Getting a Japanese Credit Card

September 2nd, 2010By Category: Banking/Investments

Like renting an apartment, obtaining a credit card in Japan is an exercise in patience and pain. To help ease some of that pain we have put together a simple overview to help you on the way. Do you have more personal experiences? Please feel free to add them in the comments.

The Basics

Securing a yen-based credit card not only makes your life in Japan easier, it is also essential if you want to access services such as online travel and booking, local ecommerce sites and plenty more besides.  If you run your own business in Japan then it becomes absolutely vital.

Using a credit card from home is an option, however it will leave you with plenty of extra charges such as a foreign currency exchange fee and in some cases, additional merchant bills.

The Process

The first thing to keep in mind if you have chosen to apply for a Japanese credit card is that there are three unique methods of re-payment. The three types are:

1. One-time or full payment (ikkatsu barai). Usually no interest is charged.

2. Multiple payment plans (bunkatsu barai). Divides the total charge by the number of months you want to pay for it. Interest added.

3. Revolving credit (ripo barai). Pay a set minimum monthly payment, and your total balance of credit is charged interest.

Each of these apply to the one of five international credit card providers: JCB, Visa, MasterCard, Diner’s Club and American Express. For the relevant benefits of each, you should check how they are sold in your home country, though do note that JCB is only available in Japan.

Next, choose where you would like to get your card from – e.g. a bank, a retailer, or another service type, such as the post office, department stores, or online services. There are pros and cons for each; a lot of it will come down to your needs, convenience and how much you value additional features such as IC card integration or store points.

Foreigners generally find it difficult to get a credit card as they are thought to be a credit risk as short-term residents. See here for one resident’s story on just how difficult it was when applying for a credit card with a nationwide bank.  If you do go through something like this, consulting with credit counselors  - usually found on the top floor of department stores – can often help.

Some cards in Japan charge an annual membership fee that can range from about 1,500 yen up to 10,000 yen per year but will provide cash-back programs, airline mileage points, and discounts. Some cards will offer specific combinations of these to specific customer groups, for example there are credit card services designed especially for woman.

The Options

There is a list available here of credit cards that are reported to be open to foreign customers. For those who might struggle with the Japanese, it essentially lists:

Promise (JCB Card)

Promise is a well known consumer financial service for short-term loans for a relatively high interest. After applying for a checking account, there is a high probabilty you will be deemed suitable to qualify for a credit card.  For more info, click here.

Citigroup’s Citi Card

A high rate of approval. Annual fees exist. Applicable only with an annual salary more than 2 million yen.  For more info, click here.

SBI (MasterCard)

The approval system is known to be relatively lenient. The card comes with many benefits in terms of their point system. With a lot of points and travel insurance, there is annual fee. Recommended for those with a good and beneficial credit card.  For more info, click here.

TSUTAYA W Card / Famima Credit (JCB Card)

One of the leading consumer credit cards in Japan, there is no annual fees and users earn accumulated points each time money is spent on the card.  These points can then be redeemed at Family Mart convenience stores, restaurants, and many other retail outlets.  For more info, click here.

Saison Card (American Express / Visa / MasterCard)

Department store credit card.  Has an annual fee of 1,575yen.  For more info, click here.

As mentioned above, this is only intended as an introduction piece as we are not qualified financial advisers or a credit managing company.  Japanese site Super Credit Card contains a much more comprehensive breakdown of the various services.  Kakaku.com is another place where you can find some fantastic credit card deals as well as user-reviews.  If you have more info to share, please do add it in the comments section.

Photo Credit: Asacyan / Wikimedia

 

Author of this article

GaijinPot

GaijinPot is an online community for foreigners living in Japan, providing information on everything you need to know about enjoying life here, from finding a job and accommodation to having fun.

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  • Arun

    The credit card for a short term residents including spouse of Japanese National in many usual cases is not issued.Doesn`t matter either you chage your resident in a year of a partime job, to qualify for a credit card in Japan you need a stable resident ( permanent resident), however there are chances you can get one from your bank if you have a guarantor.
    Good luck.

  • Timbini

    I got my card through a Maptour travel agent when they started only accepting their card for card payments of flights. Since I had booked my family’s flights through them, and they wouldn’t accept my wife’s card, they quickly got me signed up and issued with their card. I was not a permanent resident at the time. In short, if you make a big purchase, and the store/company wants to get your money, I think they will bend over backwards to get you their in-store credit card.

  • Lez

    Try Rakuten, pay for the gear you want with the cash youve earnt, or dont buy it if you cant. You can transfer the money for most bills or purchases through your bank. Great advice from the ‘we are not qualified financial advisers or a credit managing company,’ but Im sure you can do better on your own. Ask your company for some help, or your partner or friends. Wouldnt recommend listening to this article…

  • Lez

    Try Rakuten, pay for the gear you want with the cash youve earnt, or dont buy it if you cant. You can transfer the money for most bills or purchases through your bank. Great advice from the ‘we are not qualified financial advisers or a credit managing company,’ but Im sure you can do better on your own. Ask your company for some help, or your partner or friends. Wouldnt recommend listening to this article…

  • Frank

    Rubbish, spouses of Japanese nationals can get a credit card easily – the spousal visa is longer than the hoards of temporary one year teacher’s visas, and a spouse is a much better long term credit card user than single teachers / workers. Load of tosh

  • Woody

    I got an OMC visa when I became a member of Konami sports gym. I was not particularly long-term nor was I making a whole lot. 0 annual fees, 0 on transactions abroad.

    That said, I was denied one at another gym.

  • Arun

    The best and high approval card for foreigners is ANA card, one of the best credit card in Japan, collect your mileage points with every yen you spend, points can be transfered even to your family, fly free or change it cash back gift cards, it has an annual fee differing with the cards.

  • http://www.rfhealthclubconsulting.com RF Health Club Consulting

    Android has a nice green color too!

  • Clutch Kick Drift

    Got a JCB Idemitsu card from my local gas station so that I could also get an ETC card. It was impossible for me to get a card my first year in Japan, but after that first year, peice of cake.

    No annual fees AND when I was applying they gave me the option of JCB, Visa, MC, etc.

  • Trevor_dery

    NUGS

  • freeman

    I managed to receive a credit car only from AEON.
    Before i have opened 5 accounts in different Banks and all of them guaranteed that I will soon receive one, but they just needed extra bank account and cash, not the customer I suppose.
    So, if you have a major department store in your area go ahead.
    I badly needed the credit card to apply for ETC card and finally i got it, it took me to apply for it, all in Japanese,but not so difficult, and i have waited for 2 weeks.
    good luck!

  • Farah

    Sumitomo Bank does have higher chance of credit card approval! They do give out credit cards for students. 0101 mall also have good credit card approval rate. they’d just approve your card in half an hour!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=678395774 Javier Ramirez

    i went to 0101 mall and they approve my card in one hour.  They way my friends told me was like this.  The credit application is a test,  if you can communicate and understand enough Japanese to fill out the process they will approve it! but if you show that you don’t understand they will quickly say NO!!! You have to see it as a test!

  • tzie31

    Hi! can anyone advice me for applying credit card? I just a long-term visa holder I work in a good company, but I kinda have a bad credit coz’ I just work 5 hours in a day another thing is that there is no chance I would have the confidence of getting out and fill out the credit card application personally with my self because I merely dont speak japanese at all.. I can bring my mom but she’s too busy so I am always looking for CC that is easy to apply online, but if you can recommend some ways that I could fill up with english assistance much better. please help me regarding this. I need CC as my support on daily living for cash advance.

  • mathewreegan12

    Whatever credit cards, but we should know basic things before buying the credit cards. Firstly, check that what kind of credit card you require and for what purpose. Secondly know about the annual percentage rate as credit cards offer different APR for cash advances, purchases and balance transfers.

  • mathewreegan12

    Firstly, check that what kind of credit card you require and for what purpose. Secondly know about the annual percentage rate as credit cards offer different APR for cash advances, purchases and balance transfers.

     

  • http://www.facebook.com/pgregory81 Philip Gregory

    What does your ability to speak Japanese have anything to do with your creditworthiness? Only in Japan…

  • Jepy Nepomuceno

    I am a student here in Japan, and yes i also experienced this in 0101. i applied to 0101 declaring a monthly salary of just 70,000 yen only. and they approved me in just 1 hour. I am fluent in Japanese and I showed them a professional kind of talking in Japanese and i passed. and mind that my friend wasn`t able to pass even to he declare 200,000 yen salary per month… i don`t know why….. :)

  • yen yang

    Likewise,id also apply my visa card in Aeon ,for me to get ETC card,its fast,it takes 2 weeks and then you got it,they only needed you to fill up credit card form,your card residency,and i believe they looked into your status of visa,especially PR,then the bank accounts with passbook,and atms,they ask me many times about my residency ,how long ?if i live in apartment? or i have my own house?they really asked me many many manty times,and the company names,the address,the company landlines etc,and the monthly salary,how much do i get every year? Or do i pay my electric bills?yes ! its my first time to have a visa credit card after 14 years of living japan,with no troubles of credit, after that id apply when i got home Aeon osaka called my no.and asked me again about my date of birth,etc.I believe applying Jal visa credit card is really isnt easy or other credit cards if the one whose applying failed for one question is not qualified.

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