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In Plastic We Trust

More Than $3.5 Billion In Local Sales Are Charged To Credit And Debit Cards Each Year


April 29, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Paper Or Plastic?

With Five Million Credit And Debit Cards Circulating On The Island, Puerto Rico Is Becoming A Cashless Retail Market

When Frank Mcnamara Created The First Multiuse Charge Card, The Diners Club Card, Over Half A Century Ago, He Revolutionized The Way People Pay For Goods And Services. Today, It Would Be Difficult To Conceive Of A World Without Plastic, As Credit Cards And Debit Cards Are Known.

Although Diners Club Remains, The Dominant Players In Credit And Debit Cards Are Visa International, Mastercard International, And American Express (Known As Brand Companies). Banks Give Consumers Access To The Card Systems; They Determine Credit Risk, Issue Cards, And Make The Advance Payments Via The Cards.

The Proliferation Of Credit Cards (A Bank Pays The Vendor And Then Collects On The Cardholder’s Debt) And Debit Cards (The Money To Pay The Vendor Is Withdrawn From The Cardholder’s Account) Has Been Aided By A Universal Platform For Delivering Marketing, Clearinghouse, And Technology Services. Credit And Debit Cards Have Become So Ubiquitous That They Pay For More Than Half Of The In-Store Purchases On The U.S. Mainland, Supplanting Cash And Checks.

Although No Statistics Are Available For Puerto Rico, Experts Said The Figure Is Probably Much The Same. There Are An Estimated Five Million Cards In The Local Market, Almost Evenly Split Between Credit And Debit Cards.

Debit Cards, In Particular, Have Become Increasingly Popular Because They Are Convenient And Safe And Help Customers Gain Financial Discipline, As The Funds Are Directly Withdrawn From Cardholders’ Checking Or Savings Accounts. Additionally, Debit Cards Allow Merchants To Offer Cash Back, Saving Customers The Time They Would Spend Going To An Automated Teller Machine (ATM, Also Known As ATH In Puerto Rico) To Withdraw Money. For Financial Institutions, Debit Cards Serve As A Bridge To The Unbanked Population.

Increasingly Popular, The Prepaid Or Gift Card, Has A Predetermined Spending Limit.

Low Interest Rates Have Also Become An Attraction In The Card Industry, Particularly During The Weak Economy Of The Past Few Years. Locally, Two Credit Cards Offer A 0% Interest Rate On Purchases And On Balance Transfers From Other Institutions For A Certain Period.

Many Financial Institutions, In Their Quest For Improved Efficiency, Have Followed The General Trend Of Corporate Consolidation. Companies Are Pursuing Higher Volumes Of Transactions To Cut Costs And Generate Savings, Which Can Be Used To Support New Customer Offerings.

Puerto Rico’s Card Market Has Grown Over The Past Five Years, Mirroring The Trend On The U.S. Mainland. The Local Market Is Estimated To Have Surpassed $3.5 Billion In Annual Card Sales (Or Transactions), Including Charges And Debits.

Given The Fierce Competition, The Market Has Seen New Card Products To Woo Consumers. Card Companies Hope To Attract New Customers And Encourage Usage By Existing Cardholders With Guaranteed Approvals, Frequent-Flier Miles, Bonus Points, Low Interest Rates, And Other Features. (See The Plastic Pyramid Sidebar.)

Another Trend Is Consolidations Or Partnerships Among Card-Issuing Banks To Help Offset The High Costs Of Operations And Technology Investments. A Recent Example In Puerto Rico Is Firstbank’s Alliance With Stateside Giant MBNA.

The Mighty Visa And Mastercard

Bank Of America Became The First Bank To Issue A Credit Card, The Bankamericard, In The 1950s. Two Decades Later, The Bankamericard Was Transformed Into Visa International, The Leading Card-Payment System In The World Today.

An Association Of More Than 21,000 Members, Visa Has Helped To Propel Credit Cards Through Its Global Network Of 22 Million Merchants Who Accept The Brand. A Great Part Of Visa’s Success Has Come From Its Outstanding Processing Capability, Which Allows It To Process More Than 4,000 Transactions Each Second.

In 2003, Visa Reported 954,000 Cards In Circulation In Puerto Rico, Generating A Sales Volume Of $2 Billion. Visa’s Annual Global Sales Volume Exceeds $2.7 Trillion.

During The First Nine Months Of 2003, Visa-Branded Debit Cards In Latin America And The Caribbean Alone Generated More Than $10 Billion In Sales Volume, An Increase Of 23% Over The Same Period In 2002.

Mastercard International Also Emerged In The Early ’50s. Last Year, The Global Financial Association Saw Global Sales Volume Increase By 5.9% To $1.3 Trillion. Mastercard’s Puerto Rico Market Grew By 22% In 2003, Reflecting Sales Volume Of $1.5 Billion From One Million Cards In Circulation.

Visa, Mastercard, And The Other Major Players, American Express And Discover Financial Services (A Card-Issuing Bank Owning The Largest Independent Credit-Card Network In The U.S.), Have Made It Possible For A Bank Card To Be Used At Any Merchant In The World Belonging To These Card Associations. Just As Important, These Brand Companies Provide Their Members With Support In Marketing, Advertising, And Fraud Protection.

"The Brand Companies Are The Fundamental Components Required To Operate An Efficient And Feasible Global Card System," Said Patrick Haggarty, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria’s (BBVA) Executive Vice President Of Retail Banking. "From The Practical Point Of View, They Provide Card Users With Card Acceptance Everywhere."

A Look At The Stateside Card Market

On The U.S. Mainland, Credit-Card Profits In 2003 Made It To Their Highest Level In 15 Years. Cardweb.Com, A Leading Publisher Of Information About The Card Industry, Said The Stateside Card Market Generated $30 Billion In Profits During 2003, With The Largest Issuers Growing At An Average Of 17% During The Fourth Quarter.

MBNA Saw An Increase In Profits Of 30% In The Quarter, While Chase Enjoyed A 25% Profit Gain. Citigroup Made Profits Of $1 Billion. In The First Quarter Of 2004, Citigroup’s Cards Had Income Of $980 Million, A 37% Increase Over The First Quarter Of 2003.

The Nation’s Top-10 Card-Issuing Banks (See Sidebar) Grew An Average Of 6.5% During 2003, Holding Aggregate Card Loans Of $538.9 Billion, Representing Approximately 77% Of The Total U.S. Market.

Growth Was Also Seen In The Number Of Cards In Circulation. The General-Purpose Card Market In The States Was Flooded With 56 Million New Cards In 2003, For A Total Of 841 Million, 7% Higher Than The 785 Million In 2002.

The Expansion Was Due In Great Part To New Payroll, Gift, Business, And Debit Cards. Industry Sources Said That While Visa And Mastercard Put Out The Lion’s Share Of New Cards In 2003, American Express Expanded Its Portfolio By 1.3 Million Net New Cardholders.

According To Cardweb.Com, Discover Estimated That Its Portfolio Of Cardholders Remained Steady Last Year At 50 Million. Discover Is A Business Unit Of Morgan Stanley.

A Sea Of Plastic In Puerto Rico

A Full Menu Of Card Products Has Taken The Local Market To New Heights In Recent Years. Unfortunately, Puerto Rico Lacks The U.S. Mainland’s Central Depository Of Statistics On The Credit-Card Industry, Making It Difficult To Get A Solid Grasp On The Characteristics Of The Local Market.

Whereas Statistics Reveal There Are Four Cards For Every Person Age 21 And Over In The States, Puerto Rico Must Rely On Estimates That Indicate There Are Two Cards For Every Person In That Age Group. According To Industry Data, The Average Cardholder In The States Has Some Six Cards. In Puerto Rico, That Number Is Estimated To Be Closer To Four When Credit, Debit, And Prepaid Cards (Purchased With A Predetermined Spending Limit) Are Considered.

Banco Popular, Firstbank/MBNA, And Citigroup Represent 75% Of Puerto Rico’s Card Market, Which, According To Estimates, Surpasses $3.5 Billion In Annual Sales, Including Charges And Debits. Banco Popular, The Only Puerto Rico-Based Card Issuer, Increased Its Local Card Sales By $500 Million From 1995 To 2003 And Currently Enjoys A 30% Share Of The Local Market. Popular Hopes Its Newest Card, The Visa Novel, Will Attract 200,000 New Cardholders.

"We Have Put A Lot Of Planning Into The Novel Product And Look Forward To A Positive Reaction From The Public," Said Fabio Garcia, Senior Vice President Of Popular’s Individual Lending Division. "We Intend To Be Aggressive About Marketing The Card To Improve Our Market Position."

Firstbank Recently Launched Three New Card Products Offering Interest Rates Of Less Than 9%. It Also Entered Into An Alliance With Stateside Giant MBNA, Which Had Already Entered The Puerto Rico Market.

One Benefit For Firstbank Will Be Access To MBNA’s Diverse Menu Of Card Products. It Is Estimated That The Firstbank/MBNA Pairing Will Capture Some 25% Of The Local Card Market, Placing It Second To Popular.

In Third Place Is Citigroup, With An Estimated 20% Share Of The Local Market. It Is Expanding Organically (Natural Growth From Within) And Through Acquisitions; Citigroup Was Recently Integrated Into The North America Operations And Acquired The Sears And Home Depot Credit-Card Portfolios. Citigroup Projects Double-Digit Growth In Card Sales In Puerto Rico This Year.

"Now, It Will Be Possible To Leverage The Company’s State-Of-The-Art Operational Infrastructure, World-Class Customer Service, Fraud Prevention Programs, And Marketing Intelligence Stateside, While Affiliates Will Get To Leverage Our Own Model And Resources," Said Marta Ortiz, President Of CCSCI Inc., A Subsidiary Of Citibank N.A.


In Such A Dynamic Industry, The Ability To Spot Trends Early Could Yield A Significant Competitive Advantage.

One Trend Is The Growing Popularity Of Debit Cards. General Statistics Indicate That Debit Cards Are Used For 31% Of All In-Store Purchases Today. That Is Easily Believable In Puerto Rico Given That An Estimated Half Of The Five Million Cards In Circulation Are Debit Cards.

Industry Data Indicate That Consumers Worldwide Have Made Debit-Card Transactions Of Over $2 Trillion Since 1998. Last Year, Visa And Mastercard-Branded Debit Cards Were Used For Purchases And Cash Advances Worth $576 Billion In The States.

Debit Cards, Also Known As Check Cards Because The Payment Funds Are Withdrawn From A Checking (Or Savings) Account, Are Divided Into Two Categories: PIN (Personal Identification Number) And Signature. Using The Former Requires A PIN (The Mastercard Maestro Is An Example). Signature Debit Cards Don’t Require A PIN And Thus Don’t Have To Be Presented In Person; As Such, They Can Be Used For Phone And Internet Purchases (The Visa Electron Is An Example).

The Success Of The Debit Card Has Been Welcomed By Both Users And Banking Entities. "Many Younger Consumers Use Debit Cards As They Search For Financial Discipline And Safety. Debit-Card Holders Get To Use Their Own Funds In Their Bank Accounts Without Worrying About Losing Cash Or Piling Up Debt," Said Ortiz.

Another Advantage Of Using Debit Cards Is That Many Merchants Offer Cash Back; Upon Paying For A Purchase, Cardholders Can Choose To Withdraw An Additional Sum From Their Accounts. This Means They Don’t Have To Waste Time Going To An ATM, Plus They Could Save On ATM Withdrawal Fees.

It Is Estimated That There Are Some 2,000 Atms On The Island, With Slightly More Than 1,000 Belonging To Banking Institutions. Banco Popular’s Own ATM Network Is Estimated At Approximately 570 Locations.

Most Banks Use Debit Cards As A Link To The Unbanked Population. This Group, Which Could Represent Almost 40% Of Puerto Rico’s Population, Operates Outside The Banking System For Various Reasons. A First Step For Banks Would Be To Have Individuals From This Group Open A Checking Account To Experience The Advantages Of Debit Cards.

A Less Visible Constituency Is The Underground Economy. Estimates Of The Number Of People And The Cash Flow In The Black Market Vary Greatly. However, The Debit Card’s Convenience, Safety, And Simplicity Are Expected To Attract New Participants From This Segment.

Another Trend In The Card Industry, In Response In Part To The Economic Climate Of The Past Few Years, Is Offers Of Low Interest Rates. Low Interest Rates Have Fostered Increased Competition Among Issuers Of Credit Cards, Which In Turn Could Provoke Additional Interest-Cutting Rounds. In The End, Cardholders Stand To Be The Main Beneficiaries Of These Promotional Offers.

In Puerto Rico, The Majority Of The Credit Cards Have An Over-10% Interest Rate Or A Variable Term, Reflecting A Base Rate Plus An Added Prime Interest Rate. Two Local Banks, However, Have Broken The Barrier And Introduced Cards At Sub-9% Interest Rates.

Banco Popular’s Visa Novel Offers An 8.99% Interest Rate And Is Linked To Premia, The Bank’s Program For Rewarding Loyal Customers. Firstbank Introduced Three Cards With An 8.90% Interest Rate, All Tied To Firstbank’s Own Reward Program, Called Worldpoints. One Of The Cards Is The Mastercard Quantum, Which Provides A Credit Limit Of Up To $250,000. (See Unusual Cards Sidebar.)

As An Added Attraction, Both Banks’ New Cards Offer Users A 0% Interest Rate On Purchases And On Balance Transfers From Other Institutions For A Certain Period.

"Market Changes Demand That We Improve And Adapt. In Addition To The Visa Novel’s Main Attractions, The Card Is Backed By The Only Locally Based Customer Service Center," Said Popular’s Garcia.

BBVA Recently Introduced An Unusual Card Product, A Miniature Visa, Which Can Be Carried On A Key Chain. The Visa Mini Is 43% Smaller Than A Regular Credit Card. The Primary Cardholder Can Establish A Spending Limit For Each Additional Card On The Account.

"This Card Has Been Tested In Many Markets And Has Proved Greatly Successful Everywhere," Said BBVA’s Haggarty. "Already, We Have Seen Indications That This Unique Card Is Getting A Sound Reception In The Local Market."

Many Local Banks Are Also Touting Low Fees. In Fact, Banco Popular’s And Firstbank’s New Cards Offer No-Annual-Fee Membership.

Over A Decade Ago, Fees Were A Major Part Of The Card-Revenue Stream. Today, However, Fewer Than 15% Of Cardholders Pay An Annual Fee, According To Cardweb.Com.

The Wall Street Journal, However, Recently Reported That Card Issuers In The States Have Started To Increase Fees, Particularly To Cardholders Who Don’t Pay On Time Or Exceed Their Credit Limit.

"For 2004, Income From Late Fees And Other Penalties Is Likely To Climb By $1 Billion To Roughly $13 Billion," Said RK Hammer Investment Bankers, A Credit-Card Advisory Firm In California.

Besides Noting The Trends In Card Usage And Features, Many Financial Entities Are Discovering That Efficiency Can Be Attained Through Consolidation Or Strategic Alliances. Processing A Larger Number Of Transactions From A Unified Platform Helps To Reduce Costs To Card Companies, And These Savings Can Be Passed To Cardholders. Higher Volumes, In Essence, Allow The Card Companies To Generate A Lower Cost Of Transactions.

"It Is All About Scale And Skill," Said Aurelio Aleman, Firstbank’s Executive Vice President Of Consumer Banking. "You Need To Have The Scale To Make The Business Feasible And Competitive And The Skill Or Expertise To Run It Successfully. It Is Critical To Have The Volume To Compete And The Right Menu Of Products For The Customer."

In Pursuing This Larger Scale, American Express Will Enter The Beijing Market Through An Alliance With Industrial & Commercial Bank Of China, Which Is Said To Have A Network Of 24,000 Branches. Previously, Citigroup Had Entered Into Its Own Alliance In China.

Fewer Than 3% Of Adults In China Have Credit Cards, Compared With 80% Of Adults On The U.S. Mainland. Accordingly, The Potential For Developing The Chinese Market Is Enormous.

Another Development In The Card Industry Is The Increased Popularity Of Prepaid Cards, Which Work Much Like Gift Certificates. Prepaid Cards Are Purchased In A Certain Denomination Or Loaded With A Certain Amount Of Money. Purchases Made With The Card Are Debited Against The Prepaid Amount. Prepaid Cards Are Often Used As Gifts And So Are Also Known As Gift Cards.

According To First Data Corp., The Stateside Gift-Card Market Doubled Between 2002 And 2003, With 45% Of Adults (Some 97 Million) Buying A Gift Card In 2003, Up 23% From The Year Before. Sales Of Gift Cards Are Expected To Have Hit $40 Billion In 2003, A 33% Increase Over 2002. First Data Also Reported That Gift Cards May Have Accounted For 5% Of All Retail Sales In The Fourth Quarter Of 2003.

Financial Institutions Are Also Looking To The Internet As A Venue For Developing Their Card Markets. Experts Warn, However, That The Full Potential Of The Internet Won’t Be Tapped Until Higher Levels Of Security And Comfort For Cardholders Are Achieved. Also, Operating On The Internet Requires Expensive Technology.

The Death Of Cash And Checks?

An American Bankers Association (ABA) Study Has Revealed That Fewer Than 50% Of Retail Purchases Today Are Made With Cash Or Checks. In 1999, Cash Or Checks Were Used To Make 57% Of Purchases.

Cash And Checks Have Been Succumbing To The Charms Of The Debit Card. According To The Nilson Report, More People Own Debit Cards Than Credit Cards. Industry Leader Visa Cites The Debit Card As Its Main Source Of Growth, Representing Half Of Its $2.7 Trillion In Global Sales Volume.

Threatening Various Sources Of Payment, The Debit Card Has Grabbed An Additional 5% Share Of The Stateside Market Each Year Since 2001. The Market Share Of Credit Cards, Meanwhile, Has Held Steady. In 2003, Debit Cards Were Used For 31% Of In-Store Sales In The States, Whereas Credit Cards Were Used For 21%. Traditionally, Credit Cards Have Been Used To Pay For Large Purchases, While Debit Cards Are Used For Smaller Transactions: To Pay For Food, Groceries, And Other Ordinary Expenses.

"We Don’t Think Cash And Checks Are Dead, But We Think They’re On Life Support," Said Albert Coscia, Visa’s Senior Vice President Of Corporate Relations, In A Wall Street Journal Publication.

Technology Will Continue To Propel The Evolution Of Cards, Making New Forms Of Payment Possible And Perhaps Driving The Nail In The Coffin Of Cash And Checks. Applied Digital Solutions Inc. Has Developed The Verichip, A Radio-Frequency Identification Device About The Size Of A Grain Of Rice That Can Be Implanted Under Human Skin. Simply Pass The Verichip Over A Scanner And Information About The Wearer Is Transmitted. A Leading Card Brand And Two Banks Are Already Pursuing Potential Applications For The Verichip As A Payment Device.

Q&A With Marta Ortiz, President Of CCSCI Inc.

Q. What Kind Of Expansion Potential Do You See For The Credit / Debit-Card Market In Puerto Rico?

A. There Is Tremendous Potential Given That There Are 2.5 Million People Age 21 And Older And That The Unbanked Population Is Estimated At 36%. There Are Also Opportunities For Growth In Targeted Markets, Through Initiatives That Leverage Existing Technology And Expertise.

Q. Given The Increase In Card Usage, Do You Expect Cash To Become Insignificant?

A. It Will Take Years Before Cash Becomes Insignificant In This Market. However, We Will Continue To See More Electronic Transactions At POS (Point Of Sale) Terminals And Online As The Estimated 677,000 Internet Users On The Island Multiply.

Q. Has The Card Industry Settled On Rewards To Attract And Retain Customers, And Can Customers Expect This Marketing Strategy To Be Improved?

A. Reward Programs Will Continue To Evolve In This Market. Consumers Like Them, So Banks Will Keep Creating Attractive Programs To Retain Customers. Citi Still Offers The Citi Aadvantage Card, The Longest-Running Airline-Rewards Credit Card In The Marketplace Today.

Q. Why Have Giant Players Such As Sears, J.C. Penney, And Home Depot Moved To Stop Managing Their Own Card Systems?

A. To Manage A Profitable Card Portfolio, You Need State-Of-The-Art Technology, A Scientific Approach, Expertise, Low Operational Costs, And A Low Cost Of Funds. These Factors Are Difficult To Achieve When A Company Has Several Lines Of Business. In 2003, Citi Acquired Sears Credit Card And Financial Products Business And Integrated The Home Depot Portfolio, Making Citi The Leading Private-Label Card Issuer In The U.S.

Q. Can Citigroup Maintain Its Growth Pace And Still Deliver Quality Service?

A. Yes. A Significant Amount Of Consolidation Has Taken Place, And In A Business Where Scale Matters, Citi Has The Edge. We Are A High-Quality, Low-Cost Producer. In Fact, Citi Leads In Customer Service Technology, Security, And Prevention. In Addition, Citi Continues To Invest In People And Technology To Ensure Best-In-Class Customer Service.

Q. What Is The Significance Of Technology In The Card Business?

A. Technology Is Key To Achieving The Economies Of Scale Required To Be Profitable And To Be Able To Manage Dynamic Processes Such As Fraud-Prevention Programs. However, The Competitive Edge Comes From Developing Expertise In A Number Of Areas, Including Structuring Risk And Decision Management.

Q. How Important Is The Card Business To Citigroup’s Overall Operations?

A. Very Important. Citigroup Holds The No. 1 Card-Market Position In The World. Global Credit-Receivables Last Year Totaled $163 Billion. Citigroup’s Worldwide Accounts Now Number 145 Million, With Global Cards Sales Totaling $291 Billion. In 2003, Citigroup’s North America Cards Booked $252 Billion In Sales Volume, Equivalent To Approximately 3% Of The U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

Five Credit Cards Unique To Puerto Rico

EDB Entrepreneur Business Card

Launched By The Economic Development Bank In 2003, The Entrepreneur Business Card Is Targeted At The Bank’s Customers, Mostly Small & Midsize Businesses. Instead Of Having To Go Through A Lengthy Disbursement Process, The Bank’s Clients Now Have Immediate Access To Up To $25,000 In Revolving Credit With A Fixed Interest Rate. The Card Is Issued Through Banco Popular Of Puerto Rico.

BBVA Visa Mini

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) Recently Launched The Smallest, And Perhaps The Safest, Credit Card In Puerto Rico. The Card Does Not Have Access To Atms As An Additional Feature To Safeguard The Users’ Security. The BBVA Visa Mini, Intended For Everyday Use, Is 43% Smaller Than A Conventional Credit Card And Can Be Worn On A Key Chain.

Santander Express Visa

Banco Santander Offers A Visa-Branded Debit Card In Its Santander Express Visa. It Doesn’t Require A Personal Identification Number (PIN) And Can Be Used Wherever Visa Is Accepted, Including Places Outside Puerto Rico, And For Internet, Phone, And Mail-Order Catalog Purchases. It Functions Like A Credit Card, Except That The Cardholder’s Bank Account Is Debited Directly.

Firstbank Master Card Quantum

One Of Three New Cards Recently Introduced By Firstbank In Puerto Rico, The Mastercard Quantum Is An Upscale Card Offering A Credit Line Of Up To $250,000, Instant Increases To The Credit Limit, No Annual Fee, And Internet Access.

Cabrera Auto

Automobile Dealer Cabrera, Based In Arecibo, Promotes Its Private-Label Card To Clients. The Card Has A $5,000 Credit Limit And Can Be Used For Purchases And Repairs At Cabrera, Which Is An Authorized Dealer For Pontiac, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC Truck, Nissan, Daewoo, Hyundai, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Mazda, Kia, Suzuki, And Mitsubishi.

The Plastic Pyramid

A Look At How The Card Industry Works


  • American Express
  • Diners Club
  • Discover (U.S. Mainland Only)
  • Mastercard
  • Visa
  • Private Labels

These Companies Offer A Global Platform, Providing Authorizations And Settlement And Clearing Services For Qualified Bankcards Through Financial Institutions And Merchants. They Also Provide Promotional, Technological, And Fraud Support To Guarantee Card Exchange And Acceptance Everywhere.

Card-Issuing Banks Or Financial Entities (A Sampling)

  • American Express
  • Banco Popular De P.R.
  • Bank Of America
  • Citigroup
  • J.P. Morgan Chase
  • MBNA

Unlike Brand Companies, Card-Issuing Entities Engage Cardholders Directly. This Group Gets Involved In Marketing Cards, Assessing Credit Risk, Monitoring Card Usage, Managing Systems, And Lending The Money That Gets Charged To The Cards. Ultimately, They Are The Ones At Risk On Every Outstanding Card Balance.

General Card Classifications

  • Credit
  • Debit
  • Intelligent
  • Prepaid

All Card Variations Typically Fall Into One Of These Four Categories. Segmentation Has Produced Specific Target Groups, Such As Personal, Business, Commercial, Government, Small Business, Students, And Associations. Regardless Of Niche, Cards Can Be Platinum, Gold, Classic, Or Black. The Intelligent Card Contains A Microchip That Allows For Additional Data Storage And Functions, But It Isn’t Widely Used Yet. Depending On The Setup, Cards Can Be Used For In-Person, Telephone, Electronic, And Internet Purchases.

Card Features (A Sampling)

  • Airline-Mileage Rewards
  • Balance Transfers
  • Low Interest Rates
  • No Annual Fee
  • Reward Programs

It Is One Of These Benefits, Or A Combination Of Them, That Typically Attracts Customers To Acquire A Particular Card. The Bank Issuer’s Brand Name Is Also A Deciding Factor.

Top-10 Card-Issuing Banks

Stateside By Aggregate Card Loans

As Of Dec. 31, 2003

Institution Amount (In Billions) / Yearly Change

  • Citigroup $119.8 / +6.6%
  • MBNA $85.8 / +7.9%
  • Bank One $76.3 / +3.1%
  • J.P. Morgan Chase $52.3 / +2.3%
  • Discover $48.4 / -5.3%
  • Capital One $46.3 / +13.2%
  • American Express $38.5 / +12.2%
  • Bank Of America $36.6 / +24.1%
  • Household $17.9 / +5.3%
  • Fleet $17.0 / +4.9%

Total $538.9 / +6.5%

In Terms Of Organic Growth (Excluding Acquisitions), Bank Of America, Capital One, And American Express Led The Stateside Credit-Card Industry With Double-Digit Gains In Receivables And Profits In 2003. The Aggregate Amount Of Card Loans For The Year Represents Approximately 77% Of The Total Stateside Market.

Source: Carddata

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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