Citibank Launches New Credit Cards in China

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Citibank has become the first foreign bank to launch a sole-branded credit card in China. Anyone with a monthly salary above 3,500 yuan can apply.

The new set of Citi credit cards offers a total of five cards in two categories. They are now available in 13 cities. Each card offers only a single currency, using Unionpay for RMB, and Visa or MasterCard for US dollars.

Citibank says its points and miles will never expire and that they expect China to be the largest credit market in the world by the end of the decade.

[Jonathan Larsen, Asia Pacific Head of Consumer Banking]:
"As far as the credit card business is concerned, we see it as a very early stage in this market. There's a lot of maturation going to happen, and for us, if we stay very focused on emerging affluent clients, clients with global perspective, with global needs, we think we can build a very successful business."

Citibank got approval to issue its own China credit cards in February. The decision was part of a government plan to make the banking market more competitive.

Foreign banks only account for less than 2 percent of China's banking services, however so, experts say the foreign banks' increased involvement in credit card services will not be a threat to domestic banks.

[Dr. Oliver Rui, Professor, China Europe International Business School]:
"The four major domestic banks have set up branches all over China, so they can not compete with them in this area, they can only compete on the basis of product differentiation and personalization. That means their target clients can only be the rich minority rather than a mass market."

Shanghai Pudong Development Bank had offered a joint card with Citibank, but that partnership has now been canceled.

According to the Central Bank, 300 million credit cards had been issued in China as of June, up over 17 percent compared to the same period last year.

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