Citigroup (Citi) has issued its first
sole-branded credit card in China becoming the primary western bank
to issue credit cards without co-branding from a local
Chinese financial institution.

Citi already offers co-branded credit cards
with Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, but the lender will
reportedly stop the program now that its own card has been
Citi received approval from China’s banking regulator in February
to issue credit cards
on its own to local customers.

Citi will work with state-owned China
UnionPay. Citi has also opened its 50th retail branch in China
this August.

Citi’s chief executive for Asia-Pacific,
Stephen Bird, said:

“We were the first international bank to enter
the retail banking market in China in 2002. We are delighted to be
once again breaking new ground in what is one of our most important
markets globally.”

Hong Kong’s Bank of East Asia was the only
non-Chinese bank so far to offer credit cards on its own in

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Local banks such as Industrial &
Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) dominate the retail banking market
in China with their extensive reach and distribution network. HSBC
has the biggest network of any overseas bank in China, followed by
Standard Chartered.