Author: M.Kok

Getting a credit card in Japan

It is becoming more and more common to do your shopping online. And even if you do go to the shops, you will probably use some form of electronic payment. It is so rare to see cash payments for more expensive items that when someone does pull out a wad of bills, it makes them look like a questionable character from an over the top action movie or music video. 

The idea of using cards and electronic payments, in general, is sold as a safer, more convenient way to pay. Depending on the card, there are also various reward systems where you can earn miles or points or similar. 

But to do all this, you need to have a credit card first. Here is a simple guide to buffing your chances of successfully applying for a credit card. 

And the alternatives, for should you fail. 

Getting the card

Credit cards in Japan, just like many other things, work a little differently. If you are from Europe or North America, you are probably used to credit card companies wanting to have you as a customer. Even if your credit rating is not the greatest, you will still likely get a card. Not so much in Japan. 

In Japan, your overseas credit rating seems to mean very little. Since Japan uses a domestic credit rating system, your application can sometimes get rejected even with an adequate overseas credit score. 

What seems to matter is demonstrating that you plan to stay in Japan for a long time. And will have a constant income. 

What to have

The minimum requirements tend to be:

a valid long term visa

a Japanese bank account

proof of address

proof of employment

The more known the company you work for, the better. After rejection, you usually won’t be given a reason. Also, the Japanese credit rating system shows all your current and failed applications. In theory, every time you get turned down, your chances of getting a credit card become slimmer. That is why it is vital to try and get it right the first time. 

Applying online

If you mind answering personal questions or are not too confident with your Japanese, applying online might be the best.

What card to go for is something you should decide for yourself, but the cards rated high for point back options and- other freebies tend to be the ones you apply for online. 

Applying in Person

If your first pick is a credit card, you can not apply for online, but you are also not confident in your Japanese, go with a Japanese friend. Do this even if the information you have states that the company offers English support. 

The alternatives

If you fail to get a credit card offer at first, you might have to give it a go again a year or so later. Once you have stayed in Japan a little longer and it is more plain that you are staying put, your chances will be higher. 

Meanwhile, you have to get by with your bank’s regular debit card. 

But don’t worry. Japan has many different point cards you can use to nearly the same effect as a credit card. And using some might even lift your chances of getting a credit card offer. 


Before applying for a credit card, you want to make sure you need one. Since the credit system in Japan works a little differently, you might be better off using a regular debit card or a prepaid credit card. You might also want to look into other secure forms of electronic payment that can get you freebies and help you build your Japanese credit score. The best thing is to have someone from your bank give you a brief explanation on how these things work. Again, if there is no English option and you are not too good with your Japanese, ask for a friend to help. 

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