Citibank Offers Dollar Card in Japan

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TOKYO - Citibank Japan has formed a partnership with one of Japan's largest department stores, Nagoya-Mitsukoshi, that allows catalog customers to pay with a Citibank Dollar Card.

Thanks to deregulation of Japanese financial services in April more and more Japanese consumers are paying retail and restaurant bills in dollars with use of the Citibank Dollar Card growing rapidly.

While Mitsukoshi is the first cataloger to accept the card others are expected to follow quickly. Payment is simple. Citibank Japan withdraws the requisite amount from the cardholder's dollar account.

"The card has several benefits for Japanese consumers," Citibank Japan's marketing manager Mizuki Nishio said. "For one thing, their payment is sheltered from currency fluctuations.

"For another, cardholders do not pay for foreign exchange transactions, i.e., converting dollars into yen. Finally it is another way of using dollar deposits rather than just having them earn interest," Nishio said.

Deregulation allowed individual Japanese to open dollar bank accounts where they could deposit dollars brought back from trips to the US. Since millions of Japanese travel to the US regularly this is likely to become a sizable business, Nishio added.

Half of Citibank Dollar Card holders are businessmen and women with about 10 percent coming from executive ranks. The self-employed are the second largest group of card users.

The gender of card holders is heavily weighted towards men, with 8 males for every 2 females. Interestingly, most card holders are in their thirties, a sign that the credit card concept so essential to DM has taken deepest roots in the young and upcoming.

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