Debit and Credit Card Usage in Asia

The financial ecosystem around the world has vastly changed over the years. Especially with today’s innovation that paved way for the rise of e-commerce industry, many countries continue to shift to cashless transactions. Financial institutions are slowly becoming centralized systems operating in diverse yet inclusive policies. In line with this, it is now more than ever easier to conduct and receive payments through various electronic channels. As a result, it is important for every country to create an inclusive financial framework that is accessible for everyone.

The Asian region, however, appears to be lagging behind in today’s revolutionized financial framework. For starters, three Asian countries— China, India, and Indonesia— account for almost half of the world’s unbanked adult population.

If you are traveling to some of the leading countries in the region, it is of course important for you to know your financial options in these countries so that you can come prepared. Whether you can use your credit and/or debit cards or you have to prepare large amount of cash as you go to these countries— find out by checking out the data below:

China
Despite being one of the world’s second largest economy, China still has one of the biggest unbanked adult population worldwide. Only 79% of the adult population have bank accounts while there are still 234 million adults without any accounts. This accounts for 12% of the world’s overall unbanked adult population. Such low financial inclusion is furthermore evident in China’s credit card transaction and debit card transaction rates of 13.80% and 17.30% respectively. Less than half of the country’s banked adult population own a debit card.

Financial inclusion challenge(s): The two main problems in China’s financial sector that continue to challenge overall inclusion include education and poverty. 71% of its unbanked population live in rural areas while 80% claim that their highest educational attainment is just elementary. Clearly, these conditions make it difficult for them to open bank accounts.

Major credit cards accepted: American Express, Diners Club International, Federal, JCB, MasterCard, Million, and Visa

Bank account opening requirements for foreigners: official valid passport and minimum initial deposit

Hong Kong
Financial inclusion in Hong Kong is generally impressive. 96% of the adult population own bank accounts. 70% of these adults have debit cards; hence, almost 51% of them use debit cards in their transactions. Hong Kong’s credit card transaction rate is at 59.30%, which is pretty high. 36% of this population use their bank accounts for online transactions while 40% of bank accounts are used for settling monthly bills.

Major credit cards accepted: American Express, MasterCard, and Visa

Bank account opening requirements for foreigners: at least one valid ID and proof of address (non-residents are welcome to open their bank accounts in Hong Kong), and minimum initial deposit

India
India is home to the world’s largest unbanked adult population. 420 million out of the two billion adults without bank accounts live in India. Only 53% of the adult population in the country have bank accounts and 58% of these accounts have zero balance as of 2015. Debit card ownership is relatively low at 22.10%. As a result, debit card transaction rate is only seen at almost 11% while credit card transaction rate is at 3.40%. Online transactions involving bank accounts is likewise low at a rate of 1%. Similarly, bank accounts are rarely used to pay utility bills with only 1% of the banked population settling their bills using their cards.

Financial inclusion challenge(s): The main dilemma of India when it comes to an all-inclusive financial framework lies in the lack of access to efficient financial education. Those who live in rural areas are barely aware of simple financial institutionalization, a problem that the country has been struggling to fix for years now.

Major credit cards accepted: American Express, MasterCard, and Visa

Bank account opening requirements for foreigners: official valid passport, proof of address, and minimum initial deposit (Some banks may require at least one photocopy of valid working visa, residential permit, and income tax card respectively.)

Indonesia
Indonesia is the third biggest country in terms of unbanked adults in Asia. It is home to 6% of the overall unbanked population globally. Indonesia has one of the lowest bank account ownership rates in the world with 36%. Similarly, debit card ownership is poor at 26%. Only 1% and 8.50% of these accounts are engaged in credit card and debit card transactions respectively. Moreover, only 3% of these accounts are used to pay utility bills while 5% are involved in online transactions.

Financial inclusion challenge(s): Indonesia’s poor financial inclusion can mainly be attributed to the lack of savings and credit services offered especially to the poor. Moreover, there is also a notable lack of financial support available for enterprises and households. Consequently, most adults barely have an established trust in banks.

Major credit cards accepted: American Express, JCB, MasterCard, and Visa

Bank account opening requirements for foreigners: official valid passport, one valid ID aside from passport, photocopy of official valid passport, and minimum initial deposit (Some banks may require at least one photocopy of residential permit, reference letter from employer, and NPWP respectively.)

Japan
Japan has one of the world’s credit card to user ratio of three is to two as of 2012. Credit card transactions amounted up to more than ¥50 trillion annually during the said year.
97% of adults aged 15 and above own bank accounts in Japan. Debit card ownership in the country is seen at 88%. Not so surprisingly, 52% of transactions involve the use of credit cards. Meanwhile, nearly 40% of transactions involve the use of debit cards. Moreover, 36% of all financial institution account transactions are done online.

Major credit cards accepted: American Express, Diners Club International, JCB, MasterCard, and Visa

Bank account opening requirements for foreigners: official valid passport, valid working visa, proof of address, and minimum initial deposit (Some banks may require a Gaijin Card or Residence Card and hanko, a personal seal.)

Malaysia
Malaysia has one of the most inclusive financial frameworks in Asia. 80.70% of adults have their own bank accounts and 41.20% of them have debit cards. Debit card and credit card transaction rates are seen at 18.60% and 16.90% respectively. Bank accounts are also beginning to dominate in the fulfillment of online transactions with 18.90% of them are used in e-commerce. Utility bills payment using bank accounts is also becoming widely acceptable in the country. Nearly 13% of accounts are used to pay utility bills.

Major credit cards accepted: MasterCard and Visa

Bank account opening requirements for foreigners: official valid passport, valid working visa, and minimum initial deposit

Philippines
31% of the Philippines’ adult population have bank accounts, 20.50% of whom have debit cards. 12% of debit card owners use their cards in their transactions. However, credit card usage rate is only at 2%. Only 1% of the banked adult population use their accounts to pay utility bills while 3.50% use them to pay goods and services purchased online.

Major credit cards accepted: JCB, MasterCard, and Visa

Bank account opening requirements for foreigners: official valid passport, one valid ID aside from passport, photocopy of valid ID, at least two 1×1 or 2×2 pictures, Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) I-Card, and minimum initial deposit

Singapore
As a leading tourist destination in Asia and a premiere urban country, it is perfectly understandable why 96.40% of Singapore’s adult population have bank accounts. Debit card ownership rate is at nearly 90% as well. 78% of the population use their debit cards in their transactions while 31.30% use their credit cards. Primarily, 38% of the population open bank accounts to serve as one-stop channels for utility bills payments. There are also about 28% accounts involved in the completion of online transactions.

Major credit cards accepted: American Express, MasterCard, and Visa

Bank account opening requirements for foreigners: official valid passport, valid working or student visa, proof of address, and minimum initial deposit (Some banks may require a reference letter from your current bank.)

South Korea
94.40% of the adult population in South Korea own their respective bank accounts, 66.80% of whom have their own debit cards. Consequently, debit card transactions of 56% outperform credit card transactions of 54%. Online transactions using bank accounts is also significantly high at 52.50%. Furthermore, 52.30% of financial accounts are used to pay utility bills.

Major credit cards accepted: American Express, Diners Club International, MasterCard, and Visa

Bank account opening requirements for foreigners: official valid passport and Alien Registration Card (ACR). (Banks in South Korea do not require a minimum initial deposit nor impose any processing fees.)

Thailand
In Thailand, 78% of the adult population have bank accounts, 55% of whom have debit cards. However, debit card transactions are relatively low at a rate of 8%. Credit card transactions, on the other hand, are conducted at a rate of 3.70%. 4.40% of the banked population use their bank accounts to fulfill online transactions while only 1.70% use them to settle utility bills.

Major credit cards accepted: American Express, JCB, MasterCard, and Visa

Bank account opening requirements for foreigners: official valid passport, one valid ID aside from passport, photocopy of valid ID, work permit or residence contract, and minimum initial deposit

Vietnam
Bank account ownership rate in Vietnam is at 31%. 26.50% of this population own debit cards, which are used by 3% of the banked population in completing their transactions. However, only 1% of those who have bank accounts use credit cards in their transactions. In the country, bank accounts are more likely to be involved in online transactions than they are to be used in utility bills payments.

Major credit cards accepted: American Express, JCB, MasterCard, and Visa

Bank account opening requirements for foreigners: official valid passport, valid working visa, proof of address, and minimum initial deposit

Notes:
Most data come from the 2014 Global Findex.
All bank account opening requirements may also include certain processing fees, depending on some banks.

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