Chase Manhattan Corp. has begun issuing credit cards in Mexico as part of its strategy to develop a consumer business outside the United States.
A spokesman for the banking company in New York said Chase has launched two secured credit cards in the northern Mexican industrial city of Monterrey.
The first card requires a minimum investment of 10,000 Mexican pesos, or $1,250, at Chase, and the second, a minimum investment of 50,000 pesos, or $6,250. Both cards will offer small lines of credit-up to 5,000 pesos, or $625-and carry a variable rate. Neither will have an annual fee.
The spokesman added that the card is being aimed at middle-class Mexican families and can be used at 300,000 automated teller machines and 14 million merchants in 22 countries.
Recently, Chase launched credit card ventures in Thailand and Hong Kong. The Thai effort, however, has been put on hold as a result of an economic downturn in that country.
Chase is the fifth-largest card issuer in the United States, with about $33 billion of credit card loans outstanding. Outside the continental United States, Chase also issues credit cards in Panama and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Analysts said it is logical that Chase should seek to expand its international credit card operations, even if Mexico appears to be a poor prospect due to the high level of defaults on credit cards after an economic downturn in the mid-1990s.
"Mexico is a market that has lots of consumers who over time will be good customers of the bank," said Raphael Soifer, a banking analyst at Brown Brothers, Harriman & Co.
"The trick is to get into the market so as not to take inordinate credit risk while the economy is still weak and vulnerable," Mr. Soifer said.
"Big U.S. companies have a lot of expertise in different markets of different size and different attitudes," said David Berry, a banking analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.
Mr. Berry noted that Citicorp has already developed extensive credit card operations in many of the emerging markets in which it operates. Both Citicorp and American Express Co. have issued credit and charge cards in Mexico for several years.