MANILA, JUNE 7, 2006
 (STAR) Credit cards are becoming a must-have financial tool for Filipino shoppers and travelers nowadays. Initially introduced by banks for their well-heeled clients, credit cards are now made more accessible to a majority of Filipinos. Innovations that range from zero percent installment offers for nearly any purchase, to exclusive discounts at partner establishments, to free travel insurance, have made the plastic currency increasingly more appealing than it used to.

Industry figures in the last two years show that the number of cards issued has grown by over 20 percent, and the growth potential continues to look promising.

Credit Card Association of the Philippines (CCAP) Chairman Manuel Santiago shares that "the industry has been steadily maturing. More and more people are realizing the value of owning a credit card. As of last year, we already have over 4.6 million credit cards in circulation."

As such, in its 25th anniversary year, OCAP adopts the theme "Financial Empowerment and Financial Responsibility" to promote among cardholders the need to balance purchasing power with prudent spending, and to highlight the significant growth of the industry and the maturing of Filipino clientele.

Credit cards have benefited Filipino consumers in a number of ways. When used responsibly, credit is a powerful tool to leverage one’s finances. It significantly stretches consumers’ purchasing power by a significant margin. Not only does this solve temporary liquidity, it also primarily lends conveniences to its users.

CCAP President Rolando Tanchanco affirmed that the growing number of card issuers and products have indeed benefited consumers since the introduction of cashless spending. He related, "Competition has definitely been good for the cardholder. You are now seeing a greater number of card products that cater to specific markets like working women, young professionals, even golfers. "

Credit cards are also the most popular means of settling one’s bills when purchasing goods online. This accounts for over 90 percent of all online retail transactions. One can experience hassle-free shopping, with just a few clicks of the mouse and a few days allotted for shipping and handling.

Credit cards are also no longer simply a standby facility. The charge card has evolved into a financial tool that offers a number of rewards. Aggressive marketing has featured and packaged the plastic currency as a lifestyle card that comes in handy for the multi-faceted consumer – the club hopper, the golfer, the shopaholic, the loyal alumnus, the big spender or even the globetrotter.

Credit cards are now packed with value-laden features tailored to fit the needs of its individual users. Issuers have seen it quite fit to take the rewards programs a notch higher, adding more appeal of the plastic currency to potential users. For instance, those who charge big-ticket items to their cards can avail of rebates and freebies. These may come in the form of complimentary gas, free airfare, and discounts at various establishments among others.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved