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Financial institutions had issued approximately 40 million credit cards in Turkey by the end of April, but a government regulation on credit card interest rates may prevent issuers from sustaining profits and growth, concludes a report from United States-based consulting group Celent LLC. Over the past two years, the Turkish government has decreased the maximum allowable monthly interest rate to 4.39% in June from 5.72% in July 2006, according to the report. The government recently proposed a regulation that would slash the interest rate to 2.7%. Consumer group and credit cardholders pressured the government to reduce credit card debt after the country's economic troubles in 2000 and 2001, the report says. The economy has since recovered, but government regulations continue to limit default risk and over-borrowing on credit cards, the report says. In March 2006, the government introduced the Bank and Credit Card Law to further protect cardholders. The regulations called for tighter credit limits, including customer consent before limits are raised. The value of payments made with credit cards has increased significantly over the past six years because of the improving economy, according to the report. Consumer credit represents the bulk of bank lending, but the report suggests Turkish banks can make money despite low interest rates by focusing on cost reductions and other measures. Banks should also steer customers to more-profitable products and services instead of relying on cards, the report suggests.

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