Credit cards around the world: Chile

Our ongoing series moves to South America where we visit Chile.


Credit report

Credit card circulation
Less than half the population of Chile -- about 42 percent -- has a credit card. In all, there are 9.8 million credit cards in circulation in the country, a 154 percent increase since 2003 (Euromonitor International).

High acceptance ...
If you've got plastic, most places will take it, especially if it's a major name like AmEx, Visa or MasterCard. There were US$1.6 billion in credit card transactions in the first quarter of 2008, according to Business News America.

But at a price
Many businesses charge up to 6 percent extra for having to run the card, so it might be best to stick with cash (Lonely Planet).

Some prefer cash
About 94 percent of small businesses prefer cash over plastic. MasterCard, along with other issuers such as Santander Santiago and Visa, aim to change that by offering more rewards cards, according to Business News America.

Cards and crime

More protection needed
According to a RSA survey, only 46 percent of credit cards in Latin America are encrypted. About half of companies that responded in the survey have a credit card data security policy in place, and about the same amount have no formal policy at all (RSA).

Getting smart with new card technology
Chile's credit and debit card issuers began offering smart cards in 2007 with hopes of combating fraud. Why'd they take so long to make the move? The delay was blamed on the cards' high start-up cost, according to County Finance Select.

Bank employee uncovered for fraud
Chilean Javier Foitzick was busted in 2007 after police discovered his database of more than 19,000 customers' sensitive bank info. The culprit worked for the Chilean bank Transbank and cloned 45 credit cards worth more than US$312,000, according to Business News America.

Local voices

Official tourism site
- Visit Chile

Financial news sites
- The Santiago Times
- Business News Americas
- Chile Information Project

Personal finance blogs
- Just Married Chilean Style
- Don't Call Me Gringa
- Girl Meets Chile

Country info

Location: Southern South America, bordering the South Pacific Ocean, between Argentina and Peru (map))

Population: 16 million (July 2008)

Area: 292,260 sq. miles (slightly smaller than twice the size on Montana)

GDP: US$232.8 billion (2007 estimate)

Key exports: US$67 billion of copper, fruit, fish products, paper and pulp, chemicals and wine

Key imports: US$44 billion of petroleum, chemicals, electrical and telecommunications equipment, vehicles, and natural gas

Famous Chileans: Director Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar, writer Pablo Neruda and Augusto Pinochet

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Updated: 03-23-2019