Thu, Jul 08, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Visa International launches IC debit cards in Taiwan

CREDIT OPTIONS The company said the cards offer consumers more security and convenience for their banking and shopping activities

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Visa International kicked off its integrated-circuit (IC) Visa debit cards in Taiwan yesterday, saying the cards will provide more transaction security and convenience.

The IC Visa debit cards combine the functions of automated-teller machine (ATM) cards and credit cards, allowing consumers to withdraw money from ATMs and use the cards as credit cards -- only the money will be deducted directly from users' bank accounts.

Six banks in this country, including Chinatrust Commercial Bank (中國信託), Hua Nan Commercial Bank (華南銀行) and Taichung Commercial Bank (台中商銀), have already issued over 1 million Visa debit cards, said Christopher Clark, country manager of Visa International in Taiwan.

With the rollout of IC Visa debit cards, Clark expected Union Bank of Taiwan (聯邦銀行), International Commercial Bank of China (中國國際商銀) and another four to six banks to issue another million cards by the end of the year.

Since the cards provide more functions than regular ATM cards, Chinatrust has been recommending to its customers that they choose the cards when opening bank accounts since the bank started providing the service in July 2000, said a public relations official who preferred not to be named.

As a result, Chinatrust is the country's largest Visa debit card issuer with about 1 million cards in circulation, the official said.

But the domestic market for debit cards imay not grow as fast as Visa International expects, said Sarita Hao (郝名媛), a senior manager at Taishin International Bank (台新銀行), another issuer of Visa debit cards.

"From our observations, consumers still prefer to buy first and pay at the end of month ? they just hate to see a dollar being taken out of their bank accounts even though they know they have to pay the same amount eventually," Hao said.

Hao said Taishin began issuing Visa debit cards in 2001. She said Taishin does not make recommendations to its customers about choosing between normal ATM cards and Visa debit cards the way Chinatrust does.

Most of its customers still prefer ATM cards, and so Taishin has only issued about 100,000 Visa debit cards so far, she said.

Clark admitted that Taiwanese consumers have different spending habits from those in the US and Europe -- where he said debit cards are the most common payment tool -- but he said this is why the company keeps trying to educate the market.

Clark said it took a long time for debit cards to take off in the US, and he believes that Taiwanese consumers will eventually develop alternative spending habits, as their counterparts have done in other countries where debit cards are more prevalent.

"Back in 1990 when we first promoted our credit cards in Taiwan, we said our goal was to issue 30 million cards and people said we were insane," Clark said.

"But look at how far we've gone now," he said.

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