23 May [2023 Update] Top Expat-Friendly Credit Card Companies in Japan
Last Modified on September 19th, 2023 at 07:05 pm
Let us be honest at the start: Foreigners encounter some challenges when trying to get a local credit card in Japan. The main reason is that credit card companies prefer customers with a stable income and a long-term visa because they are afraid of foreigners leaving the country without having paid back all credit card debts.
But many foreigners who work in Japan are on temporary contracts or have visas that expire within a year or two. This makes them less attractive to credit card companies who want to ensure that their customers can pay back their debts.
Another reason why it is hard for foreigners to get a credit card in Japan is the lack of credit history. You may have a solid credit history back home, but Japanese credit card companies use Japanese “credit information bureaus” to check your payment history.
2023 Top Credit Card Companies for Expats in Japan
Who issues credit cards?
All of the banks in Japan have an affiliation with one or more of the major credit card brands: Visa, Mastercard, or JCB (Japan Credit Bureau). But the banks are very conservative as a result of the banking crisis in Japan at the end of the 1990s and early 2000s. Other issuers are credit card firms like Credit Saison and Rakuten Card and large holding companies such as Marui and Epos. Applications are all done in Japanese but many issuers have English-speaking staff.
Do not apply to several card companies at once. They will all contact their credit agencies that often issue a negative score for individuals for multiple applications. In Japan, you have to pay back your credit card debts already by the middle of the next month. If you miss a payment your card will be blocked until you make the payment plus interest on the amount. You cannot accumulate debts. But for a larger purchase you are often allowed to make the payment in installments. Of course, you have to pay interest on the outstanding amount.
What are the requirements?
The general requirements for an application are like this: Foreigners must a resident (residency card), proof of address (a utility bill rather than your residency card), have a Japanese bank account, and have a stable income.
Sometimes, a tax certificate issued by the town office showing income and tax paid may be needed. This is especially helpful when you are working as part-timer or freelancer and cannot present a work contract.
According to hear-say, some popular foreign-friendly credit cards in Japan are Rakuten Card, Epos Card, Amazon cards, and American Express Gold Card. The latter may not usable everywhere because of the high fees merchants have to pay to the card company.
If your applications are not being approved – what can you do? Here are the alternatives:
Apply for a debit card instead. A debit card is linked to your bank account and allows you to make purchases online or in stores without using cash. However, unlike a credit card, a debit card does not allow you to borrow money or pay in installments. Some popular debit cards in Japan are Visa Debit, J-Debit, and Rakuten Debit.
Apply for a prepaid card instead. A prepaid card is similar to a debit card, but you have to load money onto it before you can use it. You can buy prepaid cards at convenience stores or online, and use them for shopping or travel. However, unlike a credit card, a prepaid card does not help you build your credit history or offer any rewards or benefits. Some popular prepaid cards in Japan are Suica, Pasmo, and Line Pay.
Apply for a secured credit card instead. A secured credit card is a type of credit card that requires you to deposit a certain amount of money as collateral before you can use it. The deposit acts as a guarantee that you will pay back your debts and also determines your credit limit. A secured credit card can help you establish your credit history in Japan and eventually qualify for a regular credit card. However, unlike a regular credit card, a secured credit card may charge higher fees and interest rates. Some popular secured credit cards in Japan are Orico Secured Card, SMBC Trust Bank Secured Card, and JCB Secured Card.