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If you are an expatriate in Malaysia and are just setting up your home and life here, one of the first things that you are bound to look out for is a credit card.
Here, we provide you with a detailed, comprehensive guide to the various credit cards for expats and foreigners in Malaysia.
- Overview of Credit Cards in Malaysia
- Credit Card Comparison
- Standard Chartered
- RHB Bank
- Application Tips
- Now, on to You
Overview of Credit Cards in Malaysia
It is relatively easy for expats and foreigners to apply for credit cards in Malaysia. The requirements are straightforward and easy to satisfy, with expats and foreigners only requiring some additional documents to be submitted for verification purposes.
Malaysia has one of the highest usages of credit cards in the world. In fact, in the past 5 years, the number of principal credit cards in circulation has increased from 124 billion to 151.8 billion.
This goes to a couple of things. Firstly, there are plenty of credit card issuers in Malaysia, 27 to be exact. Secondly, credit card usage in Malaysia is relatively widespread.
Credit cards in Malaysia have seen an increased growth as a result of increased security and ease of use, especially with the ‘Wave’ function that was made compulsory for all credit cards in Malaysia. This function allows you to quickly tap on the credit card machine to process the required payment.
A question that comes about rather frequently is whether expatriates and foreigners can apply for credit cards in Malaysia. The answer to this is yes. Although it is not always easy, it is not impossible. Most credit card issuers and banks do indeed provide credit cards to expatriates and foreigners.
However, depending on the credit card issuer or bank in question, the eligibility and supporting documents required may differ from when a local applies for a credit card.
Some banks, such as Maybank, require a higher minimum income for expats to qualify for their credit cards. While others may not explicitly say so in their product information page, it is best to check with the individual credit card issuer as to what the eligibility requirements are.
Generally, the requirements for expatriates and foreigners to apply for credit cards are as follows:
- Minimum income ranging from RM24,000 to RM200,000 per annum, depending on the type of card applied for
- Copies of at least 3 months of salary slips to show proof of income
- A copy of your passport
- A copy of your contract of employment
- A copy of your work visa or work permit which should be valid for at least 1 year as at the date of your application
- A letter from your employer confirming the duration of your employment in Malaysia
If you are a foreigner who is self-employed or if you are a freelancer, then the requirements may differ slightly. Depending on the credit card issuer, in addition to personal identification documents, you may need to show a steady source of income for the past 2 years.
For example, if the minimum income requirement for a particular credit card application is RM24,000, you must be able to show that you make this amount in a year. This can be from a regular monthly income or in the form of payments made to you for different types of work if you are a freelancer or business owner.
The issuer may also ask you for copies of your bank statement to show that you have sufficient savings and that you are able to service any credit cards that you may have taken in your name effectively.
As such, as a business owner or freelancer, you will need to provide the following supporting documents in order for your credit card application to be considered:
- Personal Identification Documents ie Passport
- Business Registration Information ie Business Registration number
- Your bank statements from the last 3 months
- Income Tax Return Forms
Depending on your status and your credit card issuer, you can find a complete list of required supporting documents here.
Foreigners who are retirees or pensioners without a steady monthly income, may find it slightly more difficult to be entitled to receive a credit card from the issuer. In situations such as these, the issuer is likely to evaluate the credit worthiness of an applicant on a case by case basis to determine if the risk is something that they are willing to take on.
It would make it easier to show that you have sufficient savings amounting to at least the minimum income requirement of the credit card in question, regular pension income, regular private retirement scheme deposits into your account or the minimum income requirement amount in a fixed deposit account.
So if the minimum income requirement was RM35,000 per annum, then they would want to see if you have a similar amount saved in a fixed deposit.
You can demonstrate your sources of income and/or savings by providing the following documents:
- Proof of pension income
- Your most recent bank statements
- Your fixed deposit (savings) certificates
When choosing a credit card for your every-day use in Malaysia, one of the main things to look out for is the type of benefits you are entitled to when you sign up, as well as the perks you would get when you use the credit card, including health insurance coverage.
Credit card issuers in Malaysia are highly competitive and as such, each of them provides a wide range of benefits and perks to entice you to sign up with them.
Despite the number of credit cards for expats that are available in Malaysia, almost all of them offer some common benefits. Some of these include:
Plenty of Malaysian credit cards for expats provide certain discounts if you use their cards in specific outlets or to purchase specific items.
These are when the credit card issuer guarantees that if you use their credit card to make payments for the purchase of petrol or groceries, you will get a certain percentage of that money credited into your account.
This is when a credit card partners with another entity – for example, an airline – where if you use the credit card, you collect miles that you can redeem for flight tickets with that particular airline.
This is one of the most common benefits of almost all the credit cards issued in Malaysia. It is particularly useful when making large purchases like furniture or electrical items. These plans allow you to break up the payments into 12, 24, or in some cases even 36-month installments without the need to pay any interest on these payments. This will undoubtedly help you manage your finances more effectively and spread your expenses out.
Annual Fee Waiver
Credit card issuers are usually required to charge an annual fee for each principal card and each supplementary card. However, these days, most credit card issuers are inclined to waive this annual fee completely at the outset or upon reaching a certain amount of money spent on the credit card concerned.
Credit Card Comparison
Choosing a credit card is similar to choosing a VPN. Although many credit cards seem to offer the same benefits, they are actually not.
Most of the credit card issuers in Malaysia are banks. While each of them has a variety of credit cards, depending on your usage and needs, some credit cards, in particular, stand out and are perhaps more useful for expatriates and foreigners.
Here, you will find some of these credit cards and the benefits that come along with them.
Maybank is one of the largest banks in Malaysia. They offer a whopping 33 different types of credit cards, ranging from basic or beginner cards for you to get your foot in the door and start establishing your credit rating, all the way to various platinum and premium cards.
Their loyalty program for most of their credit cards includes the earning of their TreatsPoints. These TreatsPoints can be redeemed for flight tickets, electronics, and other merchandise, depending on the type of card that you sign up for
Some of the more notable Maybank credit cards for expats are:
PETRONAS Maybank Visa Gold
The PETRONAS Maybank Visa Gold card requires expatriates to have an annual income of RM60,000.00 and a letter from your employer confirming the duration of your employment in Malaysia.
If you use this card at PETRONAS stations, you are entitled to 8 times the regular amount of TreatsPoints. This card does not require the payment of annual fees and comes with a free Touch n Go Zing Card.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer American Express Gold
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer American Express Gold is a great card if you’re an expat in Malaysia who is also a frequent flyer, or if you frequently fly your family members to and from Malaysia while you are employed here. For every RM2 that you spend on this credit card, you get 1 KrisFlyer Mile.
This credit card also gives you complimentary access to participating Plaza Premium Lounges at Malaysian Airports, as well as dining privileges at participating Marriott Bonvoy Hotels.
Maybank Manchester United Visa Card
If you are a football fan, the Maybank Manchester United Visa Card is for you! There are premium discounts for using this credit card at Old Trafford and further discounts at the Manchester United Stadium and Museum Tour.
Once your application is successful, you also get a complimentary Touch n Go Zing Card that will be tied to this credit card so you will never run out of balance.
Here’s a quick summary of the notable Maybank Credit Cards:
|PETRONAS Visa Gold||Maybank TreatsPoints for purchases at PETRONAS Stations|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer American Express Gold||Earn KrisFlyer Miles that can be redeemed for flight tickets|
|Maybank Manchester United Visa Card||Discounts on Manchester United merchandise, cafe orders, and museum visits|
CIMB is another one of Malaysia’s banking giants. They offer a total of 9 credit cards (including beginner credit cards), all offering various perks and benefits and these include beginner credit cards as well.
CIMB does not explicitly say that there is a separate minimum income requirement for expatriates. As such, it would depend very much on which credit card you are applying for and upon application, the relevant customer service personnel will guide you accordingly.
The most suitable CIMB credit cards for expats are:
CIMB Enrich Range
It is tied to the Malaysia Airlines Enrich loyalty program and so it gives you access to any Golden Lounge that is operated by Malaysia Airlines and discounts on duty-free purchases.
CIMB Cash Rebate Platinum Credit Card
The CIMB Cash Rebate Platinum card appears to be one of CIMB’s more popular credit cards because of the cashback guarantees that they offer with the frequent usage of the credit card.
This credit card guarantees an unlimited 0.2% cashback on all retail and online purchases.
You also get a 5% cash rebate when you use this card to pay for day-to-day expenses such as payments for petrol, groceries, and online payments of utility bills.
This certainly seems like a practical choice when it comes to credit cards for expats as it allows you to gain all the perks with purchases of every-day items.
CIMB PETRONAS Platinum Credit Card
The CIMB PETRONAS Platinum card is for all the car and auto enthusiasts out there! This credit card gives you cash rebates just for refueling your car!
There are also some great auto deals in the form of 15% to 25% discounts when you use this credit card at CARS International to pamper your car and get it clean and shiny!
Here’s a quick summary of the suitable CIMB credit cards for expats:
|CIMB Enrich Range|| |
|CIMB Cash Rebate Platinum|| |
|CIMB PETRONAS Platinum|| |
Being a bank with an international presence, Standard Chartered credit cards focus on benefits that include travel rewards and insurance.
At the moment, Standard Chartered issues 7 types of credit cards in Malaysia. These are just some of them.
Standard Chartered WorldMiles Mastercard
The Standard Chartered WorldMiles Mastercard seems to be the ultimate credit card for expats in Malaysia as one of the primary benefits of using this credit card is the ability to earn Worldmiles that can be converted to miles for a few major airline loyalty programs.
It also provides discounts on certain hotels as well as air travel privileges such as cash backs on airport transfers and unlimited access to the Plaza Premium Lounges in Malaysia.
JustONE Platinum Mastercard
The JustONE Platinum Mastercard is a practical, all-in-one credit card that gives you 15% cashback on online purchases, petrol, and bills that you put on its auto-debit function.
There is also a relatively low eligibility minimum income requirement of RM36,000.00 per annum.
More importantly, if you lose your credit card or it gets stolen while you are overseas, you are entitled to receive a replacement card no matter where you are in the world.
Standard Chartered Priority Banking Visa Infinite
Standard Chartered calls the Priority Banking Visa Infinite credit card its “elevated banking experience.” And sure enough, it is.
With unlimited access to over 1000 airport lounges all over the world, flight redemption programs, and complimentary travel and medical insurance, this is most certainly the ultimate credit card for expatriates in Malaysia.
Here’s a glance at some of the recommended Standard Chartered credit cards for expatriates in Malaysia:
|Standard Chartered Worldmiles|| |
|JustONE Platinum Mastercard|| |
|Standard Chartered Priority Banking Infinite Visa|| |
RHB is another local bank in Malaysia that offers a variety of credit cards that are widely accepted, with many of them providing a range of benefits for travelers. This makes it one of the most ideal credit card issuers for expatriates and foreigners in Malaysia.
RHB Rewards Motion Code Credit Card
The RHB Rewards Motion Code credit card appears to be specifically for expats and frequent travelers.
One of the main benefits is the collection of Reward Points, where you can earn 4 times the Reward Points for any payments made using this credit card while you are overseas.
It also comes with golf privileges at selected golf clubs. Perfect for a relaxing weekend outdoors!
RHB Visa Signature Credit Card
The RHB Visa Signature credit card gives you up to 6% cashback for all the payments that you make for online purchases, entertainment, and general shopping.
It also comes with access to the Plaza Premium lounges when you travel from Malaysia where you can enjoy complimentary food, beverages, and use of the lounge facilities.
Over and above this, the use of this credit card also entitles you to golf privileges at selected golf clubs, as well as up to RM600,000 of travel insurance coverage.
RHB Visa Infinite Credit Card
The RHB Visa Infinite Credit Card is RHB’s ultimate card for expats, providing up to an incredible RM2,000,000 worth of travel insurance coverage.
It also allows you to earn 5 times the Reward Points for any payment made using this credit card overseas and like its other cards, provides you with access to the Plaza Premium lounges and golf privileges as selected golf clubs.
Summary of RHB credit cards for expatriates:
|RHB Rewards Motion Code|| |
|RHB Visa Signature|| |
|RHB Visa Infinite|| |
Of course, the credit cards set out above are not exhaustive of the credit cards that are available for expatriates and foreigners in Malaysia. There are plenty of other credit card issuers and banks to choose from, depending on your individual needs.
There are banks with an international presence, which will make it easier when you travel frequently. These include:
There are also plenty of other local banks to choose from if your needs are closer to Malaysia. These include:
One of the main things to keep in mind when applying for credit cards in Malaysia is that the credit card issuer needs to know and be assured that you can pay your credit card bills.
It may be a little daunting to begin applying for a credit card in a completely new country where you have little to no financial presence or credit ratings. It may even mean that some of your credit card applications may be declined until you are deemed to have acquired the necessary financial standing.
Your credit rating (or credit scores as they are sometimes referred to) is an analysis of your credit worthiness. Banks usually check your credit rating before approving any credit card or loan applications to determine if you are in good financial health to be able sustain your credit card payments or make your monthly repayments on time.
Having a good credit rating is important because banks take it into account when deciding whether to grant a credit card/ loan and the interest rate to be charged. The lower the credit rating of a customer, the potential to have a higher rate of interest because it represents a higher risk to the bank.
In determining your credit rating, banks will usually look at your total debts, whether you have made timely payments on those debts as well as the frequency of late payments. As such, the best way to increase your credit rating or to make sure that it is favourable, is to make all your payments on time (even your utility bills!) and bring down your overall debt amount as quickly as possible.
However, there are some things that you can do to make the process a little easier (and quicker) for you.
Open a Bank Account
Having a savings or current account with the bank with which you want to apply for a credit card can go a long way. It establishes a relationship between you and the bank and allows the bank to make effective credit checks.
To take it a step further, you can also open a Fixed Deposit account with the bank of your choice. This will increase your chances of getting your credit card application approved as there is a security of sorts as far as the bank is concerned.
Apply for a Beginner Credit Card
If you are applying for your very first credit card in Malaysia, you may not automatically be able to get a platinum or premium credit card. To this end, most of the local banks in Malaysia offer beginner credit cards with a low minimum income requirement.
Once your application for a beginner credit card has been approved, and the bank sees that you can keep up with your credit card payments, more often than not, the bank will upgrade you to a more premium card with better perks within a year or so.
Approach the Well-Established Banks
Smaller banks are unlikely to be inclined to take the risk of approving credit card applications to someone who does not have a credit rating in the country. As such, it would be more effective to approach the bigger banks to increase your chances of obtaining your first credit card in Malaysia.
Apply in Person
While most credit card applications can be done online these days, with some banks even going as far as giving you special gifts if you apply online, it is recommended if you are an expatriate or a foreigner to apply for your credit in person.
There are a few advantages to this:
- It allows the customer service personnel to get to know you better and assist you with any complications on the spot
- There is no need to go back and forth if the bank requires further documentation or details
- You can have all your questions and concerns addressed immediately
- It assures the credit card issuer of your authenticity and ability to pay for your credit card bills
Although it may be slightly troublesome and take up a little more of your time, an application made in person is very much likely to increase your chances of getting your credit card application approved in a shorter time.
Now, on to You
Whichever option you choose to go with, do make sure that you are aware of the details contained in the documentation that accompanies your credit card application.
These usually include the terms and conditions that govern the usage and payment terms of your credit card, and the product disclosure sheet, which will give you all the details, requirements, and benefits of the credit card of your choice.
Once you have put in your application and the issuer has all the information and documentation it needs, it usually takes about 7 to 10 business days for all the formalities to be complied with and for you to receive your credit card.
As long as you do your research and pay attention to the fine print, credit cards are incredibly useful in Malaysia. Being widely accepted from the convenience store down your street to the fancy shopping mall in the city center, you are bound to find a credit card that works for you.