Using a Credit Card in Japan

In Japan, cash has been the traditional form of payment for a long time, and it’s still quite common today. However, the use of credit cards has been increasing over recent years, thanks to government initiatives aimed at increasing cashless payments, the rise of e-commerce, and the convenience of using credit cards, particularly for travel and online shopping.

Here’s a breakdown of a few key aspects you might find interesting:

  1. Types of Cards: There are three main types of cards in Japan: credit cards (クレジットカード), debit cards (デビットカード), and prepaid cards (プリペイドカード). Credit cards are like the ones you’d find in many other countries – you make purchases on credit, and then pay off your balance later, typically at the end of the month. Debit cards pull funds directly from your bank account when you make a purchase. Prepaid cards need to be topped up with money before they can be used.
  2. Popular Credit Card Companies: In Japan, you’ll find familiar international brands like Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, as well as domestic brands like JCB (Japan Credit Bureau) and Rakuten Card. Each company offers a variety of cards to suit different lifestyles and needs.
  3. Rewards Programs: Many Japanese credit cards offer rewards programs. These can include point systems, where you earn points for every purchase made using the card, which can then be redeemed for goods, services, or even cash back. Some cards also offer travel rewards, like air miles, which can be particularly useful if you frequently travel to or within Japan.
  4. Application Process: Applying for a credit card in Japan can be a bit more stringent compared to some other countries. Some card issuers may require applicants to have a certain level of income and residency status. Also, having a Japanese bank account and being able to read and understand Japanese can be advantageous, as many card issuers require applications to be completed in Japanese.
  5. Usage: While more and more businesses are accepting credit cards, there are still places, particularly small businesses and restaurants, that may only accept cash. So, while having a credit card in Japan can be very useful, it’s still a good idea to carry some cash with you.
  6. Contactless Payments: Contactless payment options, such as IC Cards (Suica, Pasmo, etc.) which are typically used for public transportation, are very popular in Japan. Some credit cards come with built-in IC functionality, letting you use your credit card as an IC card.
  7. Mobile Payments: The popularity of mobile payment apps like PayPay, LINE Pay, Rakuten Pay, and others has been increasing. Some of these platforms offer their own credit card services, making it easier to manage your payments and rewards in one place.


Foreigners and Credit Cards: It’s known that getting a credit card in Japan can be quite challenging, especially for foreigners. This is due to a number of reasons including income stability, visa status, and Japanese fluency. However, don’t worry! Certain banks and credit card companies are more foreigner-friendly, like Rakuten Card and Sony Bank, which are known to be more accessible for non-Japanese residents.

Affiliated Credit Cards: Many large businesses in Japan issue their own credit cards. These cards often come with special benefits for shopping at these businesses. For instance, if you shop at a particular supermarket or department store regularly, getting their credit card could earn you special rewards and discounts.

Secured Credit Cards: These are a great option if you’re having trouble getting approved for a standard credit card. With a secured credit card, you deposit a certain amount of money, which becomes your credit limit. If you fail to make payments, the credit card company will take money from this deposit. This makes secured credit cards less risky for issuers, so they’re more willing to approve applicants with lower incomes or less stable employment.

Credit Card Fees: Some Japanese credit cards come with annual fees, although many do not. It’s essential to read the fine print and understand all the potential fees associated with a card before you apply. These can include late payment fees, cash advance fees, and foreign transaction fees.

Credit Card Fraud and Security: Japan has robust systems in place to combat credit card fraud. These include the use of IC chips in credit cards for secure transactions, and many credit card companies offer additional security measures, such as identity theft protection and fraud alert services.

Credit Scores: Just like in many other countries, your credit card usage can affect your credit score in Japan. If you use your card responsibly, make all your payments on time, and don’t max out your credit limit, you can build a good credit score, which can make it easier to get loans or other credit cards in the future.

Travel and Dining Rewards: If you’re someone who frequently dines out or travels, look for cards that offer high reward points for these categories. Cards like the ANA Card with Visa, JCB, or American Express branding can offer significant travel rewards, while some cards offer additional points for dining.



  • Q: How can I avoid credit card debt? A: The same way you avoid your ex at a party – carefully, consistently and with great determination. Use your card wisely, don’t spend more than you can afford, and pay off your balance every month!
  • Q: I keep hearing about credit card rewards. What’s that all about? A: You know how you get a free coffee after buying 10 at your favorite café? It’s kind of like that, but instead of caffeine, you get cash back, airline miles, or points that can be redeemed for goods or services. So, sip on that!
  • Q: Should I get a credit card with an annual fee? A: It depends! Does the fee come with perks that make you feel like a rockstar at a VIP lounge? Or does it feel like giving away money for the joy of spending more money? If it’s the former and the perks outweigh the cost, then maybe yes.
  • Q: My credit card interest rate is really high. What should I do? A: Take it as a life lesson – all that glitters is not gold. Look for a card with a lower interest rate or try negotiating with your credit card company. But remember, the best way to avoid interest is to pay off your balance in full each month. No balance, no interest – now that’s priceless!
  • Q: How many credit cards should I have? A: This isn’t Pokémon; you don’t need to catch ’em all. The right number of credit cards depends on your ability to manage them responsibly. If you can juggle more cards without dropping the ball (or accruing debt), then more power to you!


  • Q: What are some of the major banks in Japan? A: Japan has numerous banks catering to different needs. The three so-called “megabanks” are MUFG Bank (part of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), and Mizuho Bank. There are also many regional banks, Internet-only banks like Rakuten Bank, and foreign banks with branches in Japan.
  • Q: Can foreigners open a bank account in Japan? A: Yes, foreigners can open a bank account in Japan. However, the requirements can be more stringent than for Japanese nationals. Most banks require that foreigners have a visa allowing them to stay in Japan for a minimum of six months to a year and a residence card.
  • Q: How do I send money abroad from my Japanese bank account? A: Many Japanese banks allow international money transfers, though the process can be somewhat complicated and the fees can be high. Alternatively, you can use an international money transfer service, which may offer better rates and more user-friendly service.
  • Q: How do I get a credit card in Japan? A: You can apply for a credit card at most banks, as well as through certain retailers and online providers. The requirements for getting a credit card can be quite strict, particularly for foreigners. They often include having a stable income, a visa allowing a long-term stay, and sometimes even a level of proficiency in Japanese.
  • Q: What types of credit cards are available in Japan? A: You’ll find a wide variety of credit cards in Japan. Major international cards like Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are widely accepted, and domestic cards like JCB are also popular. There are also many store-affiliated cards that offer discounts and rewards for shopping at particular stores.
  • Q: What’s a typical interest rate on a credit card in Japan? A: typical credit card interest rates in Japan ranged from around 13% to 18%, though it varies depending on the issuer and your creditworthiness. Always check the most recent rates and terms when you apply.
  • Q: How does credit scoring work in Japan? A: Japan has several credit information agencies, including JICC (Japan Credit Information Reference Center Corp.) and CIC (Credit Information Center), which compile credit reports used by lenders. Paying your bills and loans on time and maintaining a good financial record will help improve your credit score.