Newest Review: ... which allows you to view your balance and statements, and make payments online. == The Loyalty Scheme == The Amazon Mastercard gives you... more
One Amazon Mastercard...And You're Done
Member Name: collingwood21
Advantages: Earn Amazon gift certificates, Easy to manage your account online, Card widely accepted
Disadvantages: Unsuitable for anyone who can't pay off their balance in full each month; Low cashback rate
=== Why This Card? ===
Up until a year ago, my credit card of choice had been the Halifax Ipoints card - I had had it for about 8 years and it had suited my needs excellently over that time. Unfortunately, last year some changes at the Ipoints website (including a rebranding of their online loyalty scheme as "maximiles") meant their contract with Halifax was abruptly terminated, and I was given short notice that I would no longer receive Ipoints as a reward for purchasing items on my card. No bonus meant no more Halifax credit card as far as I was concerned, so the hunt was on for a new replacement, ready to take over the place of my Halifax card the moment I stopped earning Ipoints for using it. As you have probably guessed from the category this is posted in, my ultimate choice was the Amazon Mastercard. But why amongst the hundreds of potential credit cards out there did I choose this one? There were several reasons that influenced my choice:
* I don't earn a huge salary, so any card that required a large minimum income level (such as a platinum card) was not worth applying for.
* I pay off the balance every month, so looking for a low or 0% APR (annual percentage rate, or what proportion of the debt you pay to the credit card company in charges) was irrelevant to me. Equally, I never spent huge amounts on any card, so I didn't need to look for a company that offered high credit limits.
* By not being dependent on getting a low APR, this freed me to look for a card that gave me something back for using it. There are a wide variety of cards that offer such incentives these days, and without paying any charges, this effectively meant I would be paid for using the card on transactions I would have made anyway.
* If I was going to get something back I would prefer that it paid out regularly, rather than an annual cashback as most cards and loyalty schemes seem to offer - this would give me tangible results quicker! Cashback is available is a myriad of different ways from different schemes, so I also wanted payments that were going to be of practical use to me (so not in Airmiles, then).
* I wasn't keen on getting an American Express card as they aren't very widely accepted in the UK, which therefore reduced the usefulness of a credit card and limited opportunities for earning any cashback. This ruled out the Nectar credit card as well as the American Express cashback options.
After much consideration, I decided that the Amazon credit card fitted these requirements well. There were no restrictions on who could apply in regards to income level, it was a Mastercard and therefore widely accepted, and the rewards would come in the form of loyalty points that could be exchanged for Amazon vouchers (which are most definitely practical and useful to me). There was also an initial bonus when I joined up a year ago that gave me £10 after my first use of the card, which was applied automatically to my account as soon as I became eligible for it (after being a member of all sorts of online loyalty and cashback schemes over the years, it always amazes me when I don't have to chase after such things). This introductory offer now gives you £10 on to your Amazon account rather than your credit card account, which is awarded on approval of your new card instead of after the first use of it.
== The Application Process ==
Unusually for Amazon, finding the page that lets you sign up for their Mastercard proved quite tricky; they certainly don't seem to go out of their way to advertise this service (it's here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/cobrandcard/marketing.h tml/). Having tracked down the application page, applying for the card proves much easier: a short form to fill in with your details, and an instant approval process means some customers will get their new account straight away (if you don't, Amazon warn you that you will have to wait up to two weeks for a manual approval process to be completed). If you get instantly approved you don't need to wait for your plastic to arrive before you can use it to shop on Amazon - they add the card to your Amazon account as a payment method immediately. The full card number isn't revealed to you at this point, however, so you can't run amok with it elsewhere until you have received and activated it.
My card arrived in the post about a week after I applied for it (pretty good compared to some other cards I have had to wait weeks for in the past). Once you receive it, you need to visit the online card services website at http://www.bankofamerica.co.uk/amazon/ to activate it and set up your online account, which allows you to view your balance and statements, and make payments online.
== The Loyalty Scheme ==
The Amazon Mastercard gives you 1 Loyalty Point for every £1 spent on your card at Amazon and 1 Loyalty Point for every £2 spent on your card elsewhere. For every 1,000 Loyalty Points that you earn, you are automatically emailed a £10 Amazon gift certificate. The number of points you have collected is shown in your online card services account page, and the balance is updated after each individual transaction (so you don't need to wait until the end of the month if for your gift certificate if you qualify for it at the beginning of the month - another thing I like).
I'm sure you won't be astounded to learn that these loyalty points are not a huge amount in terms of cashback: you would have to spend £1,000 at Amazon or £2,000 elsewhere to qualify for a £10 voucher, which represents a 1% and 0.5% cashback rate respectively. Such rates are never going to make you rich, but in a world where every other thing you read incorporates the phrase "the current economic climate" as a reason for you getting less or paying more for something, this is still a case where I am receiving something I like for free. I have paid not a penny in interest or charges for my card in the year I have had it, all transactions made on it are things that I would have bought anyway, and every now and again I get a £10 Amazon voucher emailed to me to spend on what I please. Not great value admittedly, but a nice little bonus for anyone who is able to use their credit card carefully.
== Online Management ==
The whole of my Amazon Mastercard account is run online; I have had nothing since my initial paperwork through the post, and have never had any cause to phone their call centre (which is good for me, but it does mean I can't offer any information about what they are like). I find the website reliable and easy to use, although it does get a little slow sometimes. I have had no reason to question the security of the website; they have a two stage log-in process and say they use the highest level of encryption currently available.
The online service page allows you to access your statements, view your credit limit, apply for a higher limit (although I find they give me a very generous amount, so I very much doubt I would need this), transfer a balance, view your PIN (one number at a time for security reasons) and make a payment. Monthly bills are issued around the middle of the month, and once a new statement is available, you are emailed a notification that you can now log into your account to view it and make payments. It takes about 24 hours between the appearance of the statement in your account and the email being sent, so it is possible to pay off your month's bill before you receive your notice should you wish to.
I have not experienced any problems with the online services, although I do notice that the online payment system defaults automatically to taking a payment for the minimum amount, which I don't like but would expect from a credit card provider. It pays to check this carefully and amend the amount paid to "full amount" if you want to run your account without charges, as the standard APR on the Amazon Mastercard is a bloated 16.9%, which will soon make any unpaid purchases very expensive indeed.
== Final Thoughts ==
My year with the Amazon Mastercard has proved to be a positive one. I have no real source of complaints - the card has never been rejected; I have never needed to speak to customer services as everything has (amazingly!) just worked; the card has proved simple to manage online, and of course I have enjoyed spending my free Amazon vouchers. So do I recommend this credit card?
- You can pay off your balance in full every month. 16.9% is a high rate of interest.
- You use Amazon regularly and would like to get free gift certificates for transactions you would have made anyway.
- You are happy to manage your credit card account online.
- You have debt to clear on a credit card or only pay the minimum balance each month. Go for a card with a cheaper rate, or you will be paying far more in charges than you earn in Amazon credit.
- You can get accepted for a card than offers a more competitive cashback rate (some American Express cards offer up to 5% as part of their introductory offer, but you need a substantial salary to qualify for them).
Summary: A useful credit card that earns me free Amazon vouchers for things I would have done anyway