More big spenders burn through cards overseas

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More big spenders burn through cards overseas

Despite the economic downturn, the number of major credit card users who spend?at least $20,000 overseas each year has been rising significantly each year, according to a government watchdog yesterday.

According to the Korea Customs Service (KCS), 63,727 people forked out at least this much on foreign shores last year, making a total of $3.1 billion. They paid by plastic outside Korea 180 times on average over the 12-month period.

The number of big spenders climbed 16.9 percent from 2010 and 64 percent from 2009, when the won made significant improvements against the dollar in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The KCS published its findings in a report called “Major Credit Card Users Overseas from 2008 until 2011.” It refers to both individuals and companies.

The total sum was $3.12 billion in 2011, $2.5 billion in 2010 and $1.8 billion in 2009.

Last year, these big spenders made a total of 8.52 million transactions overseas, worth a total of $1.88 billion, and 2.95 million cash withdrawals, worth $1.24 billion.

Removing companies from the equation, individuals used their cards 180 times each and spent $49,000.

The KCS cited increasing international travel as 12.7 million Koreans took vacations overseas last year.

By country, the top destination for Koreans’ money was the U.S. ($1.08 billion), followed by the Philippines ($344 million), China ($331 million), Japan ($220 million) and Singapore ($120 million).

Among the major credit card users, some individual merchants or those who run small Internet shopping malls were confirmed to have used credit cards to commit illegal activities such as making unlawful transactions in foreign currencies.

From 2008 until this August, the KCS has assumed control for monitoring the breakdown of credit card usage among major spenders from the Credit Finance Association. Over this period, it has identified 43 transgressions worth a total of 19.3 billion won ($17.6 million), it said. These covered illegal transactions made using foreign currencies and smuggling, among other violations.

By Kim Jung-yoon [kjy@joongang.co.kr]
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