AmEx launches cards in China

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[Beijing] American Express is introducing its first branded cards in China, through an alliance with that country's largest commercial bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. A few affluent Chinese already have U.S. dollar AmEx cards, but they were issued in Hong Kong. The new ICBC American Express cards, both standard and gold versions, are denominated in both local and U.S. dollar currencies, and can be used in China and abroad. ICBC is China's largest credit-card issuer, with more than 100 million branded cards in circulation. ICBC's ad agency, local shop Joya Advertising, Beijing, developed a direct marketing campaign to introduce the cards. China has primarily been a cash economy. In June 2004, 95% of the bank cards issued were ATM or debit cards. Of the 714 million cards issued in China to date, only 2.74 million were international credit cards, used primarily by Chinese traveling overseas. Now China's fast-growing economy is driving new demand for credit cards, automobile loans, mortgages and other money management products. At the same time, China has loosened restrictions on foreign financial services marketers, making it easier for AmEx, as well as Visa and MasterCard, to introduce Western-style credit cards. Analysts predict credit card use will grow 75% to 100% a year for the next two or three years.
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