korean credit card

Korean Credit Card Roundup

If you’re living in Korea, then you probably have seen how much credit cards here are a way of life. Most stores nowadays are equipped to take payment with credit cards. With the fast Internet speeds, expedited delivery services, and convenient smart phone apps, online shopping is quickly becoming the standard for how people make purchases.

For expats in Korea, the situation can be a bit of a challenge. Online shopping is available through bank transfer, but it’s not as convenient as a credit card. Also, some sites will only take domestic cards issued in Korea. If you’re trying to streamline your life here, Korean credit cards can make life much easier.

If you haven’t gotten a Korean credit card yet, then the process can seem overwhelming. There are different requirements for each card company and the system has some unique parts that are specific to Korea.

Not to worry! We’ll give you a summary of the process and a brief breakdown of three cards you can apply for.

Before we get started, please make sure you are responsible with your credit card usage. Make Mom proud! Getting a card is supposed to make your life easier, not force you to take a second job to pay for extra purchases. Make sure you get a solid understanding of the terms of the card you choose so you can use it wisely.

Note: If you’re trying to learn Korean and need to learn the alphabet in order to apply for a card, you can learn to read for free in about 1 hour by getting the Hangeul guide here.

Here’s an overview of the benefits and drawbacks of getting a Korean credit card:

Korean Credit Card Benefits

  • Skinny jean-friendly. Keep your wallet slim instead of carrying stacks of cash.
  • International purchasing power. Korean debit cards are often limited to domestic purchases. Get global goodness!
  • T-Money function. You can use the credit card to pay for your transportation expenses (subway, bus, taxi) and be billed a lump sum at the end of the month.
  • Expense tracking. Annual credit card purchases can be viewed in a document at the end of the year, which can help with tax filing.
  • G-Market. Some Internet shopping malls will only take credit cards issued in Korea.
  • Discounts, bonus points, airline mileage, etc.

Korean Credit Card Drawbacks

  • Piggy bank’s enemy. Some people spend more easily with cards, so it may negatively impact your finances if you’re not careful.
  • Annual fees. These start at 5,000 won and go up to over 100,00 won per year.
  • Foreign transaction fees. Most cards carry a fee of 1-3% for making purchases in currency other than the Korean won.
  • Application requirements. They’re different for each bank and can be tricky to qualify for.
  • Korean website security. Even if you get a Korean credit card, using it on some of the Korean websites are challenging to order from because of the security programs you must install.
  • Expat limitations. Some of the functionality of the card will be harder to use because it’s designed for Koreans and Korean names.

Now that you’ve had a chance to consult with the credit card angel and the devil on each shoulder, let’s get down to business!

Korean Credit Card Application Process

  1. Make sure you call the credit card company office that you want to apply at. They can give you the most recent requirements so you know what to prepare before applying. Just the rules at the immigration office, these are constantly changing and up to the discretion of the person evaluating your application. Best to make a good impression right from the start and avoid having to apply again. Find out the nearest branch or location that you can apply at.
  2. Once you know the process, gather the necessary documents. This will often consist of bank statements, your bankbook, your ARC (Alien Registration Card), and work contract.
  3. If you currently are learning Korean and want to make the process smoother, it may be helpful to learn some key Korean credit card-specific words. The person at the card application desk may speak English, but some of the words may be difficult. Also, it’s a great challenge if you want to learn more Korean! We’ll add some useful Korean vocabulary at the bottom of this page.
  4. Put on your Sunday best, and head into the branch with all the necessary documents. There will be multiple places to sign. You’ll also have to print your name and write the date. If you want the T-Money function, now is the time to ask.
  5. Grab a cool drink, sit back, and relax. You’ll have a decision in 2-3 weeks! Listen for the doorbell, a messenger will deliver your Korean credit card directly to your house. You will have to show your ARC and sign a delivery confirmation. Security is important, so you can’t have it delivered to your mailbox.
  6. Activate it by phone, and get to know your new power-packed plastic pal!

Websites for Korean Credit Cards

Most of the websites are in Korean, and have a limited English menu. This goes for both card information and also account information. If you’re feeling brave you can try to navigate the Korean menus to get comprehensive card info. If not, try calling the English numbers below or dropping by a branch to discuss.

Korean Credit Card Statements and Banking

Some credit card companies have an option for English statements, and some are Korean-only. The Korean sites that have many security programs will likely make you use Internet Explorer.

When you first get your credit card, you need to register it in order to use it for making payments over the Internet. If you decide to register it, your life will be tremendously easier if you can get a public certificate from your bank. This is a file that is saved on your phone, USB, or computer, and identifies who you are. The process is not a whole lot of fun, but worthwhile if you plan to do a lot of Internet transactions.

Payday and Due Dates

Every month, the credit card companies will automatically deduct your statement balance from your bank account. So if you have 500,000 won worth of charges, they will take that entire amount from your bank account on a set day each month. As long as you have enough money in your account to cover the statement balance, then you won’t have to pay any finance charges.

There are options for financing, but definitely proceed with caution! It’s not recommended, since you will have to fork over interest charges. If you have purchases over 50,000 won, it may be possible to divide them up into installments up to 12 months. The option to do this will depend on the store you are shopping at and the credit card. You can either call the credit card company after you make the purchase, or the store clerk may ask you when you are paying.

Replacing Korean Credit Cards

Once you put some hefty use on your card, it may experience some wear and tear. You can call the credit card company for a replacement, which takes about 7-10 days. Note that a delivery person will hand-deliver the card to you, and you must sign for it. You must also present ID, so make sure you give an address where you can easily be reached (i.e. workplace, home, etc). The credit card number of your new card will be different, so you will have to part ways with your old number. Don’t be sad, just remember the good times you had together!

If you have automatic payments setup on your credit card, make sure you call those companies to tell them your new card info. Otherwise, you may be suddenly stuck without Internet service right in the middle of a K-pop concert viewing on your phone. Yikes!

Let’s meet our three credit card candidates!

1. Samsung Card

Phone number

02-2000-8438 (English)

Website

www.samsungcard.com

Requirements

Bring your ARC, employment contract, bankbook, and payment history for 3 months. Foreign hagwon employees are not eligible to apply for Samsung cards. University instructors, public school employees, and other jobs will be considered. It is up to the discretion of the person reviewing the application.

Visa

Must have at least 6 months remaining on the visa. There are no visa type restrictions as long as you have an ARC.

Annual Fee

The annual fees for Samsung cards start at 10,000 won for a domestic purchase only card. 12,000 won will get you a card with international purchase capabilities.

How to Apply

Visit a branch, submit the application, and you will have a response in about 10 days. You cannot apply over the phone. To find a Samsung Card branch, call the phone number above. If you can navigate a Korean site, the office locations can be found on the website as well.

Notes

Samsung makes it a bit more challenging to get a card than some of the other companies. An additional benefit is that you can use this card to pay at Costco.

2. Lotte Card

Phone number

02-2050-3410 (English)

Website

http://www.lottecard.co.kr (Korean only)

Requirements

Take your ARC, employment contract, bankbook, and payment history for 3 months on your application visit. There are no explicit salary or job-type requirements.

Visa

Generally the applicant must have 3-6 months remaining on the visa, but that is up to the discretion of the person reviewing the application. There are no visa type restrictions as long as you have an ARC.

Annual Fee

The annual fee starts at 10,000 won for a card that can be used both in Korea and internationally.

How to Apply

Visit any Lotte Department Store with the proper docs, submit the application, and you will have a response in about 10 days. You cannot apply over the phone. To find a Lotte Department Store, call the phone number above. You can also search in Korean on Naver for store locations.

Summary

The Lotte Card has been known to be one of the more expat-friendly cards as far as the application process is concerned. Worth giving them a shot if you don’t care much about the card benefits and have a Lotte Department Store around the block.

3. Shinhan Card

Phone number

02-1544-7333 (English)

Website

https://www.shinhancard.com

Requirements

You’ll need your ARC, employment contract, bankbook, and payment history for 3 months. The current requirements are that the applicant must receive at least 2.5 million won in after tax salary deposited into the bank account. This can include a housing allowance or other benefit, but it must be clear that it is the applicant’s salary.

Visa

Generally the applicant must have 3-6 months remaining on the visa, but that is up to the discretion of the person reviewing the application. There are no visa type restrictions as long as you have an ARC.

Annual Fee

The lowest annual fee card is 5,000 won for purchases in Korea only. A 7,000 won annual fee will allow you to buy abroad.

How to Apply

Visit a branch, submit the application, and you will have a response in about 10 days. You cannot apply over the phone. To find a Shinhan branch, call the phone number above. You can also search in Korean on Naver or the Shinhan website.

Summary

If you meet the minimum salary requirements, this card may be the way to go. The annual fees are lower, there are many branches to apply at, and it doesn’t have any job exemptions. You do not need to open a Shinhan bank account in order to apply for this card.

3.5 Shinhan Security Card

If the credit card companies aren’t ready to throw you a welcome party after you apply, you can always get a secured card from Shinhan Bank. They have these through other banks as well, but we’ll give you a brief rundown with Shinhan so you can get a feel for what to expect.

Process
  1. Apply for the card at a Shinhan Branch with your ARC card and 1.2 million won. No job is necessary.
  2. Deposit 1.2 million won into an account with Shinhan. This is your security deposit.
  3. With a 1.2 million won deposit, you will get a credit card limit of 1.0 million won.
  4. The balance must be paid in full each month, along with keeping the 1.2 million won security deposit in the bank.
  5. The 1.2 million won is returned after the account is closed.
Notes

This can be an option for someone who doesn’t meet the job requirements or doesn’t want to use a debit card. This card is only for domestic purchases.

Korean Credit Card Vocabulary

Want to learn Korean that you’ll likely hear when applying for and using your card? Here are a few vocab words for your flash card deck:

  1. 신용카드 – credit card
  2. 일시불 – lump sum payment
  3. 공인인증서 – electronic public certificate from the bank, used as identification
  4. 이자 – interest
  5. 신분증 – identification
  6. 외국인등록증 – Alien Registration Card (ARC)
  7. 지불 – payment, make a payment

Do you have a favorite Korean credit card? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee

 

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