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Can an OFW Get a Credit Card?

Updated on Jul 19, 2019
Woman holding a credit card

Even if you’re outside the country, you can still spend without any physical money. So, is it possible for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to get a credit card?

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the country’s central bank, it will be almost impossible for them to do so. Unfortunately, it is based on a memorandum circular released by the BSP. According to the ruling, the requirements banks are mandated to collect from applicants of financial products like loans and credit cards drastically reduce the odds to zero.

Based on the BSP Circular No. 549 Series of 2006, all applicants must submit their income tax returns duly stamped by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). If the applicant runs a business, then he should submit his latest financial statements that are stamped by the BIR.

Although it sounds innocuous at first, the problem lies in this: the BIR exempts OFWs from paying income tax in the Philippines as they are already subject to taxation by their host countries. With zero tax returns in the country, it will be difficult to prove to them that they’re employed.

In addition, numerous land and sea-based overseas jobs have an average contract of two years, which can only be extended at the discretion of their employers. This can only mean that their job security is fickle at best.

With these two factors in play, the odds are stacked against OFWs when applying for a credit card. So, is there actually no way for them to get one?

The loopholes

If your goal in getting a credit card is to merely make online payment more convenient for you, then the most accessible way to do this is to get a debit card. With a debit card, you can enjoy the same perks as having a credit card without worrying about bills payment at the end of each month.

However, a debit card may not be a great option if you’re planning to improve your credit scoring in the Philippines. Although they’re not visible to the public unlike in other countries, a credit card is your first step towards other financial products like home loans, auto loans, and other banking solutions. In addition, a lot of perks and discounts are only available for credit cardholders, which means you’re missing a lot.

For those who have decided to apply for an OFW debit card instead, we have already prepared a list of debit cards which are get suited to an OFW.

BDO Kabayan Savings Mastercard
  • Initial deposit: PHP 100 for peso accounts, USD 100 for dollar accounts
  • Maintaining balance: zero, as long as you can remit money to your account once every two years
  • Requirements: one valid ID, 1x1 photo, an initial deposit
BPI Pamana Padala Mastercard
  • Initial deposit: PHP 500 for peso accounts, USD 500 for dollar accounts
  • Maintaining balance: zero, as long as you can remit money to your account for times every year
  • Requirement: one valid ID, an initial deposit
Sterling Bank Bayani OFW Visa
  • Initial deposit: not required
  • Maintaining balance: zero, as long as you can remit money to your account once every year
  • Requirement: one valid ID

While the debit card is an easy way to get a financial product that’s almost functionally identical to a credit card, there is another loophole for an OFW to become eligible for the latter: owning a business in the Philippines.

Since a business registered in the Philippines has to pay income tax, it means that whoever is listed in the registration as the proprietor of the venture is paying for taxes here. If you’re an OFW and you already have a legitimate business in the Philippines, you can easily apply for a credit card normally as a business owner locally earning here.

Secured credit cards for OFWs

If you’re an OFW and vehement on becoming a credit cardholder, there is one way for you to apply without a hitch: getting a secured credit card. Never heard of this before? Let us break it down for you.

To begin with, all credit cards function under the assumption that the approved candidates can pay them on time and in full. However, not every person can be eligible for a credit card, with some of the biggest reasons for rejection include; lack of job security and insufficient monthly income. To credit card issuers, these are risks they cannot afford so candidates who fall below their requirements have to be declined.

Unfortunately, this stringent process of credit card application means that there will be a lot of people underserved by banks–and these people won’t have enough stepping stones to build their credit. This will further alienate them from other necessary products such as loans.

As a compromise, credit card issuers came up with a deposit-backed credit card: secured credit cards. Usually, an applicant will be required to make a savings or time deposit account, with a certain portion of the total amount under his name will be used as his credit limit. By using his savings as leverage, banks can lower the chances of a cardholder defaulting because they can simply take away his debt from his savings account.

Since secured credit cards are a way to serve the underbanked, OFWs can use these products to allow them to build their credit history, make convenient payments, and enjoy all the perks of a credit card. These products also have a 100 percent approval rate, provided that you can meet the initial deposit required.

Remittances (in USD)

If you’re an overseas worker, you might want to consider these secured credit cards for OFWs:

AUB Secured credit card
  • Available with: any existing AUB credit card
  • Initial deposit: P25,000 (for the AUB Easy Mastercard); higher-tier credit cards will require a higher minimum deposit
  • Credit limit: up to 80 percent of your total deposit
BPI Express Start
  • Available with: any existing BPI credit card
  • Initial deposit: P10,000 for a savings account, P50,000 for time deposit account
  • Credit limit: up to 90 percent of your total deposit
Metrobank Save and Swipe
  • Available with: any existing Metrobank credit card
  • Initial deposit: P12,000
  • Credit limit: up to 90 percent of your total deposit
RCBC Bankard InstaCard
  • Available with: any existing RCBC credit card
  • Initial deposit: P10,000 for PHP savings account, USD 2,000 for a USD savings account
  • Credit limit: up to 95 percent of your total deposit
Security Bank Fast Track
  • Available with: any existing Security Bank Mastercard
  • Initial deposit: P15,000 for a savings account, P100,000 for time deposit account
  • Credit limit: up to 80 percent of your total deposit

What are the interest rates for these credit cards? Since you can pick the type of card you can apply for even if you’re getting a secured one, it varies from one card to another. In addition to interest rates, you also have to worry about other basic credit card fees such as annual fee, supplementary card fee, processing fees, and others.

To apply for a secured credit card, simply go to your choice of bank or have your representative go on your behalf, sign the application form for secured credit cards, submit your deed of assignment, and wait for your credit card.

Keep in mind that while it may be backed by your savings account, you still have to pay your balance before the due date to avoid interests. If you fail to pay your account, not only that they will deduct your balance from the hold-out deposit but you will also be slapped with interests.



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