The Debt Panel: ‘Can a bank freeze my gratuity and cancel my credit card?’

The Dubai resident has significant savings in another account with the lender, as well as proof of income from several property investments

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I have been a resident in the UAE for 15 years and invested my income well.

This year, I obtained a 10-year golden visa as a property investor and resigned from my job as my rental income of Dh30,000 ($8,168) a month is sufficient for my needs.

However, my bank has blocked my final end-of-service settlement and told me to cancel my credit card.

I paid the credit card balance in full every month and have significant cash savings in another account with the same bank.

I informed the bank that I own five investment properties in Dubai and Abu Dhabi with no mortgage, and also provided proof of the associated title deeds and tenancy contracts.

How can I convince the bank to unfreeze my end-of-service without cancelling my current credit card based on my income?

It seems that the banks don’t recognise income from property investments.

As far as I can tell, the banks require either a salary certificate or a business registration to provide a credit card, otherwise they block the end-of-service settlement amount.

Do banks not provide a credit card to people on a retirement visa, freelance or investor visa?

How can residents on a property investor golden visa obtain a credit card in the UAE? JJ, Dubai

Watch: Who is eligible for a UAE golden visa under new rules?

Debt panellist 1: Jaya Ratnani, managing partner at Freed Financial Services

Generally speaking, rental income can be considered as an add-back when you are applying for a mortgage or refinancing a property.

Some banks have loan products where mortgages can be provided against rental income. However, in such cases, there is a lien marked against the asset or rental assignment through the bank is mandatory to secure the loan.

A fixed source of income, namely salary or business income, is required when you are applying for loans or credit cards. Rental income alone cannot be used as a basis for evaluation.

Banks provide a facility against pension income for UAE citizens. However, since there is no pension for residents, this option is not available in your case.

Freelancers and investors are also not eligible for bank loans or credit cards as there is no guaranteed income.

With regards to blocking your end-of-service settlement against the credit card payment, the bank would have evaluated your salary as a basis for providing the credit card.

In the event you are unable to provide a new employment offer or a business income, the bank can cancel the facility and request the closure of the loan or card.

A fixed source of income, namely salary or business income, is required when you are applying for loans or credit cards. Reuters

If you wish to retain the credit card, the best option would be to place a fixed deposit with the bank. Most banks provide a credit card facility against a fixed deposit.

The credit limit is usually 75 per cent to 85 per cent of the deposit amount. This will help you retain the credit card and use its benefits.

Debt panellist 2: Alison Soltani, founder of Leap Savvy Savers

Congratulations on your financial success in the UAE and on resigning from your job.

It is true that some banks automatically freeze the gratuity payment due to the limit on your credit card, regardless of whether you have any payments owed or not. This is due to the credit limit automatically registering as a liability in your name.

Therefore, it is advisable to cancel your credit card with the bank in which your gratuity is being paid.

Alternatively, you might ask the company if they could pay the amount into a different bank, although this may not be possible.

In terms of obtaining another credit card, you should be able to submit applications with different banks if you have an Emirates ID, as well as proof of residency and income.

It does not have to be a salary certificate, although this is the simplest form of proof of income for the bank to process.

Your income is higher than the minimum salary requirement for most credit cards, so you should not face an issue.

Gather together your proof of income documents, including your bank statements, title deeds and tenancy contracts and apply at different banks.

It may also be worth downloading your Al Etihad Credit Bureau report to check whether there are any discrepancies that may prevent you from obtaining a credit card.

If you are deemed to be higher risk by the bank due to not having a salary, you may be issued a card with a higher interest rate or lower credit limit.

The interest rate is inconsequential as you pay in full each month and if you accept the lower credit limit, you can certainly contact the bank after a few months and ask them to increase it.

Finally, if you find that you cannot acquire a credit card despite taking the above measures and the bank insists that you have a business licence, you can form a company in one of the free zones fairly easily and economically.

Applying for a freelancer licence or single person company requires you to fill in some forms and provide proof of identity and Emirates ID.

Companies such as Virtuzone complete the paperwork on your behalf and this may ease the credit card application process for you, although it should not be necessary.

Quote
People with freelance and investor visas can obtain credit cards and are usually asked to provide details of their business and earnings
Keren Bobker, senior partner, Holborn Assets

Good luck in your future endeavours; I wish you every success in the UAE.

Debt panellist 3: Keren Bobker, senior partner with Holborn Assets

The response from your bank seems to be the result of a box-ticking exercise.

It is standard practice for all banks in the UAE and elsewhere to request proof of income from employment or a business when extending credit of any type.

This is simply to ensure that there is income to service and repay a debt.

That said, a bank can offer credit to people with other sources of income but you will need to obtain a decision from a senior member of staff with authority to override their usual systems.

As you have a valid UAE residence visa and can demonstrate that you have income from several properties, it seems to me that you would be a good credit risk.

Presumably, this rental income is paid to your bank account so that they can see the monthly income?

Watch: Understand your finances

People with freelance and investor visas can obtain credit cards and are usually asked to provide details of their business and earnings. Rental income from property ought to be considered in the same way as it is no less secure.

As for the blocking of a gratuity, this is often in the terms and conditions of a credit agreement that will state that the money can be used to repay any outstanding debts before any excess is released.

The cancellation of the credit card is a standard reaction as you have not provided details of new employment.

My suggestion is that you arrange an appointment with a senior member of staff at the bank’s main office to put your case forward.

If your current bank refuses to see sense, I am sure there are other banks who would be keen to have your business.

The Debt Panel is a weekly column to help readers tackle their debts more effectively. If you have a question for the panel, write to pf@thenational.ae

Updated: December 28, 2022, 5:00 AM
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