Applying For a Credit Card as a Foreigner in Malaysia

Published Feb 17, 2017 – By Loanstreet


Foreigners, just like every other ordinary Malaysian, appreciate the use of a good credit card to help ensure safer online transactions, provide extended warranties as well as cash back rewards and other special perks.

However, it isn’t quite as easy for these expatriates to get approval for credit cards in Malaysia as it is for local applicants.  

This is due to the understandable risks that banks will have to take on when issuing unsecured credit to someone with no local ties.

Still, it is not impossible for foreigners to successfully apply for a credit card in Malaysia.  Here’s what you need to know before applying.

The application process

The process of applying for a credit card is relatively similar to how a citizen or permanent resident would apply for one, with the exception of certain document requests made to foreigners.

For instance, most banks would require a working permit, visa (with at least one year remaining before expiration) or employment contract from foreign credit card applicants.

Apart from these, however, the criteria for both locals and foreigners remain the same.

You would have to fill out an application form and submit it along with the necessary documents, then wait for the application to be processed. Processing durations will vary according to bank; some offer quick same-day approvals while others can take up to two weeks.

Here’s a list of the usual income requirements and documentation for foreigners:

- Minimum annual income of RM24,000 (higher limits may be imposed by issuer and for different card types)
- Copy of passport, visa or work permit
- Bank account statement for the last six months
- Three months’ salary slip and Malaysian employment contract letter (for salaried employees)
- Business registration certificate or licence and income tax forms (for self-employed)

What you can do to improve your chances

In addition to supplying all the necessary documents, you’ll need to lay the groundwork to upgrade your credit status before you apply.  Expectedly, this would be from scratch since your credit score from your homeland does not follow when you migrate.

Thus, it’s not practical to assume that you can get a credit card as soon as you land, in fact, you should hold on to existing cards in the meantime (if any) and gather your financial strength before you apply. Here’s how to do it:

1) Start with a bank account

Open a savings or current account with a bank for which you plan to apply for a credit card. This will help you create a relationship with the bank and allow you to build better credit with them before you apply for your card. Showing healthy spending and saving habits could improve the chances of your credit card application.

You might also want to open a fixed deposit account with the bank you choose. This could alleviate some of the risks associated with issuing you a credit card as banks typically reserve the ‘right to set off’ dues. In other words, the bank will have access to cover what you owe by transferring money out of fixed deposit or savings accounts held with them.

2) Report all income

Note that although the basic income requirement is RM24,000 for most banks, this does not mean that you will be guaranteed a credit card if you are earning at this level. In fact, with everything considered, the higher your income, the better your chances for approval.  Thus, if you are earning a supplementary income, be sure to include it in your taxes and as you apply for your credit card.  

Furthermore, if you have at least two years of tax returns to show, this will likely bolster your application as it theoretically proves more stable earnings.

In addition, note that your employment status matters as well; a long-term work contract will appear much steadier when compared to temporary employment or freelancing, for instance.

3) Get a supplementary credit card

While many might not have this option available to them, if you have relatives who are principal credit cardholders in Malaysia, ask them for a supplementary card. This is a clever way to build good credit before you apply for your own card by ‘piggy-backing’ on the principal cardholder’s status.

However, one thing to watch out for is if the principal cardholder has trouble paying his or her credit card bill on time, the consequences could affect you as well.

Now you know what to do before you apply, here’s how to handle the application itself.

1) Apply in person

Bank websites will not only list application criteria, most will allow online applications but you might have a better chance if you make the trip and apply in person. This will give you a chance to speak face-to-face with a bank officer, ask questions, get advice on how to improve your chances and possibly even expedite the processing of your application.

You’re also likely to avoid delays in case of missing documents as you will be alerted on the spot by the officer.  However, if you just don’t have the time, you can apply directly via the Loanstreet website to get started right away.

2) Choose the right bank

Smaller local banks may not easily approve credit card applications for foreigners but larger, international institutions might be more agreeable.

To support your application, get an introducer, which is a cardholder in good standing from the same bank, to write an introduction letter. This would serve as a type of reference and could help with your application.

3) Apply for a ‘beginner’ credit card

You can always upgrade your card and increase your limit later on. For your first application, especially if you have been turned down before, do consider applying for a low-limit, low-interest ‘classic’ card. These types of cards are usually for those new to the work force; it does not typically come with a lot of special perks but it can be easier to apply for.

Bear in mind though, issuing banks may have different ways of evaluating a credit card application, so if you are turned down at one bank, you can still apply elsewhere. Be sure to ask why your card application was rejected and try to work on these issues before you apply again.

Last but not least, be sure to research your options on our comparison page to find the best credit card for your needs.