HOW TO: Find a Credit Card in Japan

Editor's note: This topic has been a long time coming. Several of you have wrote in asking what we know about credit cards in Japan, have we been able to get one, which ones are recommended, among other questions.

As we just recently moved, the costs of said moving were on the high end of things (enough for me to end up in tears more than once, because ya know a teacher's salary isn't anywhere close to "we're doing well"). So I suggested to David (husband) that we get a Japanese credit card, just in case.

And in case definitely happened. But on the bright side of things, we were approved for a few cards we applied for, the Rakuten card, the J-West card and the Luluca card (specific to Shizuoka). We initially applied for the Life card but weren't approved.

After talking with different people, it seems that some people are able to get certain types of cards easily, while others haven't been able to get any cards. So we ran a poll to get your answers - you can find the results here.

Words to Know

Japanese Hiragana RomajiEnglish
人気ポイントにんき ぽいんと ninki pointo Why it's popular
年会費 ねんかいひ nenkaihiYearly membership fee
ETC 専用カート ETC せんようかーどETC senyou kaado ETC Card
発行期間はっこうきかんhakkou kikan Time till card issued
海外旅行保健かいがいりょこうほけん kaigai ryokou hokenInternational Travel
国内旅行保健こくないりょこうほけん  kokunai ryokou hokenDomestic Travel
ショッピング保健しょっぴんぐほけん  shoppingu hokenShopping Insurance
利用限度額りようげんどがく  riyou gendo gakuLimit
付帯保健ふたいほけん  futai hokenSupplementary

When we were looking at different credit cards to potentially apply for, we discovered a credit card ranking site that I'll use as an example in this post.

Editor's note Nov 8, 2012: The credit card ranking site we previously linked to now appears to be down and not working. Unfortunately we will have to do screenshots over for a new site, so if you do apply via a site, use the screenshots below as a basic guide for the Japanese and translations. You can search for クレジトカードランキング for sites or try the credit card section on

The most popular card on the site is the Life card, with the Rakuten card in second place. As you can see in the picture below, general information is provided about each card with a description about bonus options that they provide. Scroll down and click on the bottom left button (詳細を見る) for more details (shown in second image below). I'll be looking at the information for the Life card.

credit card, Japan, Japanese, apply, ranking

credit card, Japan, Japanese, apply

On the next page you can see the details on the Life Card. First is the special campaign (in the light yellow box) that you get from applying through this site. If you apply through this site then you get 1.5 times the points for the first year and you can get up a 3,000 yen gift card if you log in to the members site after you apply for the credit card. You can also get a gift card for up to 3,000 yen depending on the amount of money you use and finally, if you use the online mall, you can get a 1,000 yen gift card.

The next section, カードの特徴, explains the features (特徴, とくちょう, tokuchou). This site shows the yearly fee (年会費), which is zero for the Life card and then lists the supplemental insurance (付帯保健) that is provided.

For this card, there is coverage for if you lose your card or it gets stolen. They will go back 2 months from the time you report your missing card and will cover the amount.

The next part explains the point system (under Lifeサンクスプレゼント). For this card, you get one point for every 1,000 yen, and you can get a 5,000 yen gift card from JCB for every 1,000 points you earn. So, basically, every point is worth five yen. The points last for five years which is longer than the one year that seems to be standard, from what I've seen.

The point system also has a sliding scale so the more points you get, the better the return rate of the rewards are, which you can see in the point simulation below (three pictures down). You can also trade in one point and get three miles with All Nippon Airlines (ANA).

This card has a bonus rewards system as well, which is described in the ステージ制プログラム section. Depending on the amount you spend with the card, your reward rate will increase after a year. If you spend over 500,000 yen, you get 1.5 points per 1,000 yen and if you spend more than 1,500,000, you can get two points for every 1,000 yen. For your birthday month, you receive five times the points meaning that for every 100 yen you spend, you can earn 1.5 miles instead of .3 miles

As a bonus, if you spent over 500,000 yen in the last year , you get 300 extra points.

You can use the credit card as a EDY card (electronic money or like a debit card). This credit card is one of the few cards (they claim) that allows you to earn points for charging and using your EDY card. However, you only get .5 yen for every 1,000 yen you use to charge your card, which is half the original rate.

As stated above, you can get three ANA miles for every one point. However you must have a minimum of 300 points (900 miles) before you can transfer them to miles. The good news is that it is free to transfer your points to miles for this program and you can get miles for using your credit card as an EDY card. Lastly, the Life card has a L-Mall. If you buy from the shop in the L-Mall, you could get up to 25 times the points you would get normally, similar to other credit card online shopping and affiliate programs.

Here is a point simulation to show how the point system works.

Finally, at the bottom is the actual specifics about the credit card, but first, here are some more words to know:

Japanese Hiragana RomajiEnglish
入会資格にゅうかいしかくnyukaishikaku Qualifications for
利用可能枠 りようかのうわくriyou kanou wakuLimit range
支払方法 しはらいほうほうshiharai houhou Repayment method
1回払いいっかいばらいikkai barai Repay the amount in
1 payment
2回払いにかいばらい nikai barai Repay the amount in
2 payments
ボーナスー括ぼーなすいっかつ  bo-nasu ikkatsuRepay in 1 payment when
you get bonus points
分割払いぶんわりばらい  bunwari baraiRepay in monthly
installments (amount changes)
リボ払いりぼばらい  ribo baraiRepay monthly (set amount)

キャシング kyashinguCash Advance
還元の目安かんげんのめやすkangen no meyasuReward rate (reward)

Make sure to check the conditions before applying for a card. For this card you have to be over 18, can't be a high school student, must live in Japan and have a working phone number (stated in the first line in the image below).

credit card, Japan, Japanese,

The nice thing about this card is that the approval time is short and there are no membership fees, even for the ETC card, and the interest rate is comparable to other cards.

The downside is the reward system, which seems to be pretty common among many credit cards in Japan, although it does depend. For every 1,000 yen you spend, you get one point and you have to accumulate 1,000 points before you get a 5,000 yen gift card for JCB. This might not be what you are used to in your home country, but the rate of return with the reward system with Japanese credit cards is a lot lower than what I was used to.

If you want a card with a higher return, look for 還元率 or 還元率の目安 ( the number is in red in the picture above) when looking at other credit cards. Some cards also come with different types of insurance which are listed below. The Life card does not have any as you can see.

credit card, Japan, Japanese

Once you find a card you want, you just need to click the red apply button [お申し込みはこちら]. Not sure how to apply? Learn how to do so in this post.

There are other credit card ranking sites you can check out to see what's popular, such as this one or this one. You can also search for クレジトカードランキング for other options.

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