American Express Co. has inked a deal in which China Merchants Bank will issue a new dual-currency AmEx credit card designed for Chinese travelers. The card will support transactions in both Chinese yuan and U.S. dollars.

The partnership could help AmEx expand its coverage in China significantly because China Merchants is one of the country's largest card issuers, Dave Keung, AmEx vice president and general manager for greater China, tells PaymentsSource. “China Merchants Bank will increase the number of American Express-branded products in the marketplace and significantly expand the reach of the American Express brand,” he says.

Cardholders will receive various exclusive services, including earning free hotel stays, free airline tickets and travel insurance worth up to 5 million yuan (US$731,000 or 598,000 euros) on their card spending, Keung says.

The card is available in green and gold versions. The green card requires an annual fee of 180 yuan, and the gold card comes with an annual fee of 380 yuan, making it the most expensive card China Merchants offers, the bank says.

China Merchants is the third partner in China for AmEx, which teamed with China CITIC Bank in 2007 and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in 2004.

Some 54 million Chinese travelers will go overseas this year and spend up to US$48 billion, predicts the China National Tourism Academy.

“We are very excited to see these figures and the rapid growth in outbound travel, and we see huge opportunities,” Keung says.

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