Your Money: PRECIOUS METAL; You Needn't Be Rich to Get Perks of Gold or Platinum Cards

Article excerpt

Byline: MELANIE WRIGHT

How would you like free travel insurance, discounts on CDs and videos and free extended warranties on household appliances?

If none of those tempt you, then how about free AA breakdown cover or cashback on your plastic?

These are just a few of the perks that banks offer to the holders of gold and platinum current accounts and credit cards.

Cue a loud chorus of "Why do the rich get all the freebies?" Well in this case they don't. Because you don't need to be filthy rich to apply for gold or platinum and take advantage of such great perks.

Most banks, such as Lloyds TSB, NatWest and the Royal Bank of Scotland, require a minimum income of pounds 15,000-pounds 20,000 to qualify for their top-line credit cards - but they can be flexible. To open a gold or platinum current account there is usually no minimum income requirement, but you will often be charged a monthly fee of around pounds 10 a month.

A spokesman for Lloyds TSB said: "If a customer has been with us for a long time and has a good credit history, then they may be invited to join a Platinum service even if they don't earn that much."

Melanie Stewart, head of research at Moneyfacts magazine, said: "Gold and platinum credit cards and current accounts are much more widely available to people than they were in the past. Now many of us are eligible.

"Of course lots of people like them because they are a status symbol, but the perks can be very good too."

Here's our quick guide to what the banks are offering

GOLD AND PLATINUM

CURRENT ACCOUNTS

As our table on the right shows, most banks - apart from Lloyds TSB - don't have a minimum income requirement to open a gold or platinum current account. Barclays Platinum Banking service, for example, is free and there is no minimum salary. To be eligible, however, customers must already have a Barclays current account and either pounds 10,000 or more in a Barclays savings account, a Barclays loan of pounds 10,000 or a Barclays mortgage of pounds 50,000 or more.

You will also qualify if you have any two of the following products with Barclays - savings of pounds 5,000 or more, a loan of pounds 5,000 or more, a mortgage of pounds 25,000 or more, a home, car, or life insurance policy, a pension, or a Barclaycard Gold or Platinum.

Barclays said it now has more than 600,000 Platinum Banking customers and that 40 per cent of those earn less than pounds 20,000. The perks are that you get a pounds 250 cheque guarantee limit, compared to the standard pounds 50, plus two years' free extended warranty on household appliances.

You also get purchase cover protection when you use your Platinum debit card. This covers items purchased over pounds 50 up to pounds 1,500 for 100 days against loss, theft or accidental damage. …