Credit in Indonesia

Face it, everyone needs to get a little credit from time to time.  Apart from a few canny Scots folk, the majority of us need help now and again to acquire the little luxuries of life and so we rely on another little luxury of life – the credit card.

That glorious item, only 3.5 x 2 inches in size and only .7mm thick, but capable of holding hundreds and thousands of impulse purchases and whimsical fancies.  It has the power to make an ordinary shopper, extraordinary.   The designer sunglasses that you would never dream of parting with hard cash for, are yours with the swipe of a card.  The bills that were un-paid due to poor planning can easily be rectified just by calling out the magic 16 digit magic number and the those digits on the back, 666, that make it all happen.

The absence of hard cash renders the more hapless shoppers totally unaware of the reality of their over-spend until the bill comes at the end of the month and there’s the jaw drop reaction and the line, ‘this couldn’t be right’, but on inspection, entry after entry proves accurate, you pay some off and vow not to use the facility for a few months.  Alas before the end of the month the budget gets a little tight and you call upon your flexible friend to bail you out and as always, he’s there to oblige.

Of course the credit card is not only for the frivolous purchase, just try booking a flight without a credit card and you’ll soon see how vital it is to have a visa card in your own name. Book a hotel, purchase concert tickets, or pay for anything online and see how far you get without a credit card, so it has become vital in everyday life, that’s the hook.

Leaving Ireland, a country that has no problem issuing credit cards to rich, poor, unemployed, unemployable or unwilling to work and arriving in the UAE, home of “if I want it, I’ll get it…now”, I’ve never had an issue securing a credit card, to date.  Abu Dhabi embraced the expat and laid on a banquet of credit facilities for westerners making it impossible for the expat not to indulge in a little credit now and then.   As the expats munched their way through visa after visa, UAE banks issued new cards with greater credit limits and accelerated interest on the card repayments. In Abu Dhabi It was not uncommon to stand behind a customer at the till and see them present, 3, 4 or 5 cards to the cashier when paying for their goods, each one robbing Peter to pay Paul but ultimately, Pauline would be footing the bill.  Ironic as the Arab women chose to live in the black, many of their western sisters, opted to live in the red.  The upfront annual payment required for schooling and accommodation didn’t help the cash-flow of the new expat and while the readily available credit would add to the long-term problem, for many, it was the only solution for short-term.   The upshot being that many couples fall into insurmountable debt in the Middle East and are unable to leave as they find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle.

However here in Indonesia the rules are very different.   Expats generally are not permitted to obtain any personal loans and in order to obtain a credit card you must have either 150% of the approved credit card limit already in the account, or a deposit account in the same bank holding the same amount as the limit of the credit card.   Born on a full moon, in the three week of the third month during the year of the mouse, may also form part of the criteria but once I heard I needed to match the limit with a deposit account, that’s where I parked the idea of ever obtaining a credit card in Indonesia.

Accustomed to “buy now and pay later”, but without the aid of a credit card, we find ourselves reverting back to our parent’s advice of ‘save first…… buy later’. And the big question is, do we enjoy things more when we save up for them, I don’t know, I haven’t bought anything yet!


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