• Kyodo News

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Gold credit cards, long regarded as a status symbol of the rich in Japan and elsewhere, are now available at bargain-basement prices with offers ranging from a night out on Tokyo Bay to Disney character merchandise.

Mitsubishi UFJ Nicos Co., a credit business company affiliated with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, said the number of gold card holders has been rising steadily, centering on young people obtaining them for the first time in their lives.

It first issued the gold MUFG Card last July for ¥2,000 in annual membership fees, or one-fifth the usual price. It offered an incentive point system to its holders to have a dinner cruise on Tokyo Bay or a helicopter flight for a night view of the capital.

Credit business Orient Corp. marketed its gold card last October for a ¥1,950 annual fee and including an electronic money function.

JCB Co. stunned rival firms in November with its Disney JCB Card, which provides customers with a chance to choose a product from six characters, including Mickey Mouse and Tinkerbelle, whose images are on the cards.

JCB’s rivals reportedly were blind-sided. One said, “they did a beautiful job” in becoming the first Japanese credit card firm to enter into a partnership with Walt Disney Co.

JCB has not made public how many people have obtained the card but said the customer response is buoyant and “women account for about 80 percent” of the holders.

About 40 percent of ordinary credit card holders aspire to possess gold cards, according to a survey by Rakuten Research. It added that men in their 20s to 30s are extremely eager to carry a gold card in a show of status but the high cost had long barred them from doing so.

The reduction in the annual fee came as credit card companies struggled to gain clients in an effort to remain active in a nearly saturated market.

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