Thu, Aug 30, 2012 - Page 13 News List

Visa eyes more customers where cash is still king

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

US credit card giant Visa Inc aims to increase its customer base and business in Taiwan as cash remains the principal payment tool among local consumers, suggesting ample room for growth, senior executives said.

The San Francisco, California-based company, which entered the local electronic payment market 20 years ago, has issued more than 29 million Visa cards with annual payments hitting NT$1 trillion (US$33.33 billion) in the year that ended on June 30 this year, company data showed.

There is still large room for growth because cash remains the main form of payment in Taiwan, Visa Taiwan country manager Macro Ma (麻少華) told a media briefing on Tuesday.

Electronic payments accounted for 25.3 percent of personal consumption expenditure in Taiwan last year, lagging far behind 64.2 percent in Hong Kong, 50.3 percent in China and 50.2 percent in Singapore, Ma said, citing a study by Euromonitor Merchant Segment, a survey company.

“The data show that cash is still overwhelmingly the key payment method among Taiwanese, presenting us with a tremendous opportunity to convert it to safer, more reliable and convenient forms of payment,” Ma said.

Toward that end, Visa Taiwan would continue to educate potential new users — including university students and young workers — on the benefits of using debit cards, and roll out promotion programs to stimulate overseas spending and international cash withdrawals, he said.

As of June 30, the company has issued more than 10 million Visa debit cards with annual payments totaling NT$38 billion between July 1 last year and June 30 this year, the company’s statistics showed.

The company hopes to accelerate the growth of Visa Infinite and Visa Signature cards, and encourage more card usage by strengthening the premium offer platform, Ma said, as Taiwanese consumers tend to concentrate their spending on two to three premium cards with better card benefits.

Visa Taiwan would continue to develop new acceptance channels, such as medical, utility and online payments, while deepening the penetration of existing acceptance channels, he said.

“The trend to switch away from cash to electronic forms of payment will continue inexorably,” Ma said. “Last year, 413 million electronic payments took place in Taiwan, translating into 13 deals every second.”

Chris Clark, group country manager in North Asia, said penetration in China advanced more rapidly than Taiwan. In China, there are 78 million Visa cardholders with payments jumping 30 percent each year, he said.

Visa is in cooperation with more than 300,000 stores, restaurants and other establishments, a rather small network compared with China UnionPay Co (中國銀聯) that has millions of contracted partners in second-tier cities and remote areas, Clark said.

Visa is also endeavoring to expand its acceptance channels in China, the second-largest market after the US in terms of the amount of payments, he said.

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