DETERMINED to double market share in the competitive credit card sector in a year, Bank of China knows it has to play its cards smartly. Yesterday, it became the first bank in town to merge fuel card, credit card and ATM card into one 'smart' card, which is embedded with a computer chip. Launched jointly with petrol company Esso Hong Kong, the card, as does other credit cards, will earn attractive free gifts to the holders. Besides, the chip will calculate and record any Esso gas purchases and allocate bonus points which can be redeemed later. Currently holding 12-15 per cent of the market in terms of card holders, making it Hong Kong's fifth largest, BOC Credit Card (International) is keen to extend its market share quickly. 'Our retail banking has a 25 per cent market share, second in Hong Kong, Dickson So, general manager of BOC Credit Card, said. 'Hopefully, in a year's time, our credit card business can gather similar size,' he said. Hongkong Bank tops the league table in terms of cardholder numbers, followed by Standard Chartered, Citibank and Manhattan Card. Starting from a tiny base, BOC initially targeted its own bank customers, who have strong China connections. But Mr So said the time had come for the group to adopt a more aggressive approach to reach non-bank customers. 'The Esso Smart Mastercard is an example,' he said. The small customer base enabled BOC Credit Card to record a 30 per cent increase in card receivables in the first half when retail consumption dipped. In contrast, the group's card business was buoyed by the inter-border trade between Hong Kong and China. BOC Credit Card, founded in 1980, was formerly known as Nanyang Credit Card, operating as a subsidiary of Nanyang Commercial Bank. The name change was intended to strengthen the group's identity. The change also brought about re-organisation. The card company now is in charge of the 300-plus ATM machines of the group, which are linked up with 400 more in China. 'More human and financial resources are pooled in as well,' Mr So said. About 18 banks are served by BOC Credit Card. Besides the 14 BOC member banks, Ka Wah Bank, Union Bank, Luso International Bank and Tai Fung Bank also joined the company.