Updated September 21, 2023

Best Credit Cards in Japan for Foreigners: 2023 Guide

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Japan Dev Team

Japan Dev contributor

Are you planning to settle down in Japan? (Maybe you just found a great new tech job on Japan Dev?) If so, you’ve probably wondered what the best credit cards in Japan for foreigners are. 

After all, you’ll have to build a life from scratch, and planning all of your expenses down to a tee isn’t easy. There might — and will — be hidden costs and unplanned expenses along the way, and you want to be ready for all of it.

Besides, not everything goes according to plan. You need a safety net to fall back on when things go sideways, and having a credit card can give you the financial security you need while you get things under control. 

As you’ll have lots of expenses in the first few months of moving to Japan, it’s essential to get a credit card with good interest rates and payment installment options. 

This is why today I’ll talk about what the best credit cards in Japan for foreigners are. I’ll also explain everything you need to know about the credit card system in Japan and the things you’ll need to apply.

Let’s dive right in.

What You Need to Get a Credit Card in Japan

Starting with the basics, let’s take a look at what documents you’ll need to present for a credit card application in Japan. Keep in mind that these requirements may differ from company to company. The documents I’m listing here are what you’ll most likely be asked to present.

I’ll list some other documents that might help your application, but let’s first start with the basics. To get a credit card from any company in Japan, you’ll need to have:

  • A Japanese bank account,

  • A valid visa that’s (not a tourist one),

  • Your personal inkan (the official seal that you used to open your bank account),

  • Your certificate of employment, and

  • Proof of address (rental contract or a gas/electricity bill that’s in your name).

While most of these requirements are pretty clear, if you’re not familiar with Japanese bureaucracy, you might be confused about what an “inkan” is. As I mentioned in my post on starting a business in Japan, you’ll need a seal to do pretty much anything official in Japan. You can think of it as a replacement for your signature.

Additionally, if you’ve already been living in Japan for at least a year, you’ll need to present a certificate that shows that you have no unpaid income taxes as well. 

Also, fulfilling one or more of these conditions can help strengthen your application even further:

  • Being married to a Japanese citizen/resident and having a spouse visa,

  • Having a driver’s license or ID card that’s issued by the Japanese government,

  • Having applied for financing and paying it all back to build a good credit score,

  • Living in Japan for a long time prior to the application,

  • Being employed at a full-time job as opposed to being a freelancer or a business owner, and

  • Not having any previously failed credit card applications.

Tips for Applying for a Credit Card in Japan

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In theory, the requirements I mentioned above alone should be sufficient to get yourself a Japanese credit card. However, there are some tips and tricks you can utilize to make sure that your process goes as smoothly as possible.

For starters, having as many documents as possible that will help you prove your identity is a great way to avoid any unnecessary rejections. Having multiple ID cards, such as an insurance card, a residence card, or a driver’s license that you obtained in Japan, is the ideal way to go here.

Also, if you’re considering applying online, make sure to check if there’s a way to do it in person. For some companies, getting a printout and applying in person may be preferable and can make your screening process go much faster and smoother.  This is especially true if you have a middle name or other issues that might not fit cleanly into online forms.

Another thing to be careful of when filling out your application is to write your name exactly as it appears on your Japanese ID. Make sure that you’ve included any official middle names you may not normally use, and refrain from using abbreviations or nicknames. Otherwise, your card will not be delivered to you.

Lastly, when it comes to credit card applications, speaking Japanese is a bigger plus than you’d think. If you can prove that you speak and understand Japanese, your screening process will be faster, as the company will be convinced that you understand the terms and conditions.

If you don’t speak Japanese yet, you can at least familiarize yourself with some basic Japanese phrases or start building a solid foundation by signing up for a Japanese class. I covered the best Japanese schools in Japan in another article, which I think will be helpful.

How Does My Visa Affect My Credit Card Application?

As a foreigner in Japan, your visa status is one of the most significant deciding factors for your credit card application. 

First of all, as I mentioned, you can’t apply for a credit card if you’re on a tourist visa, which is usually for 3 months or shorter. As a general rule, the longer your visa is, the better your chances will be of getting approved for a credit card. 

However, applying for the card while you still have a long time left on your visa is the best way to go. It’s true that the longer you’ve been in Japan, the higher your chances will be, but if your visa is expiring soon, it’s likely that your application will be declined.

If you’re not clear on the visa situation, you can check out my post on getting an engineering visa in Japan, where I talk about the visa types in Japan extensively.

Typical Limits on Japanese Credit Cards: Some Useful Terminology

If you’re from the United States, you’ll realize that the limits on Japanese credit cards are lower than usual. A normal limit for a credit card is usually around 100,000 JPY, which is around 800 USD at the time of writing. 

While this may be enough for your regular living expenses, I’ll admit that it isn’t much if you’re planning on buying lots of furniture or if you have a regular shopping habit. In any case, at first, I recommend treating your credit card as a debit card, as the amount you owe will be automatically taken out of your bank account.

However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Typically, on the 10th of the month following the one you’ve taken credit for, you pay what’s due in full, and no interest is charged if you’ve paid on time. However, there are other options you can utilize as well.

Paying in Installments (Bunkatsu Barai)

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If you’re making a big purchase, you can choose to pay in installments, which is called “Bunkatsu Barai.” 

How it works is that you pick the option to split the payment into installments when you’re paying at a store (they’ll ask you if you want to pay “ikkai,” which means “one time”) or checking out at an online store.

This option might not always be present as the amount needs to be somewhat significant, which changes from company to company, but it’s usually a reasonable amount. Let’s just say that you probably won’t be able to split a tiny purchase of 500 JPY, which wouldn’t make sense anyway because when you split a payment, interest rates come into play.

Speaking of which, the most important thing you need to know about installments is the interest rates that apply. While you can choose to split a purchase into up to 36 installments, the interest rates will be higher the more installments you pick. 

Interest rates in Japan can go up to anywhere between 12% to 16%, which can get a bit too pricey, so try to be mindful of this when selecting a credit card.

Revolving Payments (Ribo Barai)

Another option you have in Japan that shouldn’t be confused with paying in installments (Bunkatsu Barai) is the concept of “revolving credit,” or “Ribo Barai.”

If you’re from the United States, you’re probably familiar with this concept. Basically, with ribo barai, your balance carries over to the following months. Essentially, the credit card company takes all the amount due for a month and splits it into installments while adding a financing fee on top of each installment. 

This means that each month, you pay a part of the financing fee along with the installment itself until the total amount due is completely paid off. The installments are done when they are done, as opposed to Bunkatsu Barai, where you pick the number of installments.

Revolving payments can make planning your finances harder, so it’s generally recommended to go for bunkatsu barai when possible.

Easiest Credit Cards to Get in Japan for Foreigners

Now that we’ve covered all the basics of Japan’s credit card system, let’s take a look at some of the easiest credit cards to get in Japan. These are also your best options because you’ll pay little to no amount of fees while getting the most benefits in the form of rewards systems and special discounts.

Rakuten Card

Probably the best option on this list for most foreigners, Rakuten Card is a credit card issued by the e-commerce giant Rakuten, also known as the “Amazon of Japan.”

Rakuten Card has no annual fees, and there are a variety of options to choose from, each with its own perks. For instance, some plans offer special perks to students, while some have travel perks such as earning extra miles or free travel insurance.

Another benefit of Rakuten is that if you shop within the Rakuten Group companies (which is very likely), you get some extra benefits, such as earning spendable points. You earn 1 point for every 100 JPY spent, which can be used to purchase items at Rakuten Group companies or at other affiliated stores.

Moreover, Rakuten is one of the easiest credit cards in Japan you can get, as you can apply for one as soon as you enter the country (on a visa that’s not a tourist one, of course).

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Saison Card

Saison Card is similar to Rakuten in that it doesn’t have any annual or monthly fees either. 

Another similarity between the two cards is the points system. While you don’t earn as many points with the Saison Card, your points never expire, so you can wait for them to add up for however long you want. 

Also, you’ll be able to spend your points on a wide variety of items like groceries, electronics, and clothes. Additionally, the card issues a 5% discount on the first and third Saturdays of every month at selected supermarkets.

However, keep in mind that the application process for the Saison Card isn’t as easy as Rakuten’s. You won’t be able to apply right away, as you need an ID card issued by Japan (a resident card is also fine). In addition, you need a personalized stamp (inkan) to apply.

EPOS Card

Issued by the department store Marui, the EPOS card functions like any normal credit card with additional perks you can enjoy at Marui stores.

You can choose to apply online as well as in-store at any Marui location. The process is easy and fast — you can get your application approved the same day. I recommend applying in-store as you get additional benefits like special discounts and points as a reward.

EPOS doesn’t have any regular fees, and you can even use it at ATMs to withdraw cash for free. There’s a great point system as well. You get 1 point for every 200 JPY spent, which is pretty decent.

EPOS is a Visa card, which means that you’ll get those benefits as well.

Orico Card

Powered by Mastercard and JCB, Orico Card is one of the most popular credit cards in Japan, with 11 million users. The card is issued by Orico, a financing company that issues loans.

Orico’s “The Point Card” is their most popular credit card plan, which has no annual or monthly fees. The card offers perks like earning increased points during the initial months, as well as when you shop at any Orico department store. 

The point system of Orico is pretty great, and it’s comparable to Rakuten, as you earn 1 point for every 100 JPY spent. 

If you have a car, you can get an ETC (electronic toll collection) card alongside The Point card, which is pretty neat.

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Amazon Card

Amazon’s Mastercard-powered credit card is issued by the multinational Mitsui Sumitomo Banking Corporation, which is one of the biggest banking and financing companies in Japan.

This one is especially great if you’re a frequent Amazon shopper (who isn’t?) because you’ll earn extra points for the purchases you make from Amazon.co.jp

The best way to make use of the rewards system of Amazon’s Mastercard is to become an Amazon Prime member, which you probably are if you frequently shop at Amazon. 

Amazon Prime members get a different credit card called Amazon Prime Mastercard, which comes with more perks like the ability to earn points from purchases made at konbinis. You’ll also earn more points from your Amazon purchases.

The application is easy, and you can do it online directly through the Amazon website. Additionally, there are no annual fees for both cards, so you only pay as much as you spend.

JCB Card

Last but definitely not least, JCB Card is one of the best credit cards you can get in Japan as a foreigner. The card is issued by JCB, a Japanese payment company that provides payment systems to both Japanese and international companies. 

You might see JCB branding on various companies’ credit cards. This is because JCB is a payment provider just like Visa or Mastercard, but they have their own credit cards as well.

JCB Card even has a point-based rewards system called “Oki Doki,” and you can earn extra points by shopping on Amazon, as well as some other stores like 7-Eleven. You earn 1 point for every 1,000 JPY spent, and you can start redeeming your points once you hit the 200 points mark.

One of the only downsides of the JCB Card is that since it’s by a Japanese provider, your card won’t be as universally accepted as a Visa or a Mastercard when you’re abroad. 

Another point to consider is that you’ll need to pay an annual fee of 1,375 JPY after your first year. However, this fee can be waived if you spend more than 500,000 JPY on your JCB Card.

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Japan Dev Team

This post was written by our Japan Dev editorial team.