Despite having high interest rates, the use and ownership of credit cards in Hong Kong has reached a historical high. In a city of nearly 7 million people, the number of credit cards in circulation reached a record 10.6 million in June, Hong Kong Monetary Authority figures show. The number of credit cards, which dropped sharply when the city was hit by a spate of personal bankruptcies in 2002, has risen for 21/2 consecutive years since the beginning of 2003. In the 12 months to June alone, there was a net increase in the number of credit card accounts by just over a million. In June last year, there were 9.6 million credit card accounts. A spokesman for Visa, which has 8 million cards in circulation locally, said credit cards had become more popular because they were so convenient. 'There's no need to queue up in banks or at ATMs to get money, and you can use it at home and abroad in any currency,' he said. Thomas Tse Lin-chung, a lawyer familiar with personal bankruptcy cases, said over the years Hong Kong people had grown increasingly comfortable with borrowing money, departing from the traditional concept of spending only what was saved. And after the spate of bankruptcies brought on by the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98 and magnified by the Sars outbreak, Mr Tse said credit card issuers seemed to have shifted focus on making sure users spent more on their existing accounts rather than issuing more cards. A previous Hong Kong Consumer Council study found local card users paid between 26 and 28 per cent in annual interest rates, compared with just 16 per cent in Britain.