BEIJING -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and General Electric Co.'s finance arm are joining the race for a share of China's growing consumer credit market by issuing their own credit card this week, a Wal-Mart spokesman said yesterday.
The card, part of the Visa network, is to be formally launched Friday and will be usable for purchases in China and abroad, said Jonathan Dong, a spokesman for Wal-Mart China. Wal-Mart's partners are GE Money and China's Shenzhen Development Bank Ltd.
China's credit card industry is booming as issuers jump into the market in hopes of tapping growing consumer spending and Beijing eases restrictions on their operations.
The number of credit cards in China topped 12 million at the end of last year, up from 3 million just two years earlier, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
In 2004, Citigroup Inc.'s Citibank and Britain's HSBC Corp. became the first foreign banks to win government approval to issue credit cards in China, working through local lenders. American Express Co. issued a card in China the same year.
Chinese banks also have started issuing their own cards, usually with foreign help. Those that have taken on foreign banks as strategic investors cite expertise with credit cards as a key reason for seeking them out as partners.
The card from Wal-Mart and GE will be dual-currency, meaning holders can charge purchases in China's currency, the yuan, or a foreign currency such as the US dollar, Dong said.
The card is the second issued by Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart in China in as many months.
In September, the company issued a card with HSBC Corp. and China's Bank of Communications Ltd., according to Dong.