If you don’t have a Z visa and a monthly income of at least RMB10,000, you can stop reading here.
But for many long-term residents of China, having a Chinese credit card can be enormously helpful for doing stuff like shopping Taobao and buying plane tickets, plus you'll also be able use it abroad. And while you should be prepared for a challenge and some potential setbacks, getting a credit card as a foreigner can be done. Here's some advice from those who have successfully done it.
Step 1: Get your papers ready
First off you need the basics: a copy of your passport and residence permit to prove you are over 18 and living legally in China. Second, you need evidence of residency, like a bank statement, a phone or utility bill, or a lease contract. Third, you’ll need to prove you make enough money by providing a copy of something with your salary on it, like your employment contract or a tax certificate.
Step 2: Choose your card
Most expats go with one of China Merchants Bank’s various credit cards or Bank of China’s Great Wall card. Unless you can read fine print in Chinese, we recommend getting the simplest option to prevent confusion in the future.
Step 3: Prove you'll pay
You'll also need to show that you’re good for the money. The best-case scenario is if you are married to a legal resident of China or if you work for a Fortune 500 company with an account at the bank where you apply for a credit card. This guarantees the bank can collect their money if you skip town.
If you have neither of these, you can find a trusting Chinese friend who will sign with you, promising the bank he will pay your debt if you default on your card. Another option is to provide the bank with collateral by proving you have fixed assets like a property deed or title for a car bought in China. Also, if you put down a deposit of at least RMB10,000, banks will normally give you a credit limit of eighty to a hundred percent of that.
Step 4: Apply at the bank
The banker will send off the paperwork to a credit card center that will decide whether or not to accept your application. The more materials that get sent in, the stronger your chances of getting a credit card. Make sure to write down the application number on the top of the application form and the phone number of the bank’s credit card center. This way, if the bank initially declines your application or never gets back to you, you can call them, tell them your application number and find out if you can clarify or send in more materials. Persistence is key. Just because the bank initially declines your application doesn’t mean it’s all over.