Visa International yesterday unveiled new privilege programs and adjusted its marketing strategy on platinum credit cards, as wide circulation has diminished their cachet.
Indeed, as around one in every three people in Taiwan has a platinum card, the image associated with this financial tool is changing.
"Platinum cards are not really premium products any more. Instead, infinite cards are the top product, with each cardholder spending US$10,000 per year," said Christopher Clark, Visa International's country manager in Taiwan, at a press conference yesterday.
In other words, platinum cards no longer only serve those on the top of the wealth spectrum and, naturally, per-card spending is dropping drastically.
The number of platinum cards in circulation shot up from around 200,000 cards three years ago to nearly 8 million cards currently, according to Clark.
"By the end of November, Visa had issued more than 5.22 million platinum credit cards here, making Taiwan the largest platinum card market in Asia and the third largest in the world, after only the US and the UK," he said.
Clark observed that in 2002, each of Taiwan's platinum cardholders on average contributed US$8,000 per year of transactions. The figure has since nosedived to US$2,000, while in other markets, platinum card users' spending levels have remained at US$8,000 annually.
Still, the platinum card market remains critical considering its strong base. Visa reports that 40 percent of its total spending volume comes from platinum card users.
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"The banks that took the initiative to issue platinum cards are enjoying the fruits of their labor -- massive spending on the cards," she said.
25-29 Age Bracket
To better understand these "platinum upstarts," Visa interviewed 450 Taipei residents between Oct. 15 and Oct. 30 last year.
The survey found that 58 percent of platinum card users fall in the 25-to-29 age bracket. This group's consumption preferences have become an important segment that card issuers cannot neglect.
While only 20 percent of respondents believe that platinum cards can give users a better image, 36 percent say what counts is whether the cards offer better benefits.