UPDATED; see last para. This is NOT a card for people who have trouble clearing their balance monthly. The retail rate is 19.9% which can easily bettered elsewhere on many other cards. However, if you always clear your balance and you are after a new Vauxhall then this is the card for ALL of your spending. It gives £3 for every £100 spent off a new car, currently up to a maximum of £2500 discount. I opened one as soon as they came onto the market some years back and have had discount off 3 cars, amounting to ~£5000 and I've never paid them (GM card) a penny. As well as substantial discount off new cars the card also gives smaller discounts off used, Network Q, cars. Discount size depends on model but is around £500 so still worth having if you buy from dealers, as it is on top of any other discounts you can negotiate. As I usually buy small cars such as the Corsa, the discount amounts to a substantial percentage of the negotiated price. In fact, I couldn't use all of my points on my last car change as once I had traded in my last car and then applied the discount they would have ended up owing me money! And there's more: There are such things as 'partner points'. Basically this means that if you use your card with certain traders then you get an additional 3%, totalling £6 per £100 spent. These traders are listed on the GMCard shopping website and include Lunn Poly, Pharmacy2U, BOL, Vauxhall dealerships (some items) and a few others. So, all in all an excellent deal if you want a cheaper vauxhall and always clear your balance. The nearest comparable 'cashback' or points scheme gives 1%, so it's a no brainer. GM (General Motors, of which Vauxhall is a brand) also give you 100 points on opening the card. The card is run by HFC Bank on behalf of GM. Currently they are also offering a balance transfer rate of 4.9% for the first six months upon opening. Other features: I am particularly happy with the online facility available. You can see: your balance, recent & pending transactions, dates paid/to pay, minimum payment, credit limit, interest rates, points balance and previous statements. You can also make balance transfers, payments, change statement date and amend account details. I only wish it would let me download the statement into MS Money (I've asked and they say it 'is coming soon'). UPDATE: Now the bad news: The scheme rules changed in February. Now, instead of always getting a discount of up to £2500 you will be limited by car type. The new limits of discount are: Corsa, Agila, Frontera, VX220 and all Vauxhall Vans £1000 Astra, Astra Coupé Astra Convertible, Zafira £1250 Vectra £1500 Omega £2500 Summary of rebates: ? Rebate Point reward rate=3% ? Partner Point reward rate=3% (in addition to 3% Rebate Points) ? Partner Points can still be earned at GM Card Partners (Avis, Lunn Poly, Vauxhall Dealers and GM Card Online Shopping Centre) ? 1 Rebate Point/Partner Point= £1 off a new Vauxhall
Do you want to save a lot of money on your next car? I did, and at the end of last year saved £4000 off my new car - on top of the discount negotiated with the dealer. Even though UK prices are probably still higher than Europe, it meant I didn't need to leave the UK to get a bargain. I managed to buy a car in the UK and get all the benefits with going through my local dealer. How did I do this? By having a GM visa card and using it for most of my purchases. So how does it work? The GM visa now gives you 3% back towards any new Vauxhall car - a maximum of £2,500 can be saved over 5 years. You get 3 rebate points for every £100 spent on the card. These are not rounded up or down, so it really is a 3% rebate. However, this could be DOUBLED by using your GM visa at the card's "Partners". In theory, it is possible to save £5,000. You can use any Vauxhall dealer of your choice. The number of partners are limited, but the main partner I find most useful is Going Places. By using your GM visa at Going Places you get 6% back towards your next new car. This is a good incentive to spend your money on a holiday, knowing you're also saving towards a new car. Other partners are Avis UK, Vauxhall Dealers or online at the GM card shopping site. Once you have redeemed your points on a new Vauxhall, you'll get 200 "fast-start" points to get you going again. These are worth £200. The card has all the usual features of a credit card, with an average APR. Redeeming your points is easy - there's a number to telephone which is printed on your statement. And, the "rebate" is deducted from the price you pay for the vehicle, rather than being a cashback. This is a very useful cashflow benefit.
I have a dire warning to any of you out there who enjoy entering competitions – be VERY careful if you’re stopped in the street by a market researcher with a clipboard asking you to ‘enter a competition’. I’ll share my story with you….. My parents, both in their seventies, started to get junk mail regarding a GM card. What made warning bells sound was that the letters were addressed to my father but at the house two doors away. At least junk mail usually has the correct address on it. Then a letter arrived enclosing my father’s credit card, which he had not requested, and giving him a credit limit of £500! My mother rang me and asked my advice. I told her not to worry and took the telephone number from her in order to ring the customer services helpline for GM cards. The first girl I spoke to was not very helpful at all. She said that my father must have filled in a card request at the airport. I explained that he has no cause to go to an airport but this didn’t seem to make any difference to her. I asked her to cancel the card forthwith and she told me that my father would have to write and request the cancellation. I reminded her that he had not asked for the card in the first place and told her that, as he suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease, he would not be able to write to her company. I have to admit I was getting pretty angry by this time and it must have showed in my voice as she asked me to hold. The next person who came to the telephone was her supervisor and she was much more helpful. I explained the situation again and she asked if my father could have filled out a request for the card in an airport or filling station. I told her that he would not have visited either of these places. She then asked if he might have filled in the request in the street thinking it was a competition. I thought that this was a strange question but said that, as
we are a family of competition addicts, this could be a possibility. She went on to explain that they had asked an outside firm to take on the marketing for them and were paying them by the number of requests they could get. She said that they had received a lot of complaints like mine as the researchers were telling people that they were entering a competition in order to get their details. I was furious! To be fair she agreed to cancel the card there and then and also put a stop on all correspondence to my parents. She asked me to check that the card had been completely destroyed as well, which I did. What are these people thinking of? To subject a younger person to this sort of underhand trick is bad enough, but to target pensioners is absolutely disgusting. What about those who don’t have someone to help them with worrying mail? Or, even worse, what if the card falls into the wrong hands in transit? No one would know to contact the company, as the card was unsolicited, so the first sign of the card being used would be the bill received by the unsuspecting ‘competition’ entrant. If this sort of behaviour isn’t already illegal it certainly should be!
For APRIL update, please see end of Review UPDATE February 2002 I have decided to include the reason for why I have down-rated this product from 5 stars to 2 stars at the beginning, leaving the original (Crowned) opinion below largely unaltered. There have been previously unannounced and damaging changes to the GM card Conditions of Use to take effect from 1st February 2002 that reduce substantially the advantages that the credit card had previously. The major change is the limit of the discount that you can get. The limit is now £1,000 for a Corsa/Agila/Frontera/VX220 and vans; £1250 for Astras and Zafiras; £1500 for a Vectra; and £2,500 for an Omega. Fortunately the old Conditions still apply until you redeem your current points, provided that you do this before 1st April 2005. Thus this still allows Heather and myself to redeem a further two tranches of more than £2,500 on two new Vauxhalls by that date. If we can bring ourselves to do so, that is .... And hidden in another leaflet is a new “Condition 2 (g)”, requiring you to use the card at least once in every 6 month period. You have to look further on to establish that if you do not comply with this, then “ .... A fee of £10 may be charged ... for our administration costs in contacting you if you are in breach of Condition 2(g)”. Now, I could easily have been in breach of this condition over the. Past 12 months when we have been directing most of our expenditure via Heather’s GM Card .... Oh, and you can no longer get the American Chevvy’s from a Vauxhall Dealer. So, IMHO, until Vauxhalls improve dramatically in the desirability of their cars, I cannot now give the overwhelming approval for the GM card that I did in January 2001 when I wrote this review.... Original (Updated) Opinion: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I was an early convert to the use of credit c
ards. Back in the days before cash machines and Banks still used leather-bound ledgers to record the day’s business (well perhaps not that far back) paying for things could be a problem. Cheque guarantee cards only came in around 1967, and only covered cheques up to £30, so 'wads of cash' were the order of the day when paying for things. At that time, even as little as £50 could be called a ‘wad’, which it was - if all in those old-style 'oncers'!. It is of course still possible to carry a low-cost wad in Scotland, where the Banks still issue poond notes (and I am sure the Executive would also issue groats/bawbies/sprazies if still allowed to mint coins ....). Thus I acquired a Barclaycard in 1971 and retained it up until the time when they started to make an annual charge. I found the convenience of paying with a single cheque each month quite appealing and soon my credit card was been flashed all around Derbyshire and all points south. For clarification, up until 1980, I had never been further North than Newcastle (and generally had no intention of doing so), but that's another story (or opinion) as to how I came to be in Edinburgh ! When first announced, the GM card seemed too good to be true. It was issued by General Motors, as a result of its success in the USA and allowed you to 'earn' discounts when buying a new Vauxhall car or van. I never had any particular desire to buy a new Vauxhall over and above any other make of car, but when I first saw the GM card advertised in 1993 or 1994, I thought – now here’s a bargain if ever I saw one, and within a week of their issue I had a GM card (with a 'very early number', as the ‘customer service people always tell me on the phone). I pay no heed to the interest charges made by credit card companies, since I am always able to pay off my credit card bill each month. But now here was a card with real
benefits. No hoarding of points to get a ‘free gift’ as had become the case with Barclaycard (worth about 0.5%, I worked it out as at one point), but with the GM card initially you got the equivalent of £5 per £100 spent to be used against the purchase of a new Vauxhall, up to a maximum of £500 a year and £2,500 over a 5 year period. This was the original 'deal'). There were also (and still are) 'partner points', where you get double points with certain retailers. At one time, this included Esso Petrol and Comet Store purchases, but now the only ones worthwhile are Vauxhall garages, Great Western Hotels and Hertz Rentacar. Still it seems that I have earned over 200 extra ‘partner points’ since buying that Corsa (see April 2002 update below) ... A potential problem is that you cannot retain points after 5 years, so that points over 5 years’ old are lost, progressively from your account. Thus I signed up and duly earned my first 500 points within a year, and I was well on the way to earning the next 500 over the following year. Then, they altered the rules, giving you the option of staying on the existing system, or agreeing to a reduced rate of £3 for each £100 spent, but with the addition of a £200 ‘bonus’ and removal of the £500 a year limit. At that time I was directing more and more of my spending through the credit card, and could see the advantage of this altered system, so I agreed to the change (obviously at the 'last minute', so that I could maximise the number of points earned). Thus, I had 2,300 points accumulated on my GM card by July 1997, when I needed a new small car for the whole family, including 3 children to drive/learn to drive on. Now, Vauxhall are very keen to tell you that the GM point discount is separate from any discount that you negotiate with the dealer. Thus, many people assume that you should not tell the dealer about your GM points
until after you have agreed a deal. In my opinion – WRONG !! By declaring your GM points (and making sure that you are trying Vauxhall garages from other groups of dealers in your area) you can show the dealer that you are SERIOUS about buying this particular Vauxhall car, and you WILL buy it from him, at the right price. This worked well in my case and I had 3 garage groups competing for my business, eventually 'screwing' them down so that I got the lowest price from the closest dealer. The eventual saving that resulted was over £3,200 off a car which then cost me £6,200 on the road with one year 'free' insurance, and velour car mats and locking wheel nuts 'thrown in'. This was a Corsa Breeze 5 door *(see opinion already written). That extra £2,300 discount in effect paid for at least half of the depreciation over the 3 years that I owned the car before selling it to my elder daughter (at a price well below a dealer's price). Some bargain, what ? After buying the Corsa, I was delighted to find that a further 200 ‘bonus’ points had been added to my account ‘as a thank you for buying a new Vauxhall’. My account now stands at 2,708 points but, for the past 8 months we have been directing most of our credit card business via a second account. Taken out in Heather’s name. This itself attracted a 200 point initial bonus, so we now have over 1800 points already in that account (as at 9 July). So, how do we accumulate so many points? Well, we doo direct all possible spending through the credit card. Even £3 or £4 spent a Safeway’s is put on the GM bill. Remember, even a £3.33 spend is worth the equivalent of a 10 pence discount, so all possible spending is done through the card. Incidentally, there is no annual fee and our daughters had no problems in getting a card as soon as they started working full time. Attemp
ts to get one when they were students failed. I believe that GM require an income of at least £8,000 pa before they will issue a card. Admittedly, with the use I make of it, I need my card 'replaced' every 9 months or so because of 'wear and tear'. Sometimes, it has been known to almost 'self-combust' after a particularly heavy shopping session, directed by Heather. The Gee family's credit card spending habits are a frequent topic of conversation (!) at dinner and lunch parties in our area but there are none of our neighbours who are quite so committed to spending on their credit cards. As I see it, we have spent no money that we wouldn’t spend anyway, and there is the advantage that there are rarely wads of cash around the house or on our person to attract 'thieves and vagabonds'. This 3% return on what we spend is well and truly worth having. Now, 8 years since taking out the card and we have received or can get discounts totalling almost £7,000 !! OK, I will admit, Vauxhalls may not be the very best cars on the road, but they are not all that bad. Obviously the economics may not be so clear-cut on larger Vauxhalls, but for the Corsa, the Astra, the Zafira, the VX220 and possibly the new Vectra - well, they are not such bad cars. If you can boost your discount so much, then this must make the Vauxhall much more 'competitive' with other similar models on the market. You could splash out on a Yankee GM car - how about a Chevvy Blazer 4WD (RHD) or a Caddie (RHD). If yoo can handle LHD, there was the Camaro range or even a Corvette !! But sadly this option is now no longer. The points could allay some of the costs when some Vauxhall dealers (such as 'Premier' in Edinburgh now stock the full Chevrolet/Cadillac range. I tried to persuade them to allow me to use my points against a Chevrolet Blazer when they were selling them off at £16950, but
the vehicles were 'factory pre-registered', and wouldn't. It really does surprise me how very few of our friends use a GM card, and how many still carry significant amounts of cash around with them or in their houses. Heather and I manage on about £10 cash a week each (unless I am travelling on business, when I might need a little more – for tipping taxi drivers, please note, kenjohn !!), but our credit cards are our constant and trusty companions. A multi-function card from our Bank also allows us to have debit card facilities and to draw cash out of a cash machine or via supermarket shopping when we need it. That is also useful for spending larger wads than the credit card will allow (see my Vauxhall Astra review). I suppose it is just having a financial strategy that works well for us and our circumstances. We can now access our account details on the web, and pay the account each month by telephone banking, and there has never been interest paid on the balance owing. On one occasion, over a Christmas period, we did get charged interest because the cheque we had sent then had not been cleared in time but, when we complained, that was 'corrected'. These problems have ceased with telephone banking. I will admit that I am a little disappointed as regards the low level of discount allowed against a Vauxhall dealers' Network Q second hand car. £500 maximum seemed a little mean - but even that is no longer an option now ! Footnote The commentary from nikkisly has been duly noted. Certainly when I use the points in question, I shall describe my experiences. With the recent 'glut' of new cars, more and more pre-registered cars have appeared on dealers' forecourts. Often these offer a very good deal, the major disadvantage being that sometimes yoo have to compromise on the colour/specification. The other possible disadvantage is that yoo may not be the first name in the lo
g book and it may not have the latest 'registration letter'. The availability of pre-registered cars cannot be predicted but all deals have to be checked out carefully to ensure that they are the best for yoo at the time when yoo want to buy the car. Pre-registered cars generally 'appear' towards the end of the month, as dealers try to make their 'targets'. The two specific examples which I saw of that last September (when we started looking for a new car possibly for January 2001 delivery). Premier Motors, the nearest Edinburgh dealer had an Astra (forget the spec.) and a 2.5 V6 Vectra. They were at excellent prices, the Astra being about £2,000 off and the Vectra £5,000 off, at £14995 for a special edition Vectra, in 'Mirage' with pale coloured leather). The dealer wouldn't contemplate allowing my points against this "special Vauxhall purchase price" (as he called it) and the £ 5,000 discount offered. We just might have been tempted if he had (but the 'extra' we paid for the Accord Type R was money well-spent). It is also the end of the month which is the generally the best time to try and negotiate a deal, but it MUST be for IMMEDIATE delivery (which might just allow the dealer to achieve sales targets). Of course there are models which you will never find as 'pre-registered' or discounted. The Astra Sri and the VX220 sports car comes to mind with Vauxhalls, and you can still use your GM points on that VX220 (if you can get in and out of it without the risk of damaging your internal workings !). When the current Astra was first sold, Vauxhall even placed a temporary 'moratorium' on using GM points against the purchase. If I had wanted one of those at that time, I would have been 'rather annoyed'. Who knows what other detrimental changes will be introduced - so do you really want a Vauxhall THAT much that the extr
a discount will make a difference ? UPDATE APRIL 2002 One of the great problems with working as a Consultant is that the workload (and hence income) becomes rather a case of either having a feast or having a famine. From last September through to this March, it has been a real famine. Now I am getting fat again ... Thus it takes time to deal with the 'problems in life'. And one of these has been specifying and ordering a new Vauxhall using my GM card points. If I do nothing then the points start to expire in July of this year. Specifying When we bought a Corsa in 1996 (see my review - un-crowned, BTW), there was no problem apart from determining the colour (Metallic Green) and deciding whether or not we should have central locking (NOT I decided, because I had fore-seen the potential problem of an undesirable trying to enter the car whilst one of our daughters was driving). Now, almost 5 years later, there have been problems in making a decision. This car is to replace our Renault Espace, and I thought that a Vauxhall Zafira would be the ideal choice (bought from the website www.broker4cars.co.uk - see my review). But hey ! This Gee family is run as a democracy, so there was a family conference, and Heather and myself visited the two local Vauxhall dealers and crawled over the Zafira, the Corsa and the Astra. We rejected out of hand the VX220 (at my size for G*d-sakes !), the Astra Coupe (not an attractive body, IMHO), the Vectra (old one losing money fast and the new one un-tested) and the Omega (another license to lose money). The Astra convertible tempted, but vandalism of soft-tops is rife in Edinburgh, unfortunately. The Zafira was eventually rejected. A little small to be a direct replacement for the Espace, and we now only need the carrying capacity once or twice a year (when a van can be hired for £20 a day). But the price available from broker4cars was very tem
pting (from £10,900 on the road, less our GM points). We had previously tried a Corsa 1.0, and were not impressed. I also tried a 1.2 litre, but this did not quite 'cut the mustard'. A 1.4 litre Corsa Comfort is available until the end of April with Free Insurance, but no dealer could offer a test drive in one of these. Even broker4cars could only offer one as a direct factory order, but with a total discount of almost £1300 that was tempting. Pity we didn't like the Corsa. Trying to find a sports model Corsa (the 1.4/1.8 SRi) - or even the Turbo-diesel SXi which has the 'sports suspension') to test drive was equally abortive. What is the point of spending your good money on buying a car when you have not tried either THAT model, or at least one that has the same feature(s) that seem so attractive in the brochure ? The sports suspension could have transformed the car - or, more likely, made it very uncomfortable). So, it all came back to the Astra. But which model ? The economy of the "Eco4" tempted, but again a test drive would have been essential and was not available. The 1.8 gave adequate performance, and the choice narrowed between the 1.8 SXi 5 door and the 1.8 SRi 5 Door. A review will be posted to explain how the final decision for a 1.8 SRi was made. The total factory cost with extras is £15,395, but an 'up-front' total discount of £1519 is available through broker4cars, together with a further £525 discount available from Vauxhall through their current Finance package. All the deal is carried out through the Vauxhall main dealer in Ripley Derbyshire who pay a commission to broker4cars. We take out a loan to finance £1500, payable over 12 months with interest charges of £224.50 BUT for this model, Vauxhall give a £750 Deposit allowance, so we are in profit to the extent of £525.50. All legal and above-board. Thus, the discount totals £2,044 (13.27%!!) AND in addi
tion, there are my GM points. But how many can I redeem ? I knew that I had in excess of £2500, so in March I telephoned the Points Redemption Centre to enquire what proportion I could spend. I was told that I had 2,725.17 points available. This indicated 225.17 'partner points'. Now, I could not see that almost 10% of my spending had earned 'partner points', but on discussing this matter with the Customer services bod, we decided that the initial 200 points that Vauxhall 'gave' me when I bought the Corsa were being counted as 'partner points'. Great, I thought .... But then. a bit later, I looked at my last statement and saw that this was the Total Number of points that I had earned, which increased to 2,965.25 in my next statement. I telephoned again, several times, to be given a variety of answers - from "2,500" (i.e. NO partner points) to "it depends on which model you are buying"), but no definite total. I then wrote to the Points Centre and complained. I did however make a typing error in that I quoted "2,755.17 points" as the total that I had been quoted in March. The reply arrived stating that I had "2,755.17 points" (!!!) available to redeem on my next Vauxhall (with the balance remaining for future purchases). Thus, the cost of the factory order UK delivered Astra SRi (with extras) ends up at £10,599 - a total discount of 31.2 per cent. As soon as the first repayment has been made on the £1500 loan, I will try to negotiate a discount for early repayment. Delivery within 4 to 6 weeks. A £200 deposit has been paid. And all from forward thinking (in applying for and using a GM card) and looking for the BEST deal. Beat THAT if you can ! And, Heather now has 1732 points on her card. I can transfer my points to her when she uses them, before April 2005. Now I hope that Vauxhall introduces some decent new models and broker4car
s is still around at that time. © Sidneygee 2002
The GM Card, like the Goldfish card, is issued by the HFC Bank. There is only one choice of design, and it is only available as a Visa card. The APR on balance transfers from other credit cards for the first six months is an excellent 4.9%, however after that it rises to the same APR as for purchases - 19.9%. APR on cash withdrawals is a staggering 21.8%, and is associated with the usual credit card handling fee for cash withdrawals. The real benefit with the GM Card is that it offers the highest reward rate of any credit card issuer - 3% on purchases made using the card (for every 100 pounds you spend, you get 3 rebate points). While this sounds great, this has to be balanced against the fact that these rebate points can only be redeemed off purchasing a new Vauxhall car (up to 2,500 points), or a used one through Network Q (up to 500 points). Points are redeemed at a rate of one point per pound. Obviously if you're looking to buy a new car, and are considering a Vauxhall, this makes the GM Card a great choice - otherwise, essentially, it's just another credit card. It's free to have a GM Card, and it's possible to apply for them online (at www.gmcard.co.uk). You only need an annual income of £4,000 to apply. Also, cardholders can check their balance and make payments (using debit cards) through the GM Card website. The GM Card is also covered by the "marbles" safe shopping promise - covering your use of the card over the internet. As with other HFC credit cards, they seem only too pleased to offer excessive credit limits, and so far, my experiences of their helpline have been positive. Overall, therefore, I'm pretty enthusiastic about the card, despite the fact that I'm unlikely to ever use the reward scheme.