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Saga gives Platinum cardholders last-minute lifeline on outstanding balances

Saga gives Platinum cardholders last-minute lifeline on outstanding balances

Over-50s financial provider Saga is to throw a last-minute lifeline to Platinum credit cardholders who have yet to settle outstanding balances ahead of the card's closure next week, MoneySavingExpert.com can reveal – after leaving customers in limbo for two months.

When Saga first announced it was scrapping the popular card in January, thousands of customers were told that any outstanding balances would become "due and owing in full" after their cards were closed on Thursday 28 March, with no guarantee that their balance would be transferred to another provider if they couldn't pay it off by then.

Many MoneySavers have got in touch to tell us about the stress and confusion the uncertainty has caused them, with cardholders becoming increasingly frustrated as the deadline approached without any further info.

Now, with just days to go until the card's closure, Saga has told MoneySavingExpert.com that that cardholders WON'T be penalised if they can't pay their outstanding balances off by 28 March.

While customers won't be able to use the card after 28 March, Saga's current provider Allied Irish Bank (AIB) will continue to hold outstanding balances for the time being, meaning customers will be able to continue making repayments to pay off the balance and be charged the same rate of interest.

However the reprieve may be temporary, as AIB remains in talks to sell its loan books to a third party provider and there are no guarantees that interest rates will remain the same if a sale goes ahead. So if you still have an outstanding balance, it's worth paying it off or transferring it to avoid further uncertainty.

The Saga Platinum card featured for several years in our travel credit cards top picks, as it offered fee-free spending abroad for those aged 50 and older, charging 11.9% APR. See our Travel Credit Cards guide for the current top picks and full help.

'Many cardholders have faced weeks of worry'

Guy Anker, deputy editor of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "It would have been utterly outrageous for Saga to have forced customers to pay back outstanding credit card balances worth £1,000s with just two months' notice, so it's good to hear that now won't be the case.

"But this has been poorly handled – many cardholders have faced weeks of worry over this, and indeed many have already scrambled to pay off their balance because they thought they had to.

"Saga and AIB now need to make sure they clearly communicate what's happening to customers who still have an outstanding balance, and not force them over the cliff edge by setting an unrealistic settlement date."

'The wording of their letter was very unsettling'

Saga says it's now writing to customers to give them an update on what's happening. But since we first revealed back in January that Saga was closing the card, we've heard from lots of MoneySavers about this issue, with many worried or confused.

  • MoneySaver Linda Triphook, 60, from Essex, said: "I'd used my credit card to fund Christmas, as I'm sure many others did, but then received a letter from Saga saying they were closing the card at the end of March.

    "The wording of their letter, saying that any outstanding balance could be transferred to a third party, is very unsettling... After a few days of stress I used the MSE eligibility calculator and managed to find a 0% balance transfer – but Saga has lost a customer."

  • Another MoneySaver, Ann, said the letter about the card's closure came as "a complete shock". She said: "When I discovered that it meant I would have to pay the outstanding balance in full, at that time I was very concerned. I owe just under £3,000 and I am ill-prepared to pay such a sum all at once at such short notice."

  • Saga customer Darren Robinson told us he recently tried to contact AIB, but hadn't been given further information about what was happening to outstanding debt. He said: "Saga sent me a new card in December that expired in 2022, then out of the blue they are demanding full repayment... Saga aim their products at retired people – it's shambolic."

    Darren previously contacted Saga on Twitter, saying: "I'm highlighting my genuine concern that you clearly have still not advised customers of any third party who would be taking over your credit card debt portfolio."

What's now happening to outstanding debt?

Saga now says that from 28 March any outstanding debt will continue to be held by AIB – at least for now. So if you're struggling to pay off or transfer the balance, don't panic.

Saga Platinum cards will still be closed on 28 March, so you won't be able to spend on your credit card after that date. And technically, the card's terms and conditions remain unchanged, so the outstanding balance will still officially be "due and owing in full" on 28 March.

But in practice, Saga says you WON'T need to repay in full by this date. Saga says you won't be contacted about why you haven't paid off the balance, and if you continue to make repayments there won't be any change to how the debt affects your credit score. You'll receive your April statement from AIB, and just need to make your usual payment.  

However, AIB could still sell on the debt to a third party later on and it's currently in talks with bidders. Saga says if the debt's passed to a third party, interest rates could change – but all customers with outstanding balances must be treated fairly according to FCA rules, including being offered a repayment plan if struggling to pay.

The changes should be confirmed in writing when Saga contacts customers in the next few days. Here's what you can do now to avoid any ongoing uncertainty:

  • Pay off the balance. This is the simplest solution to avoid extra interest and fees – but of course, many people may struggle to pay off a large lump sum at short notice.

  • Transfer the balance to a 0% card. With a balance transfer you get a new card to pay off debt on existing credit cards, so you owe the new card instead, often at 0% interest. Small balance transfer fees may apply for some cards though, and this may not be possible for those with poor credit scores. See our Balance Transfer Credit Cards guide for full info and our current top picks.

    If you apply for a balance transfer you'll be credit checked – use our Eligibility Calculator before you apply to see which cards you're likely to be accepted for.

What are the best alternative cards?

If you use your Saga card for spending and travel, it's worth making alternative arrangements now before you can no longer use it:

  • Look for an alternative top pick overseas credit card. Saga's Platinum card used to feature in our travel credit cards guide, but luckily there are other, better options offering fee-free spending and withdrawals. See our Travel Credit Cards guide for our current top picks.

  • Use the card to spend in the UK? Consider a 0% credit card instead. If you regularly use your Saga Platinum card to spend in the UK, you could save by switching to a 0% card, where you won't have to pay any interest for up to 28 months. See our Best 0% Credit Cards guide for full info and our current top picks.

Also remember that if you use your Saga credit card to make regular payments, such as for bills or subscriptions, you'll need to arrange a new way to pay for these from the end of March, or risk late payment fees or losing out on services.

What does Saga say?

Jeff Bromage, managing director of Saga Personal Finance, said: "I am conscious that cardholders with outstanding balances need clarity about AIB's plans following the card closure on 28 March. I can confirm that letters to cardholders will be sent this week to clarify the position."

An AIB spokesperson said: "We are currently engaged in a loan book sales process with a number of interested third party bidders.

"Due to the commercially sensitive and confidential nature of this process, we are unable to provide any further information on this at this point. If a suitable third party is selected, then this will be communicated with customers once the sale has completed."