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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 November 2007, 10:20 GMT
Post Office starts Christmas club
Post Office
Club members will be able save up to a maximum of 1000
The Post Office is to launch a new savings club which will let customers save for Christmas 2008.

People will be able to deposit cash at any of the Post Office's 14,000 branches from January, but funds will be locked away until November 2008.

Members can spend the proceeds via a pre-paid debit card, which will be accepted at more than 200 retailers, or by buying gift vouchers.

The money will be held in a protected account, accessible only by customers.

'Trusted brand'

Members will be issued with a Christmas Club card which they can use to make deposits over the counter in Post Office branches, subject to a minimum payment of 5 and a maximum of 500.

We are responding to the need for a safe and convenient way for people to put money aside for Christmas
Alan Cook, managing director, Post Office

Customers will be able to save a maximum of 1,000 per card.

All funds will be held in a protected account under the control of Bank of Ireland, the Post Office's partner for many of its financial products.

Managing director Alan Cook said the Post Office believed it could fill a gap in the market created after the Farepak collapse.

"As one of the UK's most trusted brands with an unparalleled retail network, we are responding to the need for a safe and convenient way for people to put money aside for Christmas," he said.

'Significant benefits'

Members will not be able to access their funds until 1 November 2008.

They will not receive interest on the money they save, but the Post Office says it will offer customers discounts and bonuses which will provide "significant benefits" compared with current High Street savings accounts.

Customers will be able to use their Christmas Club card as a pre-paid debit card at more than 200 retailers, including Argos, Boots, Sainsbury's, Woolworths, Debenhams and WH Smith.

It will also be possible to buy a range of gift vouchers available from the Post Office. The normal gift voucher transaction fee will be waived for club members.

It is of valuable importance that choice, convenience and security are offered to consumers
Derek Walpole, Christmas Prepayment Association

The new account was welcomed by Derek Walpole, chairman of the Christmas Prepayment Association (CPA), the newly-launched trade body for companies operating in this market:

"It is of valuable importance that choice, convenience and security are offered to consumers in order to help them save for a debt free Christmas," he said.

CPA member companies must meet stringent requirements about the security of savers' money and adhere to its code of practice.

Earlier this year the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) launched a 1m "Save Xmas" campaign to promote safe ways to save over the short term for events like Christmas after the collapse of Farepak in 2006.



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