Standard Chartered Bank China Ltd. on Sept. 3 began issuing two debit cards designed for Chinese teenagers, becoming the first foreign bank to step into China’s emerging financial markets for teenagers.

The Shanghai-based unit of United Kingdom-based Standard Charter Bank  is making the two cards–the Zhi Tong card and Platinum card–available only to children ages 10 to 17 whose parents already have Standard Chartered accounts.

The China UnionPay-branded Zhi Tong card is designed for domestic use only, while teens may use the Platinum card internationally. Only priority-banking customers may apply for the China UnionPay-branded Platinum card for their children, according to the bank.

Parents pay no monthly fee if they maintain more than 700,000 yuan (US$103,000 or 79,000 euros) in their Standard Charter accounts, according to the bank. Otherwise, they pay the issuer 150 yuan per month. 

Teenagers have recently become an important target for banks in China because of the teen market's huge growth potential, An Xianglong, research director at Answer Marketing Consulting, a Beijing-based firm focusing on Chinese children, tells PaymentsSource.

“The money held by Chinese young kids suggests they have strong spending power,” he says.

But the real opportunities come from the parents eager to fund a future for their children, An says. A typical example occurred in June, when China's largest lender, the Industrial Commercial Bank of China, launched debit cards targeting parents-to-be and new parents.

“According to our research, education and health care are the top two sectors in which Chinese parents want to invest for their kids,” An adds.

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