THE credit-card industry in the Asia-Pacific region is booming, with more consumers than ever before carrying plastic. Visa International said the number of cards issued in the region rose 12 per cent from 62 million to 70 million last year. Visa card payments in the region reached US$73 billion (about HK$564.29 billion), an increase of 29 per cent over the previous year. Most of the regional spending on credit cards took place in Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore. Credit cards are also gaining popularity in other emerging markets. For example, spending on Visa cards in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam and Macau in the last quarter of 1994 came to US$96 million. And in China about three million consumers now use Visa. In line with the growing number using credit cards, the number of card providers has also increased. As competition for new markets increases, so do the perks. Incentives such as discount purchases on clothes and appliances, savings on hotel bookings and free flights for the really big spenders have clouded credit card interest rate charges. It is advisable to analyse spending and repayment habits before opting for a card offering a string of perks. If you plan to use a credit card and carry over a revolving balance for a long time, it is the interest rate and not the incentives that you should study.