Record credit card use overseas

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Record credit card use overseas

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Despite a struggling economy, Koreans travelled abroad and spent lavishly during their trips as offshore credit card spending last year reached an all-time record high.

In contrast, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in early summer resulted in less spending by foreigners traveling to Seoul, for the first time in 12 years.

According to the Bank of Korea on Tuesday, the total payments from cards held by Korean residents but made outside the country stood at $13.26 billion last year, up 8.7 percent from a year earlier.

The figure includes all payments made by credit cards and debit cards.

The overseas payments surged largely due to a 20.1 percent jump in the number of Korean overseas travelers in 2015, the report said. A total of 19.31 million Koreans went on overseas trips last year. From 2011 to 2014, the number of overseas travelers grew modestly year-on-year (around 8 percent), which made the 2015 growth relatively larger.

However, the 2015 growth in total spending slowed compared to 15.7 percent in 2014, mainly because of the weakening Korean won against the U.S. dollar, the BOK said. The average won-dollar rate stood at 1,053.2 won in 2014. It rose to 1,131.5 won in 2015.

Payments per card stood at $345 last year, down 15.1 percent from $407 in 2014. The number of cards used by Koreans also surged 28 percent to 38 million during the same period.

On the other hand, foreigners’ card spending in Korea recorded $10.48 million in the same year, falling 13.2 percent from the previous year.

It is the first time that foreigners’ card spending in the domestic market declined since 2004. “Foreigners’ card spending has been on a steady growth since 2004,” said a BOK official regarding the report.


By SONG SU-HYUN [song.suhyun@joongang.co.kr]


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