Banks in Malaysia are testing various promotions to win back credit card customers after an annual credit card tax introduced early this year sparked a sharp decline in the nation’s total credit card accounts.

According to data the Malaysian government’s finance ministry released recently, the number of credit card accounts in the country dropped 13% to 8.7 million as of Sept. 30 from 10 million accounts a year earlier.

Observers attribute the decline in large part to millions of cardholders cancelling their accounts after the government imposed an annual tax of 50 ringgits ($US16 and 12 Euros) for a primary credit card and 25 ringgits for a supplementary card beginning January 1, 2010 (see story).

Certain Malaysian banks are responding to the setback with promotions and enhanced rewards programs to spark customers’ interest in credit cards.

Kuala Lumpur-based Maybank Sdn Bhd is offering extra rewards points and cash-back deals to returning accountholders. Customers who reactivate their cards will receive 10,000 rewards points that may be considered a bonus to offset the cost of the tax.

Standard Chartered Sdn Bhd also is offering cash-back rewards to consumers who successfully apply for its Gold and Platinum credit cards under a promotion that is expected to run through the end of January 2011. Under the promotion, Gold cardholders receive an account credit of 88 ringgits, while Platinum cardholders receive a credit of 188 ringgits.

An official from Standard Chartered tells PaymentsSource that the cash-back promotion is expected to help offset the cost of the card tax for new card applicants.

A customer service representative for Maybank Sdn Bhd says a new program to provide rewards for returning cardholders is a possibility, but the bank did not immediately return calls confirming plans.

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