Indian travelers get first international credit card

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BOMBAY -- Payments franchise MasterCard International in association with HongkongBank and travel agency Thomas Cook has launched India's first international credit card for personal travel overseas. The Reserve Bank of India December 6, 1997 lifted a ban on such products.

The HongkongBank Thomas Cook International Credit Card will target Indians with annual incomes of $4,375-plus who frequently travel abroad. It seeks to replace cash and traveler's checks, allowing the cardholder a credit limit of $3,000, the foreign exchange quota imposed by the Indian government for a year's travel.

The card can be used for hotel bookings, airline tickets, car rentals, travel expenses, shopping and cash in emergency situations. It is modeled on a similar card for business travelers for which the Indian government only recently granted permission.

"As good as foreign currency. As safe as traveler's checks. As international as you," reads copy in the print ad by DDB Needham Worldwide affiliate Mudra Communications, Bombay, the agency that handles HongkongBank. Besides regular advertising, HongkongBank will use direct marketing to tap its own credit cardholders and personal banking customers.

MasterCard is India's No.1 franchise, with more than 1.3 million cardholders comprising a 45% market share. Visa International follows with more than 800,000 cardholders.

Copyright January 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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