Credit Cards for Non-Koreans
CREDIT CARDS ISSUED OVERSEAS can be used in Korea with most merchants, although Korean credit cards are often required for online purchases. You must continue to make payments on your overseas credit card to your own country’s card issuer.
KOREAN CREDIT CARDS are issued by Korean banks, card companies, and other companies. Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards are all available in Korea through cooperative arrangements with those companies. Bear in mind that your credit rating in your home country or the fact that you’ve had those credit cards back home and are or were a customer in good standing are not relevant to your credit rating in Korea.
CREDIT RATINGS as they exist in many Western countries are not the norm in Korea. In general, a bank or company maintains its own record of an account holder's credit history with them. In most cases, such information is not shared between institutions. This arrangement applies equally to Koreans and non-Koreans.
OBTAINING A KOREAN CREDIT CARD sometimes presents a challenge for expats. There are no laws preventing issuance of credit cards to foreign residents of Korea, but banks and branch managers may be reluctant to do so in the belief that foreigners will leave Korea without paying. This attitude lingers despite there being little evidence it is true and, to the contrary, experience has demonstrated that the largest percentage of delinquent card accounts are not those of foreigners. The requirements for getting a Korean credit card may vary from bank to bank. Corporate executives, business owners, and university professors — who may be perceived as being a lower credit risk than hagwon English teachers — do often qualify for a credit card. You must be a legal resident of Korea to obtain a credit card.
- Some banks will issue you a credit card as long as you satisfy the basic requirements, although your credit limit may be considerably lower than what you would receive in your home country.
- Required documents include: your valid alien registration card, a copy of your employment contract (and, in some cases, a certificate from your employer) and a certificate of tax payment. You may also be asked for other documents.
- You may be asked to show a certain monthly income to obtain a basic credit card. What that income level will be may depend on factors like the type of credit you require (for use in Korea only or Korea and overseas), your occupation, how long you have lived in Korea, and the bank’s policies.
- Some banks may ask you to provide a Korean “guarantor,” who agrees to pay your credit card debt in case you default. This option is also available in some cases for foreign residents who don't qualify for a credit card. In this way, one can still enjoy the convenience of a credit card, which the bank agrees to issue because its risk is minimized.
- Some banks offer an 'Expat’ credit card to foreign clients employed by multinationals or other large foreign-owned companies. The card has, in some cases, also been issued to foreign nationals who are not employed by a large corporation.
- You also may have heard of a ‘deposit-backed collateral card’ in which you put money in a term deposit account, which serves as collateral for the card. A new policy set forth by the Financial Supervisory Service has ended Korean banks' option to offer so-called "secured" credit cards backed by deposits to most customers as of January 1, 2013. Customers who already have a secured credit card will be able to keep their existing card but will not be able to increase their card limit through an increase in collateral. Foreigners with a 'Korean credit history' will not be eligible for secured cards; however, a small proportion of expats -- those new to Korea with no pre-existing Korean credit history -- will still have the option of getting a secured credit card.
PAYMENTS and INTEREST RATES
- In general, your credit card bill must be paid in full each month. If you are late or make a partial payment, your card will be suspended until the balance is paid in full. If this type of delinquency is repeated, it will probably cause you to have your credit card cancelled.
- There is no interest on card charges when your balance is paid in full on or before the due date. Interest is only charged on cash advances. But interest charges will kick in when a payment is late.
- Interest charges are applied to cash advances as soon as you withdraw the money.
- It is possible to set up monthly “installment” payments on one or more purchases. In most cases, the arrangement on the number of monthly payments must be done with the merchant, who then ‘bills’ you the agreed sum plus interest on a monthly basis. However, some banks, such as KEB, allow a customer to break up larger payments into monthly installments of up to 12 months through their online banking service.
- In most cases, credit card payments are debited directly from the linked bank account. Some banks will provide favorable card conditions if you have other accounts with the bank, and/or have you salary be deposited into the account that is used to pay the card.
- Credit card statements are usually issued in Korean only, although some card companies (for example KEB) now provide English statements if requested. Some card providers now allow you to access and review your card accounts on their Internet Banking. Some also have English-language card support staff and services. You may want to confirm the service level before signing up for a card.
K4E Editor: We try to make the information on Korea4Expats.com as complete and accurate as possible, so if you notice any errors or omissions in the content above, please let us know at email@example.com.
Last Updated on 2013-03-15
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