went for two variants here, the first, a planned one off big purchase (£1,500) the second, regular monthly spending on the card (a very dangerous thing to do that I’d strongly caution anyone against – using credit cards to fill the gap in your income is never good).

Debt remaining on £1,500 spending repaying fixed £75 a month
After 1 year After 2 years After 3 years After 4 years After 5 years After 6 years After 7 years After 8 years After 9 years After 10 years
Tesco card £600 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
NatWest £700 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
£100 spending a month, making only minimum repayments
Tesco card debt left £900 £1,840 £2,756 £3,567 £4,287 £4,924 £5,490 £5,991 £6,435 £6,828
Tesco amount paid £300 £689 £1,381 £2,335 £3,515 £4,896 £6,455 £8,172 £10,028 £12,009
NatWest debt left £1,101 £2,099 £2,984 £3,768 £4,463 £5,080 £5,626 £6,110 £6,539 £6,920
NatWest amount paid £134 £477 £991 £1,661 £2,470 £3,402 £4,443 £5,581 £6,804 £8,103

The results here are split.

  • Tesco smashes NatWest for the one-off £1,500 spend.

    The Tesco card is paid off after 20 months and no interest is paid (as the 20th month is the first one you’re charged interest, but you’re clearing the balance in full so you don’t pay it). The NatWest card is paid off after 22 months. During that time you’ve paid £48 in annual fees and £98 interest, so a total of £146.

  • On £100 a month, NatWest wins in time.

    This is a relatively false scenario as you’d need a huge credit limit; but even so let’s look at it. Tesco is far cheaper in the first 19 months, but even after that NatWest’s minimum repayments are lower than Tesco so even after 10 years you’d have less debt on it.

    That’s why I’ve also added in an ‘amount paid’ row too. When that’s factored in (ie, add debt left to amount paid), NatWest starts to be cheaper after three years.

    Of course you’d be far better off to take Tesco for 19 months then shift the debt to a 0% balance transfer card and get another 0% purchase deal – and better still, not to do it. Yet this does show if you’re going to continually borrow and not pay it off and not manage the cash, NatWest can beat a 0% card.

I did also compare NatWest to the Top all-rounder cards, which give 0% on both purchases and balance transfers. The results there were roughly similar to spending cards – in other words if all the borrowing is upfront with decent repayments NatWest loses, but if you have minimum repayments and keep spending on the card, NatWest over time wins.

The summary

I think NatWest’s adverts are disingenuous and dangerous. The concept would’ve worked five years ago when 0% deals were far shorter than they are now. But certainly with 33 months 0% on balance transfers these are no longer just short-term propositions. To use an advert to mis-portray them as a dangerous product is simply wrong.

That doesn’t mean they always win, it just means there is a choice and different things suit different people. For those who just want to shift the debt, spend and then forget about it without doing anything, stable rate cards have a strong place – and that’s something I’ve always championed. Yet if you are going to do it, NatWest’s card with its annual fee, certainly isn’t the one I’d use.

Do let me know your views below…

I’m excited to be involved in a radical financial triage foodbanks programme

I’m excited to be involved in a radical financial triage at foodbanks programme

I’m excited to be involved in a radical financial triage at foodbanks programme

A radical experiment is about to start involving the Trussell Trust and I’m delighted to be playing a part. Rather than regurgitating, here is the charity’s press release which tells you all…


Foodbank charity the Trussell Trust is to launch pilot funded by a 6-figure personal donation from Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis.

This pioneering idea is a response to the alarming increase in people being referred to foodbanks in severe financial difficulty. The scheme could revolutionise how the UK’s leading foodbank charity works and will see foodbanks partner with debt and money-management charities to provide instant financial help to people in foodbanks at the point of crisis.

The pilot is announced as new research shows that more than one in ten UK families have taken out a pay day loan to make ends meet in the last year (12%) and a quarter (24%) of UK families have fallen into debt to be able to provide for the family. Over 900,000 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2013/14 financial year, 163% more than the previous year.

David McAuley, Trussell Trust Chief Executive says: "It’s deeply concerning that the basics of dignified life in modern Britain – food, heat and electricity – can fall out of reach for so many. High prices, static incomes, problems with benefits and harsh welfare sanctioning are forcing people into extreme financial difficulty.

"When you’re facing stark choices between eviction or feeding the family, debt and high interest loans can seem to offer a short term solution, the reality is that this often forces finances to spiral out of control.

"By introducing a ‘financial triage’ service in foodbanks, where clients are able to connect with free financial and debt advice, people will be given professional help to manage tight finances, avoid pay day lenders and structure debt to prevent the situation from getting worse and to help people break out of crisis much faster."

Martin Lewis’ donation, to be supplemented by additional funds from the Trussell Trust, will enable the charity to develop the first stage of a transformative ‘more than food’ approach to foodbanks, where foodbanks in the pilot project become a ‘hub’ of local service provision.

People in need will be able to access a range of support including emergency food, debt advice and money management all in one location, removing access barriers and cutting down waiting times.

Connecting people with financial support at the point of crisis will also help reduce the workloads of already over-stretched debt and money-management charities by helping to decrease the number of people developing complex and entrenched financial problems.

Despite the evidence of economic recovery, the benefits are not yet filtering down to people living on the breadline. Life is not likely to get easier for the poorest anytime soon which is why finding innovative ways to help people living on low-incomes is urgent.

Martin Lewis says: "The hope is that this scheme will provide a financial equivalent of ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’. I’ve been campaigning for financial education in schools for years, finally that starts on the curriculum in September, but that still leaves great swathes of our society, especially some of the most needy struggling with even the basics of money management.

"Those who go to foodbanks are already open to asking for help. They’ve rightly prioritised the urgent need to feed themselves and their children. Yet if we can intervene at that point to start to get their financial lives back on track, by approachable, non-judgemental help, it will hopefully cut down the number of return visits."

The Trussell Trust runs a network of over 400 foodbanks across the UK that give emergency food and support to people in crisis and, if the pilot is successful, this could be rolled out across the UK in 2015/16.

The pilot scheme will initially be launched in six Trussell Trust foodbanks in different regions of the UK, aiming to improve the financial standing of foodbank users and to improve their household budgetary skills. The scheme will partner with national UK debt charities to offer professional debt counselling services for up to 20 hours a week per centre in each region.

The pilot will start in September 2014.

Related past blogs

Going abroad? I need your help….

If I had a euro for each time I’ve been asked a variant of this question by holidaymakers, "I’ve just been to a bank/shop and it’s giving me the choice of paying in euros/dollars or pounds, which should I choose?", I’d err, have a lot of euros.

For a detailed answer see my Always pay in euros blog post, which as the title suggests, explains the safe option is to always pay in euros.

However my experimentation and rate comparison that underpins that blog was done primarily in Spain, so I wanted to take the opportunity this summer with so many people going away to spread my research base.

What I’d like you to do

If you’re going abroad and meet a shop or cash machine that gives you this option, I’d like you to take a picture of the screen or receipt which explains the rate it’s offering… (example below).

Banca March ATM withdrawal screen

Banca March ATM withdrawal screen

Then please email it to me at and also if possible, include the following:

1. Where you are (country and location).
2. The date and time.
3. If you know the spot rate on the day (if you don’t, don’t worry – I can find it).

My aim is to get an accurate comparison of how this compares to paying in pounds – all around the world.

Thank you in advance.

Huge anger over HMRC wanting to raid people’s savings – but why do we already let banks do it?

Huge anger over HMRC wanting to raid people's savings – but why do we already let banks do it?

Huge anger over HMRC wanting to raid people's savings – but why do we let banks do it already?

HMRC has been accused of attempting to overturn the Magna Carta by trying to gain new powers that will allow it to take money from people’s bank accounts without a court order (see HMRC wants to raid accounts).

There’s been uproar and outrage from MPs and others on this. I share in this angst. Yet I thought it worth pointing out that while we object to the taxman doing it, we have already given banks the power to do something very similar. Under the rules of setting-off, a bank can take money from accounts to pay itself without notice, without permission and without a court order.

Now my point here isn’t that because banks can do it, we should allow HMRC to do it. It’s more that if we are going to protest around the idea that the taxman has this permission, we should also stop banks – which aren’t exactly paragons of virtue with great track records on such things.

For those unfamiliar with the rules of setting-off, it’s quite simple. If you have a debt eg a credit card or loan with the same bank where you also have savings or a current account, even if those accounts aren’t linked, the money can be taken from your savings to repay your debts. And they don’t need to notify you or seek permission in advance.

This can cause cataclysm for people’s finances. Those doing the correct strategy when in trouble (ie, focusing on priority debts) such as putting money aside to pay their mortgage can see it snaffled to pay a credit card (a lesser-priority debt), leaving them in mortgage arrears.

I’ve even heard of a woman being given money by her father to pay for her wedding just a few days before the big day to have it snaffled immediately by the bank.

For full help on your rights if you’re affected, see our Setting-off guide.

Why do we give banks so much power? Why is it a special form of creditor above even HMRC? Gas and electricity companies can’t just dip into your bank account to take your money when you owe them. Why is a bank so special?

In my view – it isn’t, and it’s about time we ended this antiquated law. If banks want to take money from your account, they should require a court order like anybody else does.

I’d welcome your thoughts below.

The trick to access every network’s signal from your mobile

The trick to access every network's signal from your mobile

Mr Cameron, I've got a tip for you

The Prime Minister’s rightfully badgering the UK mobile phone networks to share masts in rural areas to prevent mobile blackspots. He has complained of having to go to the top of a hill in Cornwall when on holiday in order to speak to world leaders, and thinks this problem of poor rural coverage needs fixing.

Well, Mr Cameron, there’s already a way you can access all signals from your mobile, so to help you (and others), I thought I’d bash this note out.

In the UK, each of our mobiles is locked to one network’s signal – after all, that’s what we buy when we sign up. Yet if you travel abroad, and your phone is roaming, it can often connect with any signal from the overseas operators, so in fact, you may get more coverage there.

1. Use a foreign Sim in the UK

The trick to turn this on its head is to pop a foreign Sim card in your unlocked handset. Yet not every Sim will work, as it depends on their relationships with UK networks.

If you did try this, one piece of luck is that European Union roaming charges are regulated (interestingly, this doesn’t cover calls from UK networks to UK networks). So if you were to get a prepaid EU Sim and use it in the UK, the current maximum costs are…

EU roaming caps
Making calls to UK/Europe €0.19 (excl. VAT) / £0.19 (incl. VAT)
Receiving calls €0.05 (excl. VAT) / £0.05 (incl. VAT)
Texts to UK/Europe €0.06 (excl. VAT) / £0.06 (incl. VAT)
Data download, per MB €0.20 (excl. VAT) / £0.20 (incl. VAT)

2. More certainty using a global roaming Sim

The problem with foreign Sims is the uncertainty of their network connection in the UK and the fact you have to pay to receive calls. But global roaming Sims are designed to be relatively cheap wherever you go, and the big benefit is you usually don’t pay to receive (this generally applies in European and big Western countries, you can pay in some others) – so they’re perfect for people who regularly travel to different countries.

So I decided to check out their policies on when calls were made on them in the UK. The first one I tried, World Sim, wasn’t good for this. Its UK partner is O2, so you’d automatically be connected to that.

Yet the two providers below automatically connect to the strongest signal (and you can manually select a network if you choose).

Now technically, the underlying Sim used for these global Sims is a Jersey one. This means it isn’t governed by the EU cap, so prices vary. But crucially, if you receive calls via them in the UK, you won’t be charged.

Details on how to get these Sims in the Global Roaming review.

Prices for global Sims on a UK network
GoSim 0044
Making calls to UK 12p/min (landline & mobiles) 15p/min landlines (25p to mobiles)
Receiving calls Free Free
Texts to UK/Europe 9p 10p
Data download, per MB 21p 39p

Who should be doing this?

On paper, this would work well for anyone who needs a constant connection and that’s more important than price (as far cheaper deals are available see Cheap Mobiles), so that’s likely to be a business user – or indeed the Prime Minister, when making emergency calls to international leaders.

One way to make this easier to use, though, would be to get a handset which takes a ‘dual-Sim’. This means you have your normal Sim in it, but if that’s not working you can seamlessly switch to a ‘strongest signal’ provider.

I should note at this point I’ve not actually tried this, it’s based on the companies’ notes on how they work. So I would love feedback below from anyone who’s done this.