The Malaysian government is imposing an "annual service charge" on credit-card holders as part of its 2010 budget.

The tax, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, amounts to $15 for consumers' principal credit and charge cards and $7.50 for secondary cards, the government said.

Details about how the payment card tax would be implemented and paid were not immediately available.

The government hopes the tax will persuade consumers to carry fewer credit cards and lower their debt.

Bank Negara Malaysia, the country's central bank, said consumers in Malaysia hold roughly 11 million credit cards.

Without more details about the policy, it is too early to say how the tax will affect card use, said Charles Sik, the head of consumer financial services for OCBC Bank (Malaysia) Bhd.

"Much would depend on how this is implemented," he said. "In any case, the consumer or the banking industry would have to bear the cost for this new source of income for the government."

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