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Number of China's credit card holders doubles in quarter
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The number of Chinese credit cards almost doubled in the first quarter, the central bank said yesterday.

China had more than 104.73 million credit cards in circulation at the end of March, up 92.9 percent since a year ago, the People's Bank of China said yesterday on its Website.

China's total bank cards, including debit and credit cards, topped 1.58 billion by March 31, up 29.1 percent over the year, the central bank said. Debit cards still dominate China's bank card market, accounting for 93.4 percent of the market total.

Bank card-based transactions accounted for 25.6 percent of the country's total retail sales, up from last year's 21.9 percent.

Transaction value on bank cards rose 58 percent year on year to 824.6 billion yuan (US$119.5 billion).

By the end of March, 203 institutions, including 168 domestic banks, had joined UnionPay, the sole trans-bank transfer system in China.

China is adding point-of-sale card terminals at shops and restaurants to ease payments by bank cards, especially in the run-up to the Olympics when a large number of foreign tourists is expected.

Banks are also installing more automatic teller machines to extend their networks.

About 804,500 merchants accept bank cards while there are 137,600 ATMs on the mainland.

Encouraging the use of bank cards help cut money laundering and make it easier to track merchants' business transactions and tax payments.

Global banking executives see China's credit-card business as promising, although no quick profits are expected within three years, an industry survey said earlier.

Bank of East Asia issued its yuan-backed debit cards in May, the first overseas bank to issue yuan-denominated bank cards in China. Banks including HSBC and Standard Chartered are awaiting regulatory approval for their own cards.

(Shanghai Daily June 25, 2008)

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