Want to get a credit card while you’re studying in Hong Kong? Learn about your options and compare student credit cards here.
With features including low fees and interest-free days on purchases, student credit cards can help you manage your expenses and free up cashflow when you’re studying. They can also help you build a credit history and lay the foundation for future lending options, such as a mortgage.
Use this guide to compare student credit cards based on different features and costs. We also explain how student credit cards work, and list the pros and cons of using a credit card while studying, so that you can decide if this is an option that will work for you.
What is a student credit card?
A student credit card allows you to borrow money up to a certain amount every month. You can then choose to pay off the balance over time (with interest charges), or in full at the end of each statement period.
Student credit cards in Hong Kong work in the same way as other credit card options but are usually designed specifically with students in mind. As a result, student credit cards tend to have low credit limits and low annual fees to help make them more affordable. They also typically have very basic features that are designed to help you learn how to manage money without incurring massive costs.
Features of student credit cards
- Interest-free days. Student credit cards come with an interest-free period of up to 60 days. This means that if you pay off your balance in full by the due date on your statements, you will not be charged interest. The interest-free days generally start at the beginning of your statement period.
- Low credit limits. Student credit cards in Hong Kong have the credit limit capped at HK$10,000 for new applicants. If students want a higher credit limit, they must submit a written application, including financial information that shows their ability to repay the money if their credit limit is extended
- Complimentary extras. Some student credit cards will come with additional benefits, including shopping discounts and welcome gifts, such as free cinema tickets or supermarket vouchers.
- Other features. Student credit cards could come with a range of other features, including contactless and mobile payments, annual fee waivers, and reward programmes. Keep an eye out for these features when you’re comparing student credit cards to find one that offers great value for you.
How much will a student credit card cost?
The cost of a student credit card varies depending on the specific features of individual cards. The main features to consider are:
- Annual fees. Most student credit cards will waive the annual fee for the first year to help keep account costs down, but some will waive it for the first five years. When an annual fee is charged it can range from HK$250 to HK$1,800. Factor the cost of an annual fee into your budget and check the terms and conditions for any annual fee waivers that are available for students.
- Purchase rate. This is the standard variable interest rate that’s applied to new purchases made on the card. Student credit card purchase rates range from around 32% per annum (p.a.) to 39% p.a. The higher your purchase rate, the more interest you will have to pay if you carry a balance on your card.
- Cash advance rate. This is the standard variable interest rate that’s applied to cash advance transactions, such as ATM withdrawals, gambling purchases, payment for foreign currency and even some bill payments. The cash advance rate is typically around 36% p.a. to 37% p.a. For some cards interest charged on cash advances is higher than for retail purchases, but for others it is lower. The cash advance rate is applied immediately from the time a cash advance transaction is made.
- Cash advance fee. If you use your credit card for a cash advance transaction, you will also be charged a fee of around 3.5% to 4% of the total transaction cost, with a minimum charge of HK$100, while some cards also levy a HK$20 administration fee. The high cost of cash advances means they should be avoided as much as possible when you have a credit card.
- Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards charge a fee when you use it to make purchases overseas or with an international retailer online. This fee is usually around 2% of the total transaction. You can avoid this cost by considering credit cards with no foreign transaction fees or other options such as pre-paid cards.
- Other fees. Other fees that may apply when you have a student credit card include late payment fees and charges for going over your credit limit. Always check the credit card’s terms and conditions for full details so that you can factor in all the costs before you apply for a card.
Should I get a student credit card?
Student credit cards offer a lot of flexibility when it comes to cashflow but they are not right for everyone. Consider the following key questions before you apply for a student credit card to decide if this option will suit your circumstances and needs.
- Why do you want a credit card? Is it to manage your expenses between paydays, to have access to funds while travelling or to build up your credit history? Thinking about your reasons for wanting a credit card will help you figure out if it’s right for you and also make it easier to compare different options.
- Are you planning on applying for other loans in the future? Lenders consider your credit history when you apply for any form of credit, including cards, personal loans and mortgages. Getting a credit card and using it responsibly can help you build up a good credit history and credit score so that it is easier to get approved for other financial products in the future.
- Will you be able to pay off the card in full every month? Paying off your card in full helps you avoid interest charges and reduces the risk of debt. Looking at your current income and budget, then considering how credit card payments would fit in, will help you figure out if a credit card is the right option for you at this stage of your life.
- Are there other options you should consider? Depending on your needs, there may be other financial products or plans that are more affordable than a credit card while you’re studying. For example, if you want to have funds in an emergency, you could consider opening a savings account and putting some of your own money aside for unexpected outlays that may arise. This approach could help keep costs down as you’ll avoid the potential interest charges and debt that can come from using a credit card if you can’t afford to pay it off in full each month.
If you have regular income and can manage your expenses well, a student credit card could be a useful tool to help with cashflow when you have a lot of expenses. But if you struggle to manage your money or find that you can’t afford everything you want, then it may be better to stick to using your own money. You may even be able to save on banking costs by considering a student bank account that charges fewer fees when you’re studying.
Tips for using a student credit card
Whether or not you’ve had a credit card before, these simple tips will ensure you know what to do and what not to do when you get your student credit card:
- Only use your credit card for items that are essential. This strategy usually stops impulse spending, which will run up a credit card debt in no time. If you want to buy something but don’t need it straight away, consider saving up for it instead. Keeping your credit card at home and saving it for emergencies is a good way to curb the temptation to spend.
- Try to pay cash for your everyday spending. Remember that credit card spending has to be paid back and could lead to interest charges and other fees if you carry a balance. For everyday spending, you may want to consider using cash or an EPS or Octopus card, which allows you to use your own money and doesn’t lead to interest charges.
- Follow a monthly and weekly budget. That way if you spend more in one week, you can adjust your spending for the next week so that it is affordable based on all your financial commitments, including credit card payments.
- Pay as you go. While credit card statements usually come once a month, you can choose to pay off the balance more regularly. As well as ensuring that you always meet the minimum repayment, this strategy can reduce the amount of interest you pay and may even help improve your credit score.
- Try to save a portion of your income in an emergency account. Ideally, you should aim to put away 10% of your income. If that’s too difficult as a student, aim to save at least 5% of the money you have coming in so that you have some cash set aside if something unexpected comes up. This money will help keep your costs down in an emergency, even if you have to use a credit card to pay the difference.
- Make sure you have some money budgeted for fun. Credit cards can make it tempting to spend money that you don’t actually have. By budgeting for luxuries or a bit of fun, you’ll be in a better position to keep your spending and your credit card balance in check.
- Ask for split payment options. Many businesses allow you to split payments between different cards, or even allow you to use a combination of cash and cards. This type of payment can be a useful way to keep your credit card balance down, while also allowing you to keep some of your own money available for other spending.
How to compare student credit cards
If you decide to get a credit card as a student, it’s important to make sure you find an option that’s right for you. Comparing student credit cards allows you to see features of different products side-by-side so that you can find one that will suit your individual circumstances and needs. We’ve outlined the main factors you’ll need to consider for a student credit card comparison below.
- Consider your individual circumstances. This includes your study commitments, any income you may have, and your ongoing expenses. You should also consider your current money habits to decide whether or not you will be able to effectively manage a credit card.
- Look at the features of the card(s). Pay particular attention to the standard interest rates and fees, as well as the requirements to meet any student discounts or waivers offered by the card. This step will help you find a credit card that offers the most convenience and affordability for you.
- Choose the card that suits your circumstances. By looking at the features of a number of cards and considering your circumstances, you will be able to find a student credit card that is convenient and affordable for you.
How to apply for a student credit card
After comparing student credit cards to find the right option for you, the next step is to apply. You can do this either online or in person at a bank. Before applying for a credit card, make sure you meet the application requirements. These can vary, but generally include:
Eligibility requirements checklist
- Age. You need to be over 18 years of age in order to apply for a student credit card. If you are between 16 and 18, you could be added as a supplementary credit cardholder to a parent or guardian’s account. Alternatively, with an EPS you can make many of the same transactions you would with a credit card, but it is with your own money. If you want to buy things online, you could consider using a prepaid card.
- Residency status. Most credit card companies require you to be a Hong Kong resident. If you are on a student visa, you may still qualify.
- Student status. You must be enrolled as a fulltime student in a degree or diploma programme that is registered with Hong Kong’s Education Bureau to get a student credit card.
- Co-signer. You may need to provide a co-signer to apply for your first student credit card. The co-signer is usually your parent or guardian and will then be responsible for your debt if you can’t make repayments on your card.
- Savings or everyday bank account. In some cases, you may be required to have an everyday bank account or savings account with the same bank that issues the credit card.
- Income. While some student credit cards do not have a minimum income requirement, you will still be expected to have enough income to make at least the minimum monthly repayments. Income can include wages from full or part-time work, as well as any government grants you might be entitled to. If you do not have a source of income, you can consider a supplementary card on a parent or guardian’s credit account or an EPS or prepaid card, which allow you to make similar transactions to a credit card, without using borrowed money.
- Credit history. For most applicants, a student credit card is their first credit product, meaning they do not have an existing credit history. Credit limits for most student cards are capped at HK$10,000 to minimise the bank’s risk of default and give students a pathway to build up their history. As long as there are no blemishes on any existing credit reports, your application should be approved if you meet all of the other eligibility requirements.
The documents and information you’ll need to provide
If you meet these application criteria, you can go ahead with your application. You’ll need to provide a range of details, including:
- Personal information. This includes your full name, date of birth, residential address, email address and phone number. You’ll also need to provide a copy of your Hong Kong Identity Card or passport.
- Student information. You’ll need to include details of the institution and course you’re enrolled in.
- Employment information. If you work outside of study, you’ll need to provide details of your employer and income, such as contract details and recent payslips.
- Other financial information. Your credit card application will ask you to include details of any assets and debts that you have, including savings accounts or other loans. You will also be asked to estimate your ongoing financial commitments, such as rent, bills and grocery costs. This helps the issuer determine whether or not you can afford to manage a credit card.
What happens after I’ve applied?
Response times from banks for credit card applications vary. Some will give you a decision almost immediately, while for others you will hear back after seven to 10 working days. If you are approved, you’ll receive your card in the mail within one to two weeks. You’ll need to activate it and then you can start using it. From textbooks and stationery to tuition fees and everyday expenses, there’s a whole range of costs that are specific to students. Now that you know more about student credit cards, you can compare your options and decide on the right types of accounts to suit your needs while you’re studying.
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