Getting a Japanese Credit Card

September 2nd, 2010By Category: Uncategorized

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. 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 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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  • Sakamaki Izayoi says:

    I’m a Japanese citizen but i grew up outside of japan so i can’t read kanji, but i’ve been living here for 7 years and have a job.. any ideas on how i can get a credit card? i’m 20 years old btw

  • Carmen Sharpe says:

    Do any of the banks offer these that are Visa/master card/JCB? If so, which one’s. (I am on a three year working visa).

  • Carmen Sharpe says:

    So I have been here for just over a month now. What did you end up doing? Fukuoka bank said I cannot get a cc unless I am a permanent resident. Japan Post only offers cash card/debit cards (that are not visa,master card,american express).

  • christopherjacques says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation. This is a preview; your comment will be visible after it has been approved.
    You can use a foreign credit card in Japan, so I don’t get what all the “must have a japanese credit card” nonsense is about. Also, there are a lot of ways to get cash cards in Japan that work as a credit card.
  • christopherjacques says:

    If you need a Japanese card, you can now easily get what they call a debit visa card. It works through the credit card system but it just comes out of your savings in your bank.

  • christopherjacques says:

    Not at all. It’s a matter of figuring out if you are actually trying to live as Japanese or just some foreigner who’s going to max out their CC and then skip town. If they can talk to you, ask you questions, just like in any bank in any country, they can assess if you are a good credit risk.

  • Feeyonah says:

    This week I was accepted for an Aeon card, so I’d recommend that as the process was hassle-free. However, I have already been in Japan for 1.5 years as a company employee, without a change in address. These are the things they will look at the most, so if you’ve only just arrived, it might hinder your chances perhaps. Hope that helps.

  • Eugenia Marett says:

    Hi – this post is quite old. I have just arrived in Japan with long term visa. What’s the best credit card to sign up with these days? JAL card?

  • Is it possible to get a credit card on a work visa?

  • Gret S says:

    I don’t think it has something to do with your Japanese skills. 🙂 When I first got my credit card, I was a student who could barely speak a phrase in Japanese but they approved my visa card application.

  • rtflash says:

    I applied for a Citibank credit card in Shinjuku and was denied after I had some unpleasant exchange of words with the one of the staffs of the credit card co., due to the duration of time they’ve promised that failed. One girl called me and told me my application was approved but as I waited over three weeks to get my card, I called them up again to ask, and had some bad change of words with another employee. They called again the next day and denied my application with no explanations.. It was obviously because of what happened a day earlier. And later I found out that in Japan, an employee alone can approve or deny any applications if he/she finds you unpleasant. Its simple as that ! If you can ask a Japanese friend to talk or ask questions in behalf you, it would help a lot ! Just a friendly tip ! Goodluck !

  • ANIMEROSE says:

    So how does one get internet in japan if one cannot get a credit card?
    I’m going Japan next week and I just found out that the internet company (Asahi Net)
    requires credit card payments in order to get the portable wifi. I’m 21
    and I’ve never been to Japan before and clearly I have no credit history in Japan to even begin to qualify for a credit card. Will I have to go 1 year without
    internet in Japan? GOSH!!

  • yen yang says:

    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.

  • Jepy Nepomuceno says:

    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….. 🙂

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

  • mathewreegan12 says:

    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 says:

    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.

  • tzie31 says:

    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.

  • 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!

  • Farah says:

    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!

  • freeman says:

    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!

  • Trevor_dery says:


  • Clutch Kick Drift says:

    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.

  • Android has a nice green color too!

  • Arun says:

    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.

  • Woody says:

    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.

  • Frank says:

    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

  • Lez says:

    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 says:

    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…

  • Timbini says:

    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.

  • Arun says:

    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.