Getting an unsecured credit card from a Thai bank – as a foreigner

Getting an unsecured credit card from a Thai bank – as a foreigner

The process can seem complex - but it CAN be done


First, a few disclosures. I don't work for any Thai bank. I don't receive any kind of benefit; direct or indirect, implied or not from any Thai bank or this site. These are my own personal experiences; yours may be similar or not.

About me

Some background on me. I am a single (unmarried with no dependent children) American and have been in Thailand now for about four years and have been working at my university for just over three years on a yearly renewable 12-month contract.

My monthly base salary is easily more than B50,000 but slightly less than B100,000 and is directly paid into my bank account. I do earn some extra income by doing special assignment work, but that is not consistent.

I have paid Thai income taxes and have tax clearance letters from the Revenue Department. Naturally, I hold a valid work permit for this work. I rent a condo in Bangkok from a (private citizen) Thai national on a renewable yearly lease.

I don't maintain an overly large savings account balance at my local Thai bank as I remit the bulk of any saved funds back to the US for ongoing investment purposes. I don't maintain any substantial investments or other assets in the Kingdom.

Ok let's move on.

I'll start with some Q&A's that I was asked by fellow foreign teachers on this matter. Then review the process I went thru.

Q: Can a foreigner - an English teacher - get a true unsecured credit card from a Thai bank?

A: Absolutely yes! However, like many things in Thailand, there can be a lot of "maybe" between the ‘yes' and reality. It will require some time, planning and preparation work on your part to do so.

Q: Why do you want a Thai credit card and all the hassles that applying for one comes with?

A: Everyone has to make this decision for on their own. For me, there were two compelling reasons. First, there are some decent promotions like for dining and entertainment that are only available to Thai-issued cards; not foreign Visa/MC cards.

Second, as my goal is to remain in the Kingdom on a long(er) term basis, getting a credit card will either start or strengthen my credit report/file as maintained by the NCB which will only be an asset in the future. Remember though, you still have to manage the account and payments and just as it is with most of our ‘home' countries, failing to pay bills timely can, and usually will come with consequences.

Q: What income do you need to have?

A: Ahh, one of the magical numbers. My experience was that B50,000 per month, was the bare minimum for any card. Yes, for a Thai, the minimum was commonly around B15,000.

Your math is correct; the foreigner must have an income that is more than 300% higher than a Thai. Fair? I'll talk about that later on. I will say this, remember that minimums are bank-specific, and not set by Thai law, so they'll vary from bank to bank. It is my experience that if you are not making B50,000 at minimum (and that's on-the-books income via a work permit-based job) that your odds are not all that good.

A few words on this "income" part. My experience was that the income you need to meet their minimum, must have come from a/the job in your work permit(s) and/or that income had to be shown in your bankbook- and with the correct ‘salary' deposit code not just a regular cash deposit (if your bank uses such). I did ask several banks what if you had an informal second job (one where you didn't have a work permit for and/or were paid in cash) and was told by more than one bank that it wouldn't be accepted as means to meet their minimum income threshold.

They did say that it might be used to establish a higher credit limit, but only if I met the minimum income via income that came from a work permit based job and salary that was "on the books" as in shown in my bank book. Lastly, two of the four banks looked closely that my salary deposit was entered into my bank book using the "SAL" salary code. For Bangkok Bank (I assume others are the same) there is a specific code for deposits that are for salary purposes only and/or come from legitimate employment situations, as opposed to all other cash-type deposits which are coded differently.

Q: Does it really matter what bank I choose to apply at or the specific branch of that bank?

A: YES it does, and possibly yes it does. As one might expect, each bank had slightly different criteria (which is proprietary and therefore won't disclose to you nor are they required to disclose to you) for what a successful applicant had to present or have. All the banks naturally list minimum paperwork needed, plus minimum income levels; however, this does not mean that approval is guaranteed. So, one bank may have ‘easier' criteria than another bank - the hard part is that the banks credit card department won't directly tell you what it is. Remember all banks will periodically adjust up or down their lending criteria as overall economic conditions change, the banks performance/risk tolerance changes and/or their outlook for their credit card lending operations. Timing when you apply can impact your chances, but this isn't largely a day-to-day metric, but a longer term issue banks review.

As far as the specific branch of the bank goes; my experience and casual questioning is that YES, some branches (and even employees) may be ‘easier'. However, there is a caveat, remember that the actual approval does not happen at the branch, or even by a branch manager. Approval comes from the credit department - usually at the head office. Now, sure, a branch manager or other employee may have some "pull" or clout. The manager may have a title or have substantial seniority with the bank and may be able to pick-up the phone and get you approved, but the end, as far I can tell, branch level people cannot actually and formally say approved or not.

That said, I think it is always wise to apply at a branch where the branch or employee has some vested positive interest (financially or not) in your application. This person may make positive notes on the paper application, make email comments to the credit department, or call the credit department on your behalf. So, common sense says, go somewhere where they seem to want you to get the card. I walked into a smaller branch of one bank and got the immediate ‘feel' that the employee either didn't care if I was approved or didn't want to ‘deal with' a foreigner. I quickly and politely reclaimed all my documents, the partly completed (unsigned) application, and left.

I have heard from employees at three of the four banks I applied at, that as a part of the overall branch assessment, the number of credit card applications that are collected is something that is measured. So, if you have a good relationship at your bank, I'd most definitely start there as they may have some motivation to go the extra mile for you and your application.

Q: What about the need for a work permit?

A: Ahhhh. One of the other "minimums". Is it really a requirement? From my experience, YES. All four banks I went to said a valid work permit was a "must-have" item. I did ask all four banks, "What if I didn't have one?" All four said the same thing. No work permit, no card, no way. Full stop. (note: I did NOT ask about a secured card, and I clearly told them I was only interested in a true unsecured card)

Also, two of four banks required that I had held my permit for TWO full years and that is must be from the same job/same permit. Three banks required that the permit be valid for at least two months after the date of application (assume it was so that the permit wouldn't expire while my application was in-process) and one required it to be valid for six months after date of application. Point here; don't apply just before it expires. The earlier you apply the better. Again, timing here matters.

[Note: I am not a retiree and make no judgement as to retirees' finances, financial stability or creditworthiness and my article today is limited in scope to just those who are working or are under the retirement age based on current Thai rules. I cede that how banks view and process retirees can be different from those who are of working/non-retirement age.]

Q: What about proof of residence?

A: Surprising to me, this seemed to be a non-issue. None of the banks required any formal documentation as to my place of residence. What did I use? As stated earlier, I rent a condo from a private citizen (the condo owner) on a yearly written lease. So, I had a copy of the lease, signed by both of us, plus a copy of the owners ID card and blue book. Did the banks care? From what I could see, the impact was nominal. Yes, they looked at it. Yes, they made some notes, but from what I could see, having that much paperwork to prove my residence was not necessary.

Do I think this is good to have? I do. I'll explain why at the end. Think "credit story"

Q: How did you prove your income?

A: The banks will all require a copy of your bank book. Also, you'll need to have some kind of original salary slip or something in print from your employer that shows your actual pay and dates. Here's what I did. I asked my department (first asking the department head for permission) to write a customized letter to the bank by name, on original university letterhead, stamped and signed that clearly stated; a) my monthly gross salary, b) the actual dates that I received my salary for the past six months, c) my job title, d) my start date, e) the name, branch name and full account number where my salary is deposited.

his of course should match - perfectly - with the dates and amounts printed in my bankbook and match the dates and information printed in my work permit. All four banks took some time to closely check this data for accuracy and match the information on the letter to the work permit and bank book.

This item is a really important one - be sure you've got it - and that's it is accurate and clear.

Q: What else did you provide?

A: I'll list everything I provided. However remember that this list is more than what all banks asked for.
1) Passport. Copy of all of my past extensions, plus the current extension and last entry stamp.
2) Work permit. Copy of every page that has any marks or writing.
3) Bank book. Copy of the first/data page, plus all pages sequentially going back at least six months.
4) Salary Slip. Original letter from the university, on letterhead, stating salary, payment dates, job title and time/length of tenure. Plus specific name and contact number of someone who can verify this information.
5) Contract. Copy of my prior and current employment contract.
6) Tax clearance letter. From Revenue department which states my income as reported and tax paid (or refunded) for the tax year.
7) Condo lease. Original letter from my landlord stating rental terms, plus a copy of the last two years contracts, plus a copy of his ID card and house book.

Q: It is helpful, or not, to give the bank more information than they require?

A: Hard to say for sure. But here is my take on it. The onus to "prove" credit worthiness falls on you; not the bank. The bank only sets minimums, not maximums. Therefore, in my opinion, anything that I can provide that improves the perception of my creditworthiness will at minimum be positive, not negative.

Yes, a few banks that did not explicitly require a copy of my contract or residence information, simply passed those documents back to me and didn't include them with the larger application packet that was eventually sent to the credit card department for processing, but most gladly accepted them.

Q: Did the bank verify your documents?

A: YES. First, let me say this upfront. I am wholly in favor of doing everything you can to improve your odds of approval, however, I don't advocate (in any way, shape or form) lying, falsifying or presenting information (in print or otherwise) that you know is materially false or materially misleading. All the banks verified my employment (dates, job title, pay rate, pay dates and work permit) either by a phone call or fax, to my employer. Two of them actually faxed a copy of the salary verification letter that I had presented to the bank, and asked my employer to certify that it was a genuine letter and that all the information was correct.

Q: Do you have to have an account (savings/current or otherwise) with the bank to get a credit card?

A: No. Based on the four banks I applied to, none of them stated having a deposit account as a prerequisite for an unsecured credit card. Now, do I think it helps? I absolutely do, again, I come back to the notion that you're making a "credit story" for the bank to approve you - and having an established track record with them I would think would only be a help. However, since it appears that no bank makes this a mandate, I think that whatever help it may provide, will be minimal at best.

Q: So what's the actual process? How did you do it?

A: Most all banks will accept applications; 1) in-person at a branch office, 2) by post mail, and/or 3) via their website/online (with follow-up mailing of required documents). I chose only option number one - in person. I did this because my experience has been (unfortunately) that if something is not right or correct, some front-line staff may choose to simply not "deal" with it (for any number of reasons), and that would end up being a denial, versus taking the time, effort and possible hassle, of calling you - a foreigner - to get it fixed. This is not a condemnation of Thai staff, but just a simple realization that I want my application to be "adjudication-ready" the first time.

Here's the step-by-step that I took:

1) Prepare: I made four complete sets of all the paperwork I needed, plus optional paperwork (like the copies of my contract) that I planned to give as well. I also drafted a short cover letter which outlined the papers I was presenting, and making a short paragraph-long "credit story" case for why I should be approved.

2) Review: I looked over every single piece of paper, every copy, every line.

I walked into each bank, with a freshly pressed suit and tie, took a number for new accounts or credit applications and took a seat to wait. I was helped by a banker, and not a traditional teller employee.

(Note: As is customary here, I'd suggest you ‘dress to impress'. While there was no box on the application marked "was the applicant dressed neatly?" as most know, outcomes of interactions can be influenced by dress/appearance - so wear something business like!)

Each bank did about the same thing. I presented my documents to the banker. S/he would review them - painstakingly so - and made sure I had all the necessary documents, they were originals when needed, signed, dated, stamped, covered the right time period, etc. The banker checked the information on my salary against the name and job in the work permit. They checked to the dates and amount of my salary against the entries in my bank book.

After the review (which lasted a solid 10 to 15 minutes with me just sitting there) the banker pulled out a credit application and filled in the necessary information based on the documents I presented. Applications at three of the four banks were all in Thai, only one was in English. After the banker was done, I was asked to sign in about five to seven places. The banker counter-signed as witness.

Warning-be sure ALL your documents are correct to 100%. If it says six months of paperwork, don't give them five months and 29 days; they'll reject that. If it says an original, don't come with a color copy; they'll reject that. Be sure you sign (preferably in the presence of the bank officer) EVERY place where it's required-that will be about five to seven times (assuming you are not applying joint with spouse or applying for a second/additional card holder)
Bring your original passport, original bankbook, original work permit.. They will usually ask to see it and compare that to the copies. If you can bring originals of other papers, do so - banks appear to love originals and verifying originals.

Once you've signed, turned over all your paperwork, you just need to wait.

Don't be surprised if the bank calls you. Several of the banks did call me on my mobile phone to "confirm" some information:

a) Where do you live?
b) What is your national tax ID number?
c) What is the address/full name of your employer?
I personally find it a bit odd. All the banks that did call me, were calling about information that they already had on my application itself or one of the original documents I submitted. My suggestion is to be sure your verbal answers match 100% to what is stated on the paper application or originals.

Another warning. All the banks did verify my employment status, salary amount and dates. Three banks required my employer to either send a letter (via fax or postal mail) confirming the details of my salary slip or sign a fax that was sent to them; only one accepted a verbal confirmation. So, my suggestion is to alert your employer or staff member(s) who would answer your office phone or be empowered to answer these kinds of calls/faxes/letters/inquiries that you are applying for credit. I suspect that ANY deviation in answers would lead to a denial.

Waiting.. Trust me, you'll wait..

From the date I walked into the branch office, to the date I was told (usually by a SMS or phone call) that I was approved was no sooner than 19 calendar days to as long as 37 calendar days! Once approval was communicated to me, cards physically arrived at my condo in about 5 days thereafter by registered mail.

A few comments..

Remember that a credit card (again, I am referring to a traditional credit card, not a secured card) really is a personal loan by the bank, and is wholly unsecured. Unlike a house loan or car loan, there really is no asset that the bank can quickly and realistically "seize" that will meaningfully cover their losses if you default. Yes, some applicants may have assets like a condo or car in their name which may be something the bank may be able to target in a legal/default action, but the process that bank would need to follow to actually get legal custody of that asset is not an overnight or cheap process.

Banks know that as a foreigner, the (ugly) truth is that, unlike a Thai national, it is far easier for you to simply default on your accounts and permanently leave the country. Yes, the bank can still pursue legal options against you - in Thailand - in your absence. In the end, once you leave the Kingdom, the reality is that the banks chances of any meaningful financial recovery from you are very small. Yes, a Thai can also default on their account, but unlike a foreigner, they are less likely to permanently leave the country expressly as a means of avoiding repayment, therefore by remaining in the Kingdom they would still be "contactable" for legal proceedings and any judgements levied against them.

As a foreigner you have less mobility in terms of jobs. A Thai can largely move from job to job as they please and do so with minimal paperwork/permits needed. By contrast, a foreigner would commonly need a whole new work permit, (possibly) a new visa and some jobs are statutorily excluded to foreigners. Banks do however recognize that as a rule, foreigners who apply for a credit card tend to earn higher salaries than a typical Thai who also applies. Yes, every case is different, but the impression I got was that the large disparity in minimum income levels was a means to offset these kinds of risks.

Referring to teachers explicitly, the banks are aware that many foreign national teachers must have a license - TCT/Krusapah issues - and this can be "problematic" and that not all teachers who apply today will be able to maintain the requisite licenses/permits indefinitely into the future. For the banks, this translates into another aspect of non-national applicant credit risk.

The overall message I got was that like all applications, you are essentially making a "case" for an unsecured loan. I did ask if it was ok, helpful, unhelpful or neutral to provide more documents than the bank's minimum paperwork that might show you to be credit worthy? The answer was that it depending on the banks policy, it would, at minimum be neutral, to at best be positive. However, I did also get a fair warning that banks are aware of and do look for fakes, forgeries and other less-than-honest applicants.

Your application will pass thru about three to five people or steps. The first is a document checker (which if done correctly at the branch level, should be a non-issue). If all the documents are correct in every detail, then it goes to processing. If ANYTHING is wrong, even in the minutia, expect a phone call at minimum to fix it, or more likely, an outright rejection.

Step two is where the credit report authorization is requested and received. After the credit report is received, it goes to the third step, the credit analyst. Here is where you get a ‘yes' or ‘no'. If it's yes, they usually also indicate the credit limit you'll start with. After this person, it's usually checked by someone senior who reviews the analysts ruling and overall application for completeness. Here is where a ‘no' might be turned into a ‘yes' if you've made a good story. On most of the applications you can see some boxes where these people must ‘sign-off' when their roles are completed.

A few words about credit reports. They are becoming more common, and all the banks I used required I consent to having my credit file (with the NCB, the Kingdom's only national credit reporting entity) sent to them. If you have one, I'd be 100% sure that it's accurate. If it's not, get it fixed before you apply - not after. I suspect that a "bad" or adverse report is an instant no-go situation.

Also, as best as I can tell, a Thai credit report does not factor how many times or places you have applied for credit in the past. This is different than how the US operates. In the US, your credit score commonly gets reduced a few points each time a creditor formally "pulls" your report due to a credit application. That does not seem to be the case presently in Thailand. Therefore, there does not seem to be any real downside to applying to more than one bank at a time or sequentially.

Lastly what would I do IF I didn't meet the banks minimum salary levels? Here's my opinion. Since granting credit or not is purely an internal and subjective decision on the part of the bank, I'd say that IF you are close and can make a bona fide "credit story", then I'd go for it! There is no application fee (meaning to just apply) and there is no rule about how often you can apply or must wait if you're denied earlier. Therefore, aside from your time and some incidental costs to make copies, it doesn't cost you a whole lot to apply.

This is where my term "credit story" comes into play. If you can make a convincing credit story - via documents you can present; and can be verified (as you won't be able to personally appear at the credit card approval department) - then I'd do it! However, I also think you need to be honest with yourself and assess your case against what the bank posts as their stated minimums and other qualifying factors.

Am I happy I did it? Yes. I use many of the promotions that come with the cards and having a Thai-issued credit card gives me one more financial tool that I didn't have before.

However, as I noted at the beginning, it is something that you will need to manage and budget properly (interest, if you carry a balance, is not cheap) and any misuse/mismanagement can potentially cause problems in the future. As the use of a credit report is becoming more and more common, I'd want to be sure I protect my score.

Best of luck to those who want to try. It can be done.

Note: This is just my opinion and my experiences. It is not meant to be a definitive answer as each person's situation can and will be different and each bank has their own credit granting formulas and policies. Your experience may differ from mine. This is only to provide those who have been considering applying one person's experiences and viewpoints on the matter.

Michael




Comments

Keith, I am not aware of any Thai law that explicitly gives you, the consumer, a right of rescission if you will, AFTER you've signed the application. Now, that said, you could possibly refuse to sign/activate the card when it arrives -- but I don't know or think that by (not) doing so would mean that the bank would effectively "undue" the application.

I suspect that the best you could get out of doing so, would be (if the card in question has an annual fee due with the first year) the bank not assessing the fee..

I am not aware of any cards that levy an application fee, so I don't know that there's a whole lot to be gained by asking for a "cooling off" period..

By Michael, Bangkok (18th November 2016)

I'd be interested to know if there is a 'Cooling off' period after signing all of the documents for a credit card ?

By Keith, Pattaya (18th November 2016)

Nigel, glad you liked the article and congrats on getting a card!

I very much agree that B50,000 seems to be the magical line for income. I have also heard and know of a few others who are like you - proven income of a bit less than B50,000 per month, but we're still approved for a Krungsri/FC card. I remember reading not long ago in a local news print that First Choice was seeking to expand their credit card portfolio, so I suspect that this (if in fact correct) maybe in part why those who are close, but perhaps a bit below the 50,000 income range, may be approved versus denied.

I know a fair number of teachers - who work at traditional government schools - and earn less than B50,000 - perhaps B30,000 or even B40,000 a month from that work (which is covered by a legitimate work permit) but, when you add in their private tutoring and other odd jobs they have, that then puts their total monthly gross over B50,000. However, what I have found is that most of the banks I went to, won't/don't consider any income unless it's from a job which you hold work permit for. A few said they may consider it with respect to a higher credit line, but none said that I could use is as a means to meet the minimum (i.e. B50,000) income threshold for initial approval.

The other thing that I have heard from several banks is that once you get a card - any Thai card, and assuming you manage it correctly (ie pay the bill on time) over time, that this will then reflect favorably on your credit report (with NCB) and your credit report is becoming increasingly an important part of the overall credit/risk analysis formula banks use.

So, in theory if you get, and successfully mange one card, this should be a solid asset for you if/when you apply for something else and make the approval odds better for the future application.

Enjoy the card, use it responsibly and I'm sure you'll get a pretty good deal from it. I recall its a no annual fee card, so unless you carry a balance, you should be able to take advantage of some decent promotions that are featured with Krungsri and/or Krungsri/FC cards.

By Michael, Bangkok (14th May 2016)

Excellent write up on the challenges in getting a Thai credit card. I am one of those who earns under 50000 baht per month, and successfully got a Firstchoice Platinum card from Krungsri Bank. As a rule though, most banks tell you that you need 50000 per month and can provide the usual documentation.

By Nigel Bragg, Phitsanulok, Thailand (13th May 2016)

Luu, Thanks for the contrarian view point.

"I got a secured Visa from SCB about five years back while on a TR. Don't know why everyone seems to think it's such a feat."

==> It's not a feat. Getting a **secured** card really is a different and far easier task. No real credit checks, income required and even documentation. Not intended as a derogatory slam on you -- but given that this option is essentially an asset-test, there's not a whole lot of "feat" required.

So, yes, as noted in an earlier comment, that IS an option - and maybe the best/only option for some. However, what I also noted is that for a secured card one does have to come up with that deposit -- be that B40,000+ or whatever. Be able and willing to have it locked up and encumbered while the card account is open and be limited in the credit line (as most are pegged at or close to the deposit value)

Without getting into a tit-for-tat, your idea and the earlier comment substantially the same, do represent one option -- but there are some structural differences. Chiefly they are ; a) the need to "lock up" XX,XXX baht in funds in the long term and if you're using a secondary card, b) the lack of credit file reporting for good/timely account management.

I know some will say "if you can't afford to deposit XX,XXX, then you shouldn't have a credit card", and I'd say "pish" to that. The card, if properly handled, is just a tool that one can use to manage and deal with their day-to-day short and long term financials. So, the fact that you have or don't have XX,XXX funds or be willing or wanting to lock them up on a long term basis, is to me, not a related issue and doesn't then mean one applicant is more worthy or not.

I'll come back to me. I could easily go the route you initially did "... Why don't you all start with some MONNEE in the bank and see where it goes..." but that, for me, misses one of my goals. That being to start and improve my own credit score here in Thailand so that in the future I would be seen as an *individual* with a solid and proven track record of prolonged fiscal responsibility.

I also note that the credit limits of secured cards tend to be pegged at the level of the associated deposit, while true UNsecured cards tend to be higher in the 2x, 3x or even 4x proven monthly income level. That translates into lines of between maybe 100,000 or even 200,000+ (assuming a base B50,000/mo income) which for me, is an ideal line to support an emergency-use card.

The part about dress is one that I think anyone whose been here for any length of time can and will acknowledge. True, no where on the application does it say "Is the applicant dress neatly?" But let's not ignore what I suspect is real-world operating reality -- you are, to some level, dealt with, based in part, by how you present yourself. Be that physically, verbally or visually.

Sure, a person who is on paper a fully qualified candidate but dressed in beach shorts and torn t-shirt should be approved quite simply because their financials support it. On the same point, someone who is impeccably dressed but falls materially short of the economic qualifications should be denied -- also again, because the financials don't support it.

However, I'm sure that most people will not argue or disagree that how you look, how you present yourself *may* influence the process and by extension, possibly the outcome.

Maybe the banking officer takes a professionally dressed applicant more 'seriously' and looks for any exceptions s/he can use to get you approved? Maybe. I do agree that "looks" should not matter, however like it is with teaching and teachers, the reality is how you look and present yourself in professional settings can and usually does have some impact - be that consciously so, or even unconsciously so.

Again, I appreciate your divergent viewpoint,

By Michael, Bangkok (11th May 2016)

Pish. I got a secured Visa from SCB about five years back while on a TR. Don't know why everyone seems to think it's such a feat.

I'm sure it didn't hurt I had the gf now wife in tow.

I was no doubt wearing short pants at the time as well.

Never used it and have three debit cards from US plus SCB ATM so I cancelled it after a year - now that was a nightmare.

Ive now got a MC that's linked to wifey. No intention of using it unless I need to rent a car in states or Europe.

Why don't you all start with some MONNEE in the bank and see where it goes.

Luu

By Luu Mak, Bangkok (10th May 2016)

Jen, Your experience and mine are about 95% the same. I too felt (but of course is never formally confirmed) that the single biggest factor in the decision making process was your PROVEN income.
The reason I note "proven" is that all the banks took a very... shall I say, apprehensive.. approach to salary that wasn't really documented as being from an employment situation. Largely because you could just "recycle" cash monthly to give the outward appearance of it being a new monthly salary each time.
I asked BBL about the use of the SAL code and was told that the account the money is transferred from must be set up and verified by BLL as employment/company and a "regular" person can't just come in to a branch, make a cash deposit - say B50,000 - and ask or have the bank apply the SAL code, versus the more traditional NBD cash deposit.
I am a bit surprised as to your initial credit limits as mine were exactly 3x or 4x monthly salary; but I suspect that will vary based on the banks current credit lending position and probably what income you had at that time.
The part about verifying your salary, employment, etc. is the exact same with me. It was a mandatory part. I too got phone calls to confirm some minor details. That part of the process I found odd, because the information I was asked to confirm was all information that the bank had originals of -- tax ID number /tax ID card, etc. So, to me, the value or objective in calling me, I found to be odd -- but it was just a short two minute call itself.
I also noted that you really couldn't apply if you were new (say, one year or less) at your present job, as most all of them required that have held your current work permit/job, for a full year, or more, before applying and that the current permit be at least valid for another three to six months from date of application. Therefore, it sounds to me like your first real window of opportunity for someone starts at about 12-18 months or so remembering that your permit must still be valid for another 3 to 6 months from the time of application too. This is why I said in my article that timing does matter.
Glad you enjoyed reading!

By Michael, Bangkok (5th May 2016)

Great write up! Thought I would add in from my own experience.

I had a similar experience, but I only applied at one bank and didn't provide any of the extras. The important factors seemed to be that my salary was at or above 50K, I had a valid visa and work permit (with extensions), and a copy of my bank book with the salary deposit clearly identified with the SAL code. I believe they wanted a work history of at least 1 year, 6 months of salary statements, and a work permit with at least 6 months remaining. (I might be remembering incorrectly, but I think I was just shy of the minimum for this with 5 months remaining on my WP but it wasn't an issue. I may have just been lucky.).

After about 10 days of submitting the documents, the bank called my workplace to verify my work history and salary. Then they called me to verify my address and a couple other things. Soon after, I got an SMS that I was approved and the card was sent to my condo. Turn around time was about 3-4 weeks from applying, and my initial credit limit was twice my salary at the time.

By Jen, Bangkok (4th May 2016)

Jan, that's very true. Many banks have programs like that. However, what that really is, is a secured card; not a true unsecured card. (and the topic here) While I agree that from a daily use perspective, they're identical, a secured cards credit limit tends to be lower and pegged to your deposit, whereas with a true unsecured card, your initial credit line tends to be set at 3x to 4x your monthly salary. Assuming that's only in the B50,000 range, your limit will be in the B150,000+ range.

If you're just looking to charge small day-to-day purchases, you could probably manage with a B30,000 type credit line. However, if you're looking to perhaps use it for --say air tickets "home" - or even as an emergency card, that kind of limit may be problematic.

I could have easily chosen that option; and for most banks that also sidesteps the need for work permits, income proof etc... but.... you do have to come up with, deposit and maintain BXX,XXX funds to get the account opened, and those funds are "dead" to you as you can't pledge or otherwise use them in any other manner while that account remains open.

But yes, that is one way -- however again, that's a secured card and not an unsecured card.

By Michael, Bangkok (3rd May 2016)

There's a much easier way. Go to Bank of Ayudhya. Bring passport and 40,000 Baht. The 40,000 Baht will be put in a savings account and blocked. You will get a Mastercard with a 32,000 Baht spending limit. If you need to spend more in 1 month, simply go to the bank and pay in more money to fill up your credit card.

By Jan Schauseil, Chiang Mai (3rd May 2016)

Philip, you bet, that is one way; and for the most part it works very well! You have a card and can use it. You also get all the privileges/discounts as well. Plus, you get to bypass all the hassels of applying. The only thing it doesn't do is report on YOUR credit file. Now, if you (or the primary account holder) doesn't pay the bill, for the most part, you're off the hook (but some card agreements do stipulate that the bank can come after you too, so I'd read your account rules first) but on the other hand, if the bill is consistently paid over time, you as an individual don't get any "credit" for that either. This is somewhat different than happens in the US where payment history gets reported to the primary and secondary holders. This might change in the future here in Thailand, but as I know it, at present, you don't get any of the negative consequences of a late payment, nor positives of a consistently paid account either.
To me, IF your goal is a long-term stay here (as an individual or formally married couple), this might be something that you'd want to develop. But I do totally agree that from a purely access point, having a Thai person be the primary applicant and you as a secondary card holder works wonders!

Sam, you bet! Just like teaching here, patience is a key! If you're a "rush it" or "wing it" kind of person, you're likely to be consistently denied and upset. I also totally agree that the overall process and how banks go about it, could be streamlined and still not loose any of the necessary lending safeguards. Just as a reference, I spent maybe five to as much as 10 hours compiling and copying my documents and then double, triple and even quadruple checking them for completeness and accuracy. In the US, that would be a 5-minute online process. It really should be more user-friendly and there really isn't (or shouldn't be) a need for repetitive document requests if it was done right the first time.

I keep all my US-issued cards too, and if you ask me to compare Thai-issued versus, US-issued cards in totality, I'd have to say almost all US-cards are better. However, I think there's some issues that make this comparison hard. First is the US credit card market is much more developed. Like I suspect it is in Europe, in the US, there pretty much is a specific card to fit different applicant specifics. As example, those with less than great credit can apply for cards that come with higher annual fees and interest rates. Those with better credit can apply for cards with correspondingly lower (or no) annual fee and much lower APRs. There are rewards-type cards for tons of different things; airline tickets, car purchase, hotel stays, cash bank, etc.. You name it. Overall, you don't (yet) see this depth of card selection and options.

The other thing that impacts this is what I'd call the regulatory environment. Since the US has well established rules about credit reporting (like FCRA) as well as laws related to loss/fraud, that means banks can make a better overall lending assessment, and tied to my earlier point, they can then customized different products to fit different applicant demographics. In Thailand, due to it's stage of development, it tends to be more one, two or maybe three-sizes fits all cards/offerings.
Glad you enjoyed reading.

By Michael, Bangkok (3rd May 2016)

You can of course get a credit card very easily if you are married to a Thai and they have one. You become a 'secondary card holder' and there are certain limitations but it's fine for all the usual on-line purchasing stuff. In fact reading the article and the processes involved, it's probably easier to just get married LOL

By Philip, Samut Prakarn (3rd May 2016)

Interesting read, Michael. I went through the same process a few years ago and gave up; I discovered you have to be REALLY patient to deal with the constant cycle of documents needed and getting the right person at the right time. I agree that it's certainly doable, but in my case, I decided the 5% discount on a single dish at Oishi (or whatever) just wasn't worth the hassle. haha Now, I just use my US card (that doesn't charge international usage fees) for everything, as I get air miles and have to send money back monthly (yay student loans) anyway. Trick with that is remembering to place travel notifications on the account every few months, else it gets declined.

Still, great thorough write-up; wish I had seen that before I started my endeavor awhile back.

By Sam, Chatuchak, Bangkok (3rd May 2016)

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