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Citibank first foreign bank to launch sole-branded credit card in China

posted 19 Sept 2012, 08:41 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 19 Sept 2012, 08:43 ]

China-Citibank -- Citibank first foreign bank to launch sole-branded credit card in China

CCTV BEIJING - As the largest credit card issuer in the world, 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 for such cards.

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.

"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, affluent clients, clients with global perspective, with global needs, we think we can build a very successful business," said Jonathan Larsen, Global Head of Retail Banking and Asia Pacific Head of Consumer Banking, Citibank.

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.

"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," said Dr. Oliver Rui, Professor of Finance & Accounting from China Europe International Business School (CEIBS).

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, which is a 17.4 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

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