“ Mastercard „
Of all the credit cards I have used over the years, the Partnership John Lewis Waitrose one is my favourite. Perhaps it's an odd thing of which to have a favourite, but you see, it's not just about the card (mine is black, which I rather like), but the service behind it. Being in my late twenties, maybe it is a little early for me to be mourning the loss of service in this country, but I am finding more and more that large companies in particular are often incompetent. Not so with Partnership Card Services, however. This organisation actually seems to have struck a balance between the friendliness of a smaller company and the benefits of a large one.
One of the best features of this credit card is that you earn points every time you use it at any of the 25 million Mastercard outlets around the world, with John Lewis, Waitrose and Ocado earning you more than non-affiliated outlets. With a typical APR of 16.9%, it might not be the lowest possible rate available, but it seems to be fairly reasonable in this respect, and there is no annual fee. There is even a choice of colours: pink, black, silver or green. Despite having had this Mastercard for several years, when I enquired about transferring a balance from another card last year, JL Partnership offered me a very low rate of just 2% for six months. This was sufficient time in which to clear the outstanding balance, so it made the balance transfer fee of 2.5% well worthwhile in this case.
The points you earn are converted into vouchers, which are sent out every few months in £5 denominations, and since I now buy everything on this card that I would normally pay for with cash or a debit card and then pay it off in full, these do start to add up over the months. As I mentioned earlier, my experience of the customer service behind this organisation has been second to none, and it's available 24 hours a day. The staff are always polite, friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. I don't know how they manage to ensure this on such a large scale, but having become accustomed to apathetic call centre staff who often give you the wrong information, this makes a refreshing change. I'm not saying they never get it wrong; I'm sure it must happen. Just not to me. And not in the six years I have been a customer. In fact, ever keen to stay on top of my finances, I recently overpaid my credit card by mistake! When I requested the difference back - something that had taken an alternative credit card provider three weeks to organise - JLP told me a cheque would be issued within the next seven to ten days. It arrived in three.
Another thing that impressed me with this company was when someone tried to use my card fraudulently via the internet. Partnership spotted the suspicious transaction immediately, despite the fact that it was carried out on a website I had previously used myself - without being intercepted by the Fraud Squad! Yet, somehow, they knew that on this occasion, it did not fit with my normal spending habits and stopped the card there and then. The only irritation was that I had to wait for a replacement before I could use it again, but better that than have to dispute the transaction and wait to get my money back.
One other point that I would like to make is that I'm always slightly annoyed by companies using the issuing of your credit card statement as an opportunity for marketing their other financial services. JLP was no exception and every month, without fail, I would receive information about various products and services that they thought may be of interest to me - and which I invariably threw in the bin without reading. It occurred to me how many trees might have been saved over the years, so the next time I opened my statement, I put all the leaflets back in the envelope they came in and wrote a note to explain that, (whilst I'm not obsessed with environmental issues), I didn't like the idea of all that glossy paper being produced and thrown in the bin by me for no good reason. My next statement arrived minus the leaflets. I turned the envelope upside down and shook it. Nothing. Just a statement. This is a company that actually listens. Such a thing does exist.
I have had my Partnership Card for a few years now and I do have to say that as I reduce my debt and my cards, this is one card that I will keep. The Partnership Card is a Credit Card offered by the John Lewis Partnership. It is run by John Lewis Financial Services.
Signing Up, Online Access and Call Centre
I signed up for this card online in order to get a 0% offer. The signing up process was easy and I had my answer immediately. The card was sent soon after and I was able to begin to use it.
The online access on the whole is very easy to use. Once you have signed up you can check your account online. You will be able to go back to statements for 6 months. I always seem to press the wrong button when I am trying to access my online statements as the buttons are labelled 'Statement History' or 'Download Statement'. The latter is for users who want the information in Money98 or Excel format. I also seem to struggle to check my accounts late at night on Sunday - if the company is doing upgrade work they do not let you know on the website.
Calling John Lewis Financial Services' call centre about the Partnership Card is easy. The opening hours are a bit restrictive (no calling at 2am) but I have found the staff really helpful.
Interest Rates and Balance Transfer (BT)
The current APR rate is 16.9% which is quite high but not as high as I have seen. The BT process is easy and I have been offered a number of 0% or very low percentage BTs over the years that I have had the card. Each BT offered is for about 5-6 months at most and usually comes with a BT fee of between 2% and 3%. This is a useful feature if you need to BT regularly without having to apply for new credit cards.
As well as the regular BTs the Partnership Card rewards you for spending and you get points. 1 point for every £2 spent in all stores and 1 point for every £1 spent with John Lewis Partnership stores and services. Every 500 points gets converted into a £5 gift voucher that you can use to spend in store which is great for a fan of John Lewis.
A great card that offers incentives for spending (!) and allows you to manage your finances through balance transfers.
I was after a credit card that would offer me something in return and eventually went for the John Lewis / Waitrose Partnership card. It was voted the best credit card by Which? which helped me decide on this card, also another factor was the well regarded customer service that John Lewis has. Signing up for the card was easy, you fill out a form online then they send it through the post to sign and return. It only took a few weeks to sign up and get the card and account details. The card is associated with HSBC so I could easierly change the pin at any HSBC cash point. It offers you 1 point for every 2 pound you spend and 2 points for every pound you spend in store at John Lewis, Waitrose and Ocado , with 500 points earning you a £5 gift voucher. It may sound they like it would take ages to reach these totals but if you are already using a CC and not earning any extra benefits then it makes sense to switch to the Partnership card as at least you are gaining something. Upon the account starting I was setup with 6 months 0% on purchases and 0% on balance transfers. I have not had any problems with the customer service and I always seem to get through to someone promptly. If you are after a CC that gives you a bit extra then you can't go wrong with this one.
I got my John Lewis Waitrose card because I do a lot of shopping in Waitrose and I was going to get a better deal by using the card in store by way of free John Lewis Vouchers and also getting their very good Monthly magazine free of charge. You receive vouchers 3 times year in £5 increments.
I also earn rewards when I shop at John Lewis. The service you receive is very good and on the occasions I have had to contact customer services they have been very helpful and pleasant. You earn points at half the rate when you use the card in non John Lewis Partnership stores- but it all adds up. You have the option of viewing your bill and paying your account on line.
As will all credit cards, if you are not going to pay the balance in full every month- you must weigh up the rate of interest against the rewards.
Most credit cards now offer some kind of rewards system. If you are a sensible user of credit cards then one of these would make sense. I regularly review the credit cards on offer to see if I could get a better deal elsewhere.
Note: I do not encourage or endorse the use of credit cards to spend beyond your means. Ok I'm off of the soapbox now, back to the review.
JLP stands for John Lewis Partnership, comprising John Lewis, John Lewis Online, Waitrose food stores and Ocado.com.
~~~ The Basics ~~~
The partnership card is the credit card offered by the John Lewis Financial Services which was formed with the purpose of providing financial services to John Lewis Partnership customers. John Lewis FS is actually part of the HSBC Group of companies [Source: partnership card Legal information]
Everyone knows John Lewis. One of the upmarket department stores that offers virtually everything (including kitchen sinks!) at reasonable prices and been around since the 1800s. So a great reputation putting it's name to a credit card.
The card is a Mastercard, so accepted globally. The card comes in 4 colours, pink, black, green and a sage colour. The card has partnership written in the top left corner and underneath it say 'John Lewis Waitrose'. Beneath that is the chip for chip & pin and your long card number, start/end dates and your name. On the right is the Mastercard logo.
As with most credit cards nowadays, you can apply via their website quite easily after filling in a form with relevant information. URL at the end of this review. Everyone knows how a credit works and it's payment/billing method so I won't bore you with that.
~~~ Interest Rates ~~~
For new sign-ups the card currently offers 0% on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 6 months. This is particularly good for a number of reasons. Firstly if you have existing amounts owing on other credit cards, you can save by transfering to this 0% interest, but don't forget the 2% balance transfer free. At the same time you can make purchases and only have to pay the minimum amount each month. Just remember to pay off the balance before the promotion expires and avoid high interest rates.
Secondly, the period for both Balance Transfers and Purchases is the same. Some credit cards offer different periods which means you can end up in a negative payment hierarchy. That is if you think you have paid off the debt with the shorter period but still have a debt on the longer period, the amount you have paid will only apply to the debt on the longer period and you will rack up interest on the shorter period debt. My advice if you do go for a credit with different promotion periods for each is to have separate cards for each type of debt. The following is a statement from the partnership card website:
"If you do not pay off your balance in full, payments we receive are applied first to Payment Protection Insurance premiums, then to Default and other charges, fees, interest and then Balance Transfers, Storecard Transfers, Cheque Transactions, Cash Advances and Purchases with lower rate introductory or promotional items repaid before items with no introductory or promotional rate, unless we notify you otherwise. Please refer to "Allocation of Payments" section in your Agreement for a full breakdown."
Outside of promotional periods the interest rates (dated Jun-08) is 16.9% APR for Purchases and Balance Transfers and 18.9% APR for cash advances. I pay off my credit card bill in full each month therefore not incurring any interest charges. My advice to you is to do the same.
~~~ The Benefits ~~~
As with other credit card you have a period between purchasing an item and when you have to pay for it. That is pretty standard, as is the minimum payment amount, chip & pin. This also includes servicing your credit card account online so you can check your balance, payment and how many points you have earnt. I won't dwell on the standard things.
The main advantage is that you can earn points which result in John Lewis partnership card vouchers. You earn 1 point for every £1 spent in John Lewis, John Lewis online and Waitrose food stores. Everywhere else you ear 1 point for every £2 you spend. Another thing to note here is that only whole amounts of spending will count. For example £3.82 spent in John Lewis will only result in 3 points. Similarly, £3.82 spent outside of the JLP will only result in 1 point. I use my card for petrol, bills and groceries, so I mostly try and spend even pounds outside of JLP but it is not always possible. vouchers are sent out 3 times a year in denominations of 500 points. 500 points is worth £5 and the vouchers are sent out 3 times a year in February, June and October.
John Lewis is one of my favourite stores so I relish the prospect of being able to earn vouchers on my normal spending. To be honest I would be spending the money anyway so if I can I put it on my partnership card. The way I see it is my normal everyday spending allows me to indulge in some of the unique pieces John Lewis sells. I have had the card for about 5 years and have probably earnt over £500 in vouchers. How much you will earn will be wholly dependant on your spending patterns. You can use the vouchers in any of the JLP establishments but they come printed with your name and a 2-year expiry date, so you couldn't give them as a gift. However, you can earn points buying JLP gift vouchers as JLP purchases.
~~~ Anything Else? ~~~
Yes, I've had to dispute a number of charges to my account. Fraudulent transactions from an online gambling website that I never participated in and transactions I have had to dispute with UK merchants. For the fraudulent transactions, partnership card services immediately froze my card, returned the charges back to the merchant and issued me with new cards so promptly and efficiently that I cannot fault it. Once I informed them that it wasn't me, they didn't question it any further.
For the disputed transactions, they put the transaction on hold until further investigation established whether they could be removed. This means it is frozen and not actually applied until a course of action is determined. You just have to complete a form (available on the card website) and send it back. I had to dispute the charge of an item I never received and also a charge for services I never received. Again it was dealt with the utmost professionalism and efficiency that I have no quibbles and it always felt like the card services were working for me rather than the merchants. But then I am never wrong so why would they question me ;o) lol
Customer services is 24 hours, my calls are always answered and dealt with promptly without any hassle.
~~~ Verdict ~~~
So in summary you can't just measure how good a credit card is on the basis of it's rewards system alone. You have to factor in the things like online account servicing and customer services. For me this comes up trumps on all these things. In the industry I'm known as a rate tart, which means I will follow the best rate around. However because I really like John Lewis and the rewards system fits nicely into my current lifestyle I will be sticking with this a long time to come - it is my little indulgence. My vouchers are always received shortly after being notified that they have been sent and I have never had any issues with this aspect nor any other, I really can't fault them.
Oh there is no annual fee either which is an excellent bonus. You don't even need a John Lewis near you as you can use the vouchers online and currently with free shipping.
~~~ Additional Information ~~~
I could regurgitate the summary that is provided on the website at http://www.partnershipcard.co.uk/html/summarybox.jsp, but rather than clog up the review here, you can go and check out things like charges, latest interest rates and a simple illustration.
For further information check out http://www.partnershipcard.co.uk
Also posted on other sites by me.
© jupiter28 2008