Obtaining a Credit Card in Thailand.

For quite a number of years we have been interested in acquiring a Thailand-based credit card. We did have a card already, but since some of our payments were in Thai currency, we reckoned we could avoid exchange rate losses.

So we applied for a credit card at the banks we use, and asked for information at other banks.
At Siam Commercial Bank, where we are a relatively good customer, it was even suggested to us that we should apply for a card (I guess the staff gets some kind of bonus or commission for every successful application).

It is quite bothersome to fill out forms, copy all kinds of documents, and spend some quality time at bank counters, to then get a polite, but impersonal reply at home a few weeks later, that one does not qualify. This happened to us two times at Siam Commercial Bank, and once at Thai Military Bank. Information at Kasikorn Bank also revealed we could not get a credit card. The reason? We do not have a work permit. Having a work permit seems to be the single most important obstacle in getting a Visa or MasterCard in Thailand.

Two times (at Siam Commercial Bank, and Thai Military Bank) it was initially suggested that we could circumvent this obstacle by opening a separate fixed time-deposit account. The money in that account can not be moved or used (but does earn interest), but acts as a 'security' for the bank. Your credit line will always be smaller than the sum you need to deposit for a fixed time. This always looked indeed like a solid guarantee for the bank. Nevertheless, when push came to shove, our applications (when agreeing to opening a separate account) were rejected, because : No Work Permit.

We regulary make online payments, often related to our web presence. Payments for domain registrations and hosting services often can only be paid online by credit card.
Not long ago, we ran into some kind of trouble, when the credit card we used for more than 20 years, decided to give us some bureaucratic hassle. We could not use the card for a few weeks, until everything was cleared up (nothing to do with anything we did). It was then that again, it looked like we really needed to get a second or back-up credit card.
It was not the first time we had some kind of trouble with a credit card. I guess if you wait long enough, something untoward will happen once every five or ten years.

Visa Credit Card by Bank of Ayudhya

The meaning of life?

This time we went to a closeby branch of Bank of Ayudhya, where we also had a rather dormant savings account. Though we were not that good customers of the bank, our request for a Visa Credit Card, seemed quite reasonable to them and quite possible to. The decision that I was eligible for a card was made there and then at the bank branch (a large branch, to be sure).

We needed to open a time-deposit account besides our present savings account. Then we could get a credit line of 80% of the amount we deposited in the time-deposit account. So we opened a new account, filled out the required papers, and gave the required copies of our passport.

Two weeks later our credit card was delivered by registered mail. We will be forever grateful to Bank of Ayudhya for approving a card so swiftly.

It is not the end of the story. A few further comments about the proces.
First of all, the credit card needed to be activated. For that purpose, you need to phone a supplied number, enter you credit card number into the phone, and you get then connected to a real person who asks for your address, your passport number, telephone number, birth dated etc. The card is then activated, and you can start using it.

To make online payments (our main objective with this card), you nowadays need to get an additional security number (password) that goes with your credit card. It was an easy process to register this password through the website (for credit cards) of Bank of Ayudhya.
You need to create another username and password to be able to review the bank statements regarding your credit card online. This proces goes through a website of GE Money Thailand. Bank of Ayudhya and GE Capital have signed a definitive agreement for the sale of GE Money's businesses in Thailand to BAY, probably in the fourth quarter of 2009. GE Money is the largest credit card issuer in Thailand with over 2.2 million cards in circulation. Looking at the logos on our credit card, we then realized we must be one of their customers now also.

Eager to try online, we made an outstanding payment online. Everything worked out smootly. The payment was received by the other party. The next day we checked our bank statements to see if any deductions from our savings account had been made. Not so. It turns out things do not work that way. We wrongly assumed that the default procedure would be that funds we paid through are credit card would be swiftly just deducted from our savings account, a logical arrangement.

Not so. The money you paid through your credit card, can be settled in various ways. You can pay the amounts by about 10 different methods. Most seem to involve that you actually pay the money at certain locations. We ended up paying the amount at the bank counter of Bank of Ayudhya itself. What is this all about. Using a credit card should be convenient. If you end up having to go in person to the bank to settle the payment, you can as well take cash with you for any purchase you make.

Instead of being the default option, it turned out you need to fill out yet another form (and supply another copy of your passpord, and of your credit card itself), to have any outstanding sums deducted directly from your savings account. You can elect to pay everything in one go (much recommended) or choose the option of gradual payments over time (with interest, and a sure way to end up poored).
Obviously, the fact that money is not directly deducted from your account by default, is a rather inappropriate and inconvenient policy.

One final comment. The process of obtaining a credit card involves some paperwork. You need to supply multiple copies of your personal data, and your passport. Many people are obviously involved viewing and registering the data. In the era, where identity thefts are becoming more and more of a problem, this is asking for problems. Some criminal minds may take advantage one day of this situation. At least fortunately, there is more security buying online with the added password you need to supply with your credit card number. Otherwise, any person who has access to your personal data and credit card number, could actually make purchases with your money.

P.S. : We forgot to mention, if you use a credit card in Thailand, you are eligible for various discounts. We got some vouchers already, some great hotel deals etc. (if it all turns out to be as the print says)