Money-lender Aeon Credit Services (Asia) Co is to slash its credit card interest rate to 18 per cent from 24 per cent, following the footsteps of American Express. Managing director Kazuhide Kamitani said yesterday the consumer finance company planned to prune the credit purchase rates of its six Affinity cards next month, after American Express launched an 18 per cent interest rate credit card in April. The move came as Aeon sought to boost further its credit card weighting this year, switching its focus from personal loan business. Credit card business - including Aeon cards, Affinity cards and Mastercards - contributed 72 per cent of $1 billion accounts receivable last year, a 10 per cent growth from the previous year. 'Aeon still has much room to expand in the market,' Mr Kamitani said. 'Everyone here has two credit cards on average while in the United States it is four to five.' He said Aeon would launch an Affinity card with Japanese department store Matsuzakaya and a charity card next month, taking the number of new cards this year to 10. 'We expect to issue about 100,000 new cards [for subscribers] this year, apart from the 20,000 issued before February,' Mr Kamitani said. 'By 1998, we plan to issue up to 400,000 new cards.' Most of the new cards would be Affinity cards which general manager Gerald Fong Chung-leung described as 'the best way to enlarge the cardholders base'. Existing Affinity cards link Aeon with other Japanese merchandise stores including Jusco, Yaohan, Mabelle and Iwai's - and travel agency Wing On Travel. Aeon also will install six more automated teller machines at KCR stations by the end of the year. There are 59 machines now. In spite of the swelling number of credit cards in the coming years, Mr Fong said bad debts were not expected to soar. He said the bad-debt ratio dropped to about 12 per cent in the first half from 14 per cent previously. Bad-debt expenses were charged for bad debt written off, bad debt provision, card insurance provision and provision for resale of towed vehicles.