Having a credit card is one of the most important assets in our modern-day era. From online shopping to phone bills, that magic piece of plastic is essential and can be used in convenience stores, especially since debit cards are still rare. The same could be said when you live in Japan with more and more shops starting to accept credit cards.
Most foreigners move to Japan with a credit card but with notoriously difficult regulations, it’s harder to obtain a credit card compared to many other countries. We’ve curated a list of the 4 best Japanese credit cards for foreigners that have problems with finding the perfect credit card company in Japan.
1.Rakuten Credit Card
The Rakuten Credit Card is well known for being the easiest credit card to obtain in Japan due to its hassle-free application process. Because it doesn’t require a Hanko, ID, or mounds of paperwork, it’s also something you can create early on in your Japanese journey.
Rakuten is a shopping website referred to as the “Japanese Amazon”, and has a great points system, where all the points (1%) made on purchases can then be used on the Rakuten website. You also have the option to choose a JCB, Visa, or Mastercard as well, to keep your wallet free from duplicate cards when you apply online.
Rakuten cards have a high point return. Rakuten’s shopping website sometimes offer more than 3 times return than the purchase price.
The online application is easy and while not in English, your google translate will do a more than adequate job at assisting you throughout the process (or you can see it detailed here step-by-step). This card has big rewards and no annual fee for the regular card (NOT the gold and platinum options), making it our top credit card for foreigners in Japan.
2.Saison Card International
Saison is one of Japan’s leading card companies and also has a decent point system with an online platform.5% off on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of every month for shopping at large supermarkets “SEIYU” and “LIVIN”, so it will be very convenient if there are shops nearby.
This version requires an ID and Hanko, but it’s easy to do it directly because the counters are scattered across department stores in Tokyo (they may not have English speaking staff at the counter). The reward percentage is a bit lower than Rakuten, but the point is a much better reward card as you can use anything from a delicious A5 Wagyu gift to some of Japan’s top airline miles. .. Many of these cards have no annual membership fee.
In addition, Saison Card has multiple ATMs in Japan and you can pay the balance regardless of the date, so it is a very convenient card if you need a little budget or want to pay as soon as possible.
EPOS is attached to the Marui brand department store and while it can be used anywhere (like a normal credit card), it also has special rewards for Marui and affiliated shops (such as Karaoke Kan and H.I.S travel; this can be a great way to rack up points quickly for people living in areas where these shops are common.
They also partner with many of those shops to bring anywhere from double to 30x the points on purchases in flash deals and giveaways. You can apply for an EPOS card at any Marui department store all across Japan. This is a VISA card and often has signup deals, so keep an eye out for starting cashback.
They also have prepaid card options for those looking to keep purchases under check while still needing the convenience of plastic in your wallet.
If you have been in Japan for a few months and are in good standing at your bank, it’s not a bad idea to ask your local bank for their affiliated credit card. Sometimes they’re much easier to get than other cards, since its a smaller pool of applicants.
Different banks offer different perks to their credit card– Mizuho, for example, offers a card with an auto-refill Suica option, so you’ll never be caught with too little money on the subway.
SMBC also has both credit and VISA debit options which are very popular and often obtainable by foreign residents, especially since the debit is also VISA and can be used internationally for little to no foreign transaction fees.
No matter which card you use, one important fact about Japanese credit cards remains – unlike in the US or Europe, where credit cards automatically set a minimum payment, Japanese credit functions in a way that your entire payment will be settled at the end of the month.
Compounding the confusion is the often lengthy time between sign up and your first payment. It can take up to three months, which can be jarring when you have the money to pay the bill in full on the purchase just to forget and be shocked later.
You can prevent this by asking for “ribo-barai”, short for revolving payment. This payment will be anywhere from 10,000-50,000 yen depending on your debt to be repaid. Japanese cards rarely have introductory APRs, so read your first statement carefully, as sometimes calling customer service can be an almost comically frustrating experience. Downloading the application associated can also be a big help, as Japanese companies are moving more and more towards customer-obsessed app experiences.
Armed with this information, it’s easy to find the Japanese credit card that works for you. Go forth and prosper, my friends.
So, these are some of the best credit cards in Japan for foreigners! Let us know in the comments if you have applied for a credit card in Japan before, and if so, which credit card company did you choose? If you have yet to apply for a credit card in Japan this article might help you get a better understanding of how to do so!
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