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Differences in spending patterns between Chinese people and many people in Western nations.
There are two very common misconceptions, though. While nowhere as high than in, say, the US, the percentage of Chinese credit card users that carry a balance from month to month is far, far higher than 2% and projected to increase.
For their part, Chinese credit card issuing banks are trying to overcome the main barriers to increased credit card consumption. One of these, interest, is a difficult nut to crack since the interest rates are tightly controlled by the People’s Bank of China. Still, Chinese banks have found a method to effectively reduce the interest rate to 6% — lower, many say, than the actual inflation rate.
The second misconception is that the majority of credit card users carry a balance from month to month. This is false. The actual rate is much, much lower. I do have the actual data and when I get around to it I might look for it and post it.
There are far more than the 40 million credit cards in circulation. ICBC alone, the largest credit card issuer on the Mainland, has more than 8 million credit card customers followed by China Merchants Bank.
One thing that’s important for me, at least, is the ability to use a bank’s online banking system to manage credit card account data, account payments and administrative tasks like VbV or MasterCard Secure Code registration. I much prefer using online banking in English.
One of the best credit card issuing banks in terms of online banking function in English is ICBC. Not only is their online banking service extremely robust, but it is also reliable. You can use it to repay your credit card debt and even exchange RMB into US$ in order to repay, in realtime, any foreign currency credit card debt. No other bank on the Mainland offers that service — even in Chinese.
Shanghai – Pudong Development Bank has an English version of their online credit card banking service, but it is basically only for checking account information and cannot be used for transfers or account repayment.
Bank of China recently launched a nationwide online banking service in English, but it is a major PITA. You must use their random password generator security device and the online banking service is not at all robust. You can do nothing beyond simple account transfers to your credit card in RMB. Further, even though Bank of China issues a foreign currency credit card (The Great Wall Card), that card cannot be linked to BOC’s online banking.
Hua Xia Bank supposedly has an English version of their credit card online banking, but it is constantly broken and access is all but impossible. In any event, even if it did work, it is even less useful than PuFa’s.