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Bank card growth loses steam in Q3
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The growth in the amount of bank cards being issued in China slowed in the third quarter, mainly dragged down by an easing in the rate of debit cards being issued to bank customers, the central bank said yesterday.

Chinese banks had issued a total of 1.73 billion bank cards to Chinese customers by the end of September. This is a 19-percent increase in the total amount of cards issued up until the same time last year, said the People's Bank of China yesterday. However the growth in cards issued is 10.3 percentage points lower than a year ago, the central bank said.

Of the total number of cards, the vast majority were debit cards. Banks had issued 1.6 billion debit cards as of September 30, up 16 percent on a year ago. But the rate of growth slowed 11.7 percentage points on a year earlier, the central bank said.

The consumption value on the average bank card tumbled 8.7 percent from the previous quarter to 1,435 yuan in the third quarter.

Debit cards still dominate the mainland market, but the popularity of credit cards is growing.

Overseas banks locally incorporated on the Chinese mainland were allowed to issue credit cards this year. The Bank of East Asia started to issue yuan-backed credit cards on the mainland this month.

Credit cards are growing popular in major mainland cities. The total number of credit cards issued since 2000 jumped 73 percent to 131.5 million at the end of the third quarter, the central bank added. The gain was 5.9 percentage points higher than a year ago.

The big-five state-owned banks are speeding up their credit card issuing faster than joint-stock lenders.

Bank cards are becoming more popular among the 1.3 billion Chinese as rising incomes stoke consumer spending and Chinese people shift their spending method from cash to bank cards.

Authorities are encouraging non-cash payment such as bank cards and checks to curb money laundering and improve tax collecting.

As of the end of September, 223 °?institutions had joined the China UnionPay debit card network, an increase of 10 since the previous quarter.

(Shanghai Daily December 31, 2008)

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