Top Expat-Friendly Credit Card Companies In Japan

Japan had solely been a cash society for many years. Business workers would walk around daily with wads of cash in their wallets, which was unimaginable to the Western mind. Thankfully in the last few years, places where credit cards are accepted, have increased. It has only been in the past three years that even McDonald’s Japan finally upgraded to credit card-friendly machines. Slowly but surely, Japan is moving towards a card society, especially with the Olympics on their way. If you plan to spend a few years in Japan, it might be a great idea to get yourself a Japanese credit card.


Although it sounds intimidating, it is not impossible. Knowing which cards are foreign-friendly and preparing the right documents should help you when getting ready to apply. This is in no way a guarantee of passing, as each individual holds their own luck, but just a guide to helping you know which cards are the most foreign-friendly.


Top Credit Card Companies for Expats in Japan

Which credit card should you apply for? Here are our top recommendations:



Known to be the easiest credit card company for Expats- with little paperwork- no Hanko needed (Japanese name stamp), and with quick and high approval rate. They offer the most rewards with a minimum of 1% cashback points towards their shopping site. 1 point for every 100 yen spent. Rakuten is the ‘Amazon of Japan’, and at certain times, points can be as high as 3x your purchase rate. If you like to shop online with Rakuten, then this is the card for you.


American Express Gold

An International card company, Amex can come with steeper annual fees, but you get many great benefits from this card that you don’t with others. These benefits include raking up airline mileage points, travel insurance (including lost or damaged luggage), travel lounge uses, and concierge. If you often travel, this is a great card to have, although some shops do not accept Amex due to its high merchant fees. Rewards are 0.5%, so 1 point for every 200 yen spent.


Saison International

A Japanese company. If you apply online and are approved, you can pick it up at a Saison booth (found in many department stores) on the same day. Rewards are only about 0.5% (1 point for every 200 yen spent), although there are no annual fees. A popular card in Japan that is convenient to use. You will need a hanko for to sign up for their credit card.



A Japanese company that is part of the Marui group. You also apply online and can pick the card up at any Marui department store; delivery also available. If you are a frequent shopper at Marui, you will benefit from its rewards. Rewards are also about 0.5% cashback (1 point for every 200 yen spent). Depending on your card level, you can also enjoy benefits like airport lounges.


Tips & What You Need To Prepare

Most of the above companies have online applications that are in Japanese only, but have no fear! -This is where Google Translate comes in handy. While Google Translate will not be a perfect translation, it will get the job done!

If applying for the first time, please make sure you check with each company.  Check what they require for their application, and have those documents ready.

If you have been denied a credit card in the past, there are a few possible reasons. For example, not having all or the right documents, applying for multiple cards consecutively, not answering the confirmation call for approval, or having a record of being denied (thanks to JICC, the base company connecting all credit unions in Japan). If that is the case, it might be best to wait awhile before applying again.


To give yourself the best chance, here are a few things most companies require you to prepare:



1) A Bank Account – You cannot get a card without a bank account.

2) A Residence Card – Valid Residence Card with proof of visa (cannot apply on a tourist visa).

3) A Mobile Phone Number – Just like a bank, one needs a mobile phone to apply.


Things that can Help Your Chances:

1) A Full-Time Job – Proof of employment shows that you have a stable income to pay the bills on time. Although freelancers and students still have a chance (especially with stable and sufficient income), a good option might be going with Saison, if not employed full-time.

2) Living in Japan for a more extended amount of time.

3) A Hanko (Japanese name stamp) – Some companies will ask for this such as Saison International, although others will only need a signature.


Talking About Bank Accounts- Sony’s New and Fabulous Online Banking!

Sony Bank took the initiative to ask Expats what they are looking for and think is missing, with banking in Japan. The most popular answers were banks that are easy and flexible.

Sony Bank Online, launched in March 2020.  It’s a wholly English-supported online banking site created by and geared for Expats. It allows you to access banking with features such as yen and foreign currency deposits, funds transfers, foreign currency remittances, and the Sony Bank Wallet.

The Sony Bank Wallet is a debit card that can access your account from within Japan and over 200 different countries in 11 different currencies. You can use this card wherever Visa is accepted.

You can sign up for Sony Bank with a VERY SIMPLE PROCEDURE, using an app on your phone.  And yes, everything is in English!

In about ten days, you will have your Sony Bank Wallet, simple-easy-done!


May you receive your credit card smoothly!

With the above listed credit card companies, Sony’s new online banking, and some new cashless options like PayPay, the opportunity and availability for a cashless Japan are starting to be possible.  We hope these tips and recommendations help you start your search on finding the best credit card company for you! -So when you’re ready to purchase that 60-inch TV for your brand new apartment we helped you get, it’s a smooth cashless process. Don’t forget to rack up those points!  🙂


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