The number of credit cards in circulation in
India rose for the first time in 18 months from 18.28 million to
19.29 million in April as banks cross-sell cards to their existing
customer base.

HDFC Bank is leading the way, issuing 80,000 – 90,000 new credit
cards a month, and according to data released by the Reserve Bank
of India (RBI), 90 percent of new cards sourced by HDFC Bank are
from the existing customer pool. HDFC had 4.45 million
credit cards in circulation by the end of March, according to Parag
Rao, head of cards at the private sector lender.

Using a similar approach, Standard Chartered
Bank has also seen its monthly credit card spends increase
from INR2.5 billion ($53.6 million) in 2008-9
to INR4 billion in April this year. Shyamal Saxena,
general manager of retail banking at StanChart, said that the bank
is aiming to achieve INR5 billion in card spending per month.

The financial crisis hit unsecured portfolios
such as credit cards and personal loans were severely in
India, forcing banks into an aggressive clean-up, cancelling
inactive cards and closing accounts they feared would default.
ICICI Bank, India’s largest private sector lender, cut its credit
card base from a peak of more than 8 million to around 5
million during the crisis.

Figures from the financial year 2008-9 showed
that 6.4 million cards were removed from the system and India’s
credit card population fell by more than 10 million at the end of
March this year from a peak of 28.3 million in April 2008,
according to RBI data.

As issuers became more optimistic and resumed
new card issuances during the second half of 2009, the financial
year 2009-10 yielded more positive statistics showing that the
number of new cards issued was a million higher than those

SBI Cards has also been adding more than 20,000 cards a month,
according to managing director & CEO Abhay Singh.