Cyprus banks retreat

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Consumer anger over changes to a cash voucher scheme linked to credit card usage forced Cyprus’s two largest banks into a hasty retreat yesterday. Bank of Cyprus and Laiki had announced changes to their credit card loyalty schemes, effective April 1, diluting the value of points that can be redeemed as cash vouchers. But after two days of angry phone-ins hosted by radio stations from disgruntled consumers who said they were not properly informed of the changes, the banks relented. Laiki said it would introduce the changes on April 30, while Bank of Cyprus said on April 18. Both insisted their clients were given plenty of notice of the changes. «We still believe the fuss was unjustified. Proof of that was the fact that most clients redeemed their points,» said Rodoulla Christodoulou, head of the cards division at Laiki. Both banks said the changes were necessary after pressure from retailers. The vouchers were redeemable for cash at outlets ranging from petrol stations to hairdressers and supermarkets. The adjustment will knock about 40 percent off the value of points held for cash, requiring a consumer to spend 2,800 pounds ($6,222) for a 20-pound gift voucher, instead of 2,000 pounds.

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