<p>WASHINGTON – Retailers, not banks or credit unions, are the fastest growing issuers of credit cards in the U.S. today, according to Cardweb.com, a site on the World Wide Web that tracks credit card trends. Target leads the way as the fastest growing Visa issuer while Sears leads the field for Mastercard. Target’s Visa accounts topped $2 billion in the quarter ending May 4, Cardweb reported, making it one of the top 25 Visa issuers. Since the launch of its Visa smart card program in September 2001, Target has issued more than six million cards and reports that it will have smart card readers in all of its stores by August of 2002. Once the readers are in place the store plans to offer its customers coupon and other discounts through the cards in time for the 2002 Christmas buying season. Target’s Visa cards have grown by “seventeen fold” while the receivables from its private label “guest card” program declined by 16%, Cardweb reported. Sears has signed up twenty million users for its Gold Mastercard since the program was initiated two years ago, according to Cardweb.</p>

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