Being self-employed these days is increasingly common. With the rise of online platforms and flexible systems, more individuals are enabled to adopt short-term careers or “gigs” as their main source of income.
At the same time, there is a rising number of entrepreneurs and start-ups due to the robust governmental support provided in this scene. Those who are self-employed choose to and remain to do so for various reasons –– flexibility, freedom, purpose or even as a stopgap solution to supplement financial commitments while they are between jobs.
However, self-employed individuals face a different set of challenges such as saving for retirement, lack of employee benefits or labour protection, and even applying for financial products such as credit or bank loans.
Here are the requirements you need to take note of and prepare for, if you are a self-employed individual who wants to apply for a credit card, such as the UOB One, OCBC 90°N, or American Express Krisflyer Blue.
#1 Check That The Issuing Bank Accepts Self-Employed Applicants
Not every bank would accept self-employed applicants. Some of the banks that do are American Express, DBS / POSB, OCBC, UOB, Citibank, Bank of China, Maybank, Standard Chartered, HSBC. By this definition, it means that these banks accept alternative proof of income apart from an official computerised monthly payslip.
You should also understand what the bank defines to be a self-employed person. Generally, it can encompass different groups of people such as freelancers (commonly known as independent contractors), members of the gig economy (such as private car-hires, food delivery riders), property and insurance agents or even business owners and start-up founders. In some cases, your application is accepted as long as you furnish proof of documents (such as bank statements) that can demonstrate your ability to pay back the credit owed.
#2 Know What Documents Are Needed And If They Can Be Furnished
Depending on the bank, you may require one or all of the following in your credit card application if you’re self-employed:
– Tax returns
– Financial statements
– Proof of rental income
– Income tax notice of assessment
– Recent bank statements
– Company-specific information
– Personal identification
This may be easy or difficult to prove depending on your job. For instance, a Grab driver-partner may find this criterion easy to fulfil because they get annual driver-partner statements which can be supplied as an income statement, even though they are considered to be self-employed.
Alternatively, business owners and insurance agents may find themselves bearing a heavier burden of proof. Their tax and income declaration is manually calculated and they will need to supply records of income earned themselves. In cases where it is hard to prove income earned, some banks may just accept a bank statement showing the amount of balance you have but this is not always the case.
Importantly, some documents such as your tax notices also need to be dated from 2 years back. This would mean that your business would need to be operational for at least 2 years before you are able to apply for a credit card as a self-employed business owner.
#3 Don’t Apply For Multiple Cards At Once
Part of your eligibility for a credit card would be your credit rating. Your credit rating is negatively affected when you apply for multiple credit cards at once, as this creates more credit enquiries from the banks. When you have too many credit enquiries, it suggests that you are trying to take on more debt than you can handle. This affects your credit score as you are seen as a source of risk to the lender or card issuer.
Sometimes, banks may even automatically reject an application because it is too close to a previous application. Ideally, you should wait for a period of a few months between each application.
#4 Be Selective About Your Applications
As each application can weigh significantly on your credit score, it is important to be strategic about each of them. Understand your current credit utilisation ratio as well as your debt-to-income ratio, so you know the chances of your success in applying for a credit card.
For example, some people may have their application rejected even if they pay off their monthly balances because the ratio of their monthly balance and credit limit used were consistently high–– above 50% of their income. An eligible candidate who meets the income requirement may also be rejected because of the number of accounts they currently have with the various banks.
In these cases, credit card issuers may doubt the candidate’s ability to take on any more credit and still be able to pay them off completely based on their current income. Always do your research before making any application.
Apply For Credit Only If You Can Take On The Financial Responsibility
The criteria in applying for a credit card shouldn’t be seen as restrictive. As always, the requirements in applying for any financial product are meant to ensure that you don’t take on any more financial commitments than you should.
Applying for unsecured debt such as credit cards may bring you benefits like credit card rewards and a chance to rebuild your credit score, but it also exposes you to the risk of unsecured debt. Always be prudent. Apply only for what you need, and only if you feel confident that you already have a strong handle on managing your finances and cashflow.
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