DUBAI The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Poland have emerged as Citigroups (C.N) top consumer markets in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, a senior executive told Reuters, as the bank focuses on growth areas.
Citigroup, one of the worlds largest credit card issuers, has experienced growth in credit card acquisitions in the UAE of 2.5 times over the past year, the bank said. In Bahrain and Poland, the banks credit card business has increased on average by about a third over the last two years, it said.
UAE, Bahrain and Poland are our high performers. We have very good positions in regard to our credit card business in UAE, Bahrain and Poland, said Anil Wadhwani, chief executive of consumer and commercial banking for Citigroup in EMEA.
Lending to consumers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa rose by 10 percent to $6.7 billion during the first quarter, the fastest growth by region globally, according to the banks latest earnings presentation.
Economic growth in the UAE is forecast by the IMF to reach 3.2 percent in 2015, with Bahrains growth estimated by the fund at 2.7 percent. Polands economy has outshone most others in the European Union by growing through the global financial crisis.
Those markets are in contrast to Russia, where the bank has been reducing its exposure in recent months as sanctions bite against the economy.
In Britain, where the bank does not have a credit card business, its debit card business was doing reasonably well, said Wadhwani.
It is in the process of exiting its three other consumer markets in the region -- Egypt, Czech Republic and Hungary -- moves that should be completed this year.
More than half of the banks consumer lending globally during the first quarter was in North America, with EMEA representing only 2.4 percent of the total, according to the banks latest earnings presentation.
Like many other banks, Citigroup has been focusing on growing its wealth management business for high net worth individuals, particularly as tight net interest margins pressure revenue from lending across much of the region.
The UAE and Bahrain offer particularly fertile ground for that, with both countries featuring in the top 12 of a 2013 Boston Consulting Group index of countries with the highest density of millionaire households in the world.
Its growing at a very fast pace, particularly those with assets over $100,000 up to $25 million, said Wadhwani.
(Reporting By Tom Arnold; Editing by Keith Weir)
If all credit cards came with let’s pretend this never happened return policies, perhaps it would be easier to choose one and feel good about the decision. But it’s not that simple. Even canceled credit cards that were paid as agreed can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years. You can’t just try on new plastic and see if it fits.
This may be one reason so many of us feel unsure. When facing major financial decisions, such as picking a credit card, 40% of respondents in a 2015 survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, sponsored by NerdWallet, reported feeling somewhat confident. Eight percent reported feeling not very confident or not confident at all.
How can you know you’re choosing a keeper? Start by asking yourself three questions.1. What do I spend money on, and is that likely to change?
Different credit cards earn rewards on different purchases. If you frequently cook at home and rarely go out to eat, for instance, you may want to get a card with rewards on groceries instead of restaurants. Don’t make a decision based solely on the sign-up bonus.
Think about the future, too. If you’re anticipating getting a new job, moving, getting married or having kids, consider choosing a credit card that will fit your future spending needs, not just your present ones. Decide if you want to hold on to it for 10 years, one year or somewhere in between.
Maybe there’s a good chance you won’t be fully paying off your purchases for a few months. In that case, a low-interest credit card would make more sense than a rewards card with a higher APR. Or maybe you’re trying to get a job within walking distance of your house, so getting a gas rewards card may be shortsighted. If you want to use your card for a longer period of time, think about getting one with more flexible earnings and rewards that can grow with you.2. Is this credit card too complicated?
When applying for credit cards, you may fantasize about cracking the code on the world’s most complicated loyalty programs and racking up big points. In practice, though, would you want to devote that much time to your plastic?
If you would, signing up for a card with a more complicated rewards program may be a fine idea. But if it’s unlikely, you may want to look for more flexible earning and redemption options. Here are some key things to watch for when trying to gauge how complicated a rewards program is:
- Loyalty tiers: Some cards are linked to loyalty programs (for example, with an airline or a hotel chain) with different tiers. You can typically advance to a higher loyalty status and earn more benefits by spending more on your card. Before applying for one of these, find out what you need to do to advance. For example, you may have to spend $30,000 on hotel stays at a certain chain before qualifying for an elite status. Think about whether the program would still be worth it if you didn’t get to the next level.
- Redemption options: Find out if you can redeem rewards with only one company (say, the airline that co-branded the card) or several companies.
- Spending caps: Getting 5% on groceries is a competitive deal, but you may earn less than you thought if there’s a $2,000 annual limit on those category rewards. Find out whether the card offers unlimited rewards.
- Rotating rewards: On some cards, the rewards categories rotate every three months. Often, you have to opt into the awards every quarter to receive them. If you feel like this could be difficult to keep up with, you may want a card with categories that don’t change.
- Transfer partners: Find out if the card allows you to transfer rewards to other loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio, and whether it charges fees for this.
- Blackout dates and availability: Some hotels and airlines won’t let you redeem rewards on peak travel days. Others limit awards seats or rooms. If you have a flexible traveling schedule, this may not matter to you, but if you tend to travel when everyone else does, it could be a roadblock.
Once you have an idea of how difficult it would be to maximize your rewards through a certain program, you’ll have a better idea of whether you should stick with it or go with a more low-maintenance card.3. How much am I going to spend?
When you apply for a card that promises a sign-up bonus once you spend a set amount (say, $5,000 in three months), think about whether that required spending would be a stretch for you. If it is, consider signing up for a card that makes it easier to nab the sign-up bonus.
Alternatively, you could apply for the card with the higher minimum spending requirement when you expect your expenses to go up -- for instance, if you’re planning to shell out a few thousand dollars on a vacation. But don’t make the mistake of purchasing things you don’t need just to meet the minimum spending requirement and earn the sign-up bonus.
If you’re getting a card with an annual fee, make sure you’re going to spend enough on it to make it worth the investment. Say you get a card with a $100 annual fee that earns an unlimited 5 cents cash back per dollar spent on groceries. Sign-up bonus aside, you’d have to spend $2,000 on groceries with that card before breaking even.
If you have a family of five and cook at home frequently, that may be an excellent deal. But if you’re just cooking for yourself, or mostly subsisting on takeout, you’d probably save much more with another card.So I got the wrong card last time. Now what?
If you picked a bad fit the first time around, canceling may not always be the best solution. As noted, the account will stay on your credit report for up to 10 years even when closed in good standing, lowering the average age of your accounts and possibly bringing down your credit score. The hard inquiry on your report from applying for the credit card may stay on your file for up to two years, as well.
You may not be better off signing up for another credit card right away, either, for the same reasons. Especially if your score is borderline, even a slight change would take it from good to average and affect your chances of getting the best deals.
If your issuer offers several other credit cards, you may be able to trade in your current card for a different one without hurting your credit. Look at the other options the bank offers and call about the possibility of switching. In some cases, your issuer will just transfer your old account information to the new account, and it won’t affect your average age of accounts; it may not even require a hard credit pull. This type of change could be a good option if you want different earning or redemption options, but want to stay with the same bank. Ask your issuer about how it could affect your credit before making the transition.
If the card you want isn’t offered by your current issuer, though, or if your bank offers limited alternatives, it may be a good time to start fresh after about six months to a year. Compare credit cards through NerdWallet's comparison tool and read our top recommendations to find a card that’s a good match. Instead of changing your habits to fit a card, change your card to fit your habits.
Claire Davidson is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @ideclaire7 and on Google+.
Image via iStock.
Once again, we find the public sector lagging behind the private sector in terms of efficiencies, technological aptitude, etc. In this particular case, the public sector is slipping down the hiding your hooker/gambling purchases from your employer curve:
A not-yet-released Defense Department investigation has found civilian and military employees used government charge cards to make more than $1 million in purchases at casinos and to pay for escorts, according to an internal report.In the private sector, these purchases would normally be covered up by cash advances or by utilizing savvier services who bill customers under innocuous names. Over at the Pentagon, no one seems to care. Just put it on the DoDs tab! Whos going to take a close look at a few thousand credit card statements?
Well, the Inspector General apparently did. And discovered that this occurred 4,437 times in a one-year period. Of course, the Pentagon is trying to play this down by pointing out that this total represents only 0.5% of the charges accrued over the same period. Left unaddressed is the principle of the thing, wherein taxpayers are often displeased to find their funds have been spent on hookers and roulette spins. And, of course, this would be displeasure in addition to the preexisting disgruntlement about the normal, everyday spending that helps keep the country operating at a steady
The DoD official also offered this reassuring statement that safely hedges the almost-assertions while simultaneously undercutting most of the intended reassurance.
Some or all of the charges may have been paid by the individuals, rather than the government, according to the official.This statement is a little better, although essentially meaningless without the context of the full IG report.
The Defense official said the individuals who used their cards inappropriately will be held accountable, noting action has been taken on 364 cases and an additional 79 cases are pending action.But the most interesting statement offered in defense of Pentagon employees and their indiscretionary spending is this one:
One official speculated to Politico the individuals may have used their government -- instead of their personal -- cards to hide the illicit activities from their spouses.Im not sure if that makes me feel better or worse about these government employees. This is very much a human nature problem. And the government still hires from the human race because there are currently no better options. No matter how much wed hope it would hold potential and current employees to a higher standard (perhaps higher than one were willing to apply to ourselves), theres still going to be a certain amount of misconduct and malfeasance.
But even if occasional abuse is unavoidable and the possible motivating factors understandable, the behavior is still far from acceptable. Are we supposed to feel better that this scenario will more likely result in the repayment of charges by the employee who racked them up? Do we raise a half-hearted cheer to the possibility that DoD employees arent trying to abuse taxpayer funds but rather hiding their gambling and escort purchases from their significant others?
I can see how facing the internal wrath of a Pentagon supervisor would be preferable to discussing this activity with a spousehellip; or their lawyer. But its still a betrayal of trust -- on several levels -- even if it is only a very small percentage of the whole.
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A recent Inspector Generals audit of Pentagon-issued credit cards shows an astounding level of abuse that no private business would ever tolerate.
ABC News reports almost $1 million was charged at Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos; it showed another $100,000 was spent at strip clubs by federal employees using government plastic.
If it wasnt so outrageous, it would almost be comical. But theres nothing funny about waste, abuse and fraud in government.
So far, the 500 or more offenders have not been publicly identified - which they absolutely should be - because the shame and humiliation they sought to avoid by hiding their illicit spending from their spouses, ought to be a big part of their very public punishment.
Even though the Inspector General says taxpayers wont foot the bill, but how do we know the credit card abusers will really pay up?
All this happened despite the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act, a 2012 law that requires federal agencies to monitor purchases to protect taxpayer money.
Obviously that law doesnt work very well, so how about this?
The names of the government credit card abusers ought to be released and their names widely distributed on news websites, along with proof that every dollar spent illegally has been paid by the card holder and not the taxpayer.
Then the abusers need to be stripped of the privilege of having a government issued credit card.
Maybe some of them - or all of them - ought to be fired.
Thats the way it works in the real world.
General Manager Holly Steuart brings two editorials a week to WTVM. If you would like to respond to an editorial, e-mail your response to WTVM Editorial Committee or write to:
WTVM Editorial Committee
1909 Wynnton Road
Columbus, GA 31906
Copyright WTVM 2015. All rights reserved.