Bank of East Asia, Hong Kong's fifth-largest bank, expects to maintain a 40 per cent growth rate in credit card issuance bringing its total number to more than 1.3 million next year. The lender is confident that the current buoyant stock market will continue to boost domestic consumption and trigger increased card spending. 'As seen from our customers, most of the card transactions are currently for retail purchases rather than bill payments,' said Christine Lo, head of BEA's card services' department. The lender's credit card rollover ratio, which captures the proportion of customers using their credit cards for 'borrowing' purposes rather than pure transacting (and paying up balances before interest is due), increased to more than 70 per cent from 60 per cent a year ago, said Ms Lo. This is higher than the market average of about 50 per cent. The increase, she said, was due mainly to the launch of a cash instalment programme which differed from its rivals as it provided a personalised interest rate to individual credit card customers. Total card issuance was now more than 950,000, said Ms Lo, distributed over 20 different credit card types. Total card transaction values were up 20 per cent against the market average of 15 per cent growth and Ms Lo said she expected this growth to be maintained next year. BEA aims to acquire younger high-spending customers as part of its expansion strategy. Its target group will be aged between 20 and 35, with annual salaries of around HK$ 150,000.