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Credit cards: Who owns your plastic?

close up of a credit card chipA Confused.com guide to which banks own which credit cards

Your bank owns your credit card – right? Think again! Just because a bank or a company has their name on your card, doesn’t mean they own it. That’s simply their way of branding.

In many cases, those so-called white-label credit cards are provided by a third party…but who?

Confused.com enters the maze of credit card ownership to find out which banks own which cards…

The background

Keeping up with who owns what in the financial services industry is never easy, particularly when it comes to credit cards.

And, it’s just got even more confusing thanks to the recent wave of consolidation in the banking sector, creating anomalies where banks have the same parent company but a different credit card provider.

Who owns what? 

One of the UK’s biggest credit card providers is MBNA Europe Bank.

As well as offering its own-brand credit cards, it also provides plastic for:

  • Alliance & Leicester
  • Virgin Money
  • Smaller building societies
  • 400 affinity cards including Manchester United, Liverpool Football Club, the WWF and the British Heart Foundation

Barclaycard

Barclaycard are also a major card issuer after acquiring Discover Financial Services’ UK credit card portfolio last year. While most of us may not have heard of Discover before, many of its brands are household names, such as Goldfish, Morgan Stanley and the Caravan Club.

Barclaycard has since rebranded all these cards to contain the Barclaycard name, but also provides a number of cards for third parties including Sky, Thomas Cook, Argos, Bhs and Hilton Hotels.

Multiple brands

A number of banks operate cards under several of their own brand names:

  • The Royal Bank of Scotland has credit cards bearing its own name and NatWest’s, as well as Mint.
  • The Bank of Ireland provides credit cards for the Post Office, as well as their own brand.
  • HBOS offers credit cards under both the Halifax and Bank of Scotland names, in addition to more than 30 affinity or co-branded cards.

Co-operative Bank

The Co-operative Bank has its own credit card and one under its Smile brand. It also has 18 affinity cards with charities including Amnesty International, Oxfam, the Woodland Trust and the RSPCA

But who is the owner?

Just because two banks belong to the same banking group, doesn’t mean it’s safe to assume their credit cards have the same owner.

Lloyds TSB and Halifax are both owned by Lloyds Banking Group, but as they operate under separate banking licences, their credit cards are classed as having separate owners.

Abbey and Alliance & Leicester both belong to Spanish banking giant Santander. Abbey provides its own cards, but Alliance & Leicester cards are issued by MBNA.

Why it matters

So is it really that important to know who owns your plastic? The answer is yes. It’s of crucial importance, particularly if you want to take advantage of a balance transfer deal.

Many credit card providers tempt new customers to take out one of their cards by offering 0% interest on debt transferred from other providers.

But, in order to take advantage of the offer, a different group must own the card from which the debt is being transferred.

If you fail to check who owns which card before applying, you may find you can’t transfer your balance as planned. Not only does this mean you’re back to square one, making multiple credit card applications could damage your credit rating.

This could make it more difficult to take out a credit card, loan or mortgage in the future.

Compare credit card deals at Confused.com and find out How To Make Your Credit Cards Work For You.

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Confused.com staff writer

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