Minsheng to offer new Amex cards

Updated: 2015-06-29 15:16

By Wu Yiyao In Shanghai(China Daily USA)

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Of an estimated 400 million users in China, only a few enjoy the most exclusive services

China Minsheng Banking Corp Ltd has become the latest Chinese bank to launch an exclusive credit card for its top-end customers.

The bank is now to offer the American Express Centurion titanium card in China.

There are more than 400 million credit card users in China, but premier cards such as the Centurion are offered only to top customers, very often private banking clients and high-income professionals.

The materials used on some of the most exclusive cards may even include diamond dust, and annual fees can be as high as $6,000.

Some high-end cards do not set upper limits on spending, or cardholders can have their credit lines adjusted based on their payment and credit records.

To qualify, there is actually a minimum amount customers have to spend annually.

Market insiders said booming demand for travel and lifestyle services and the rising purchasing power of the extremely wealthy have expanded the appetite for credit cards with credit lines higher than 500,000 yuan ($80,550) and those offering privileges to owners.

Shao Weiyang is the 58-year-old owner of a machinery enterprise in Fujian province, and said such high annual fees and exclusive issuance channels have not been enough to scare off many private enterprise owners he knows from obtaining a upmarket credit card.

Shao has four cards in his wallet, two of which are "strictly by invitation only".

"The added value of using the cards is not just about collecting points and redeeming them for gifts or free flights.

"The exclusive access to exotic destinations and private clubs allowed by being a cardholder actually helps me expand my life experience beyond business," said Shao.

The most upmarket cards in China are usually associated with privileges that cannot be obtained any other way.

Travel and lifestyle services offered may include helping cardholders reserve a dinner table at the most popular restaurants any day of the year, arranging private jet trips, securing consultancy services, or even overseas educational places for offspring or visa applications.

Dave Keung, president of American Express Co's China operation, said: "Chinese cardholders favor our travel and lifestyle services and they love to try something different through the unique arrangement offered by our cardholder services teams.

"It has also been observed that increasing numbers of wealthy cardholders redeem their points to help philanthropic causes, an emerging need for the rich to shoulder their growing social responsibilities."

Yang Ke, chief executive of China Minsheng Bank's credit card arm, said private business owners are the major contributors to the fast-growing high-end credit card market.

"These super rich accumulated their wealth through hard work and taking opportunities amid reforms and opening-up," said Yang.

"Their payment habits and lifestyle demands are changing fast and becoming more complex. Given the huge numbers of such people in China, I think upmarket credit card services will offer great opportunities that banks and card brands may leverage."

The world's four major payment brands by market share - Visa, MasterCard, China UnionPay and American Express - have all introduced niche-market credit card products to China.

Foreign bankcard players said they have been watching the market closely for years, as China has gradually opened up its yuan-denominated bankcard clearing market, which went live on June 1.


(China Daily USA 06/29/2015 page16)