12 Easy-to-Get Japanese Credit Cards

Japanese Credit Card
Photo by rubenerd

Japan is known as a “cash society,” but having a Japanese credit card in Japan can be very convenient.

A few months ago, I decided that I’d like a Japanese credit card of my own. I’ve been using my US CitiBank card, which is accepted at a lot of stores in Japan. My American CitiBank card is great in that regard, but charges an international usage fee that I could escape if I were to use a Japanese credit card.

For this reason, I applied for the Life Card. Much to my dismay, I was rejected. Talking to a coworker about it afterwards, he asked why I went for such a “high class” card. The fact is, I’m not familiar enough with credit cards in Japan to know which credit cards are easy to get for someone like me, a younger person with a lower income who hasn’t lived in Japan for a long time.

I decided to do a little research to find which credit cards are easy for foreigners in Japan to acquire.

Japanese Credit Card Resources

To compile this list of Japanese credit cards, I looked for credit cards aimed at lower-income workers (such as housemakers and part-timers) and younger demographics (such as students and 20-somethings). Additionally, I used the following resources, which identified “foreigner-friendly” Japanese credit cards:

Tokusuru Credit Card Guide (Dugon)

Tokusuru Credit Card Guide (J-selection)

Note About Japanese Credit Cards Types

Of course, there are types of credit cards that are easier to receive than others. A non-Japanese friend of mine was able to get a department store credit card the same day as the application was submitted.

I personally prefer to stick with bank credit cards, which may be a bit more difficult to get. This list is mostly of bank credit cards. This is my preference as a lay-person. So please keep in mind that I am not a professional and that I can’t take responsibility for the results of applying for or using any of these cards. Thank you for your understanding.

Notes About Additional Research

The table below is not by any means a thorough write-up of the credit cards. You can use it as a guideline. Once you’ve decided on a few cards that sound good, you should also research other aspects of the cards as well. Some items I’d suggest looking up would be:

  • Interest rates
  • Reputation of card
  • Possibility of adding family credit cards
  • Additional rewards, programs, and reward details
  • Possibility of usage overseas
  • Details of paying the premium (when to pay, how much to pay, how to pay)
  • Buyer’s insurance/theft/loss

12 Japanese Credit Cards for Foreigners to Consider

I’ve compiled this list of twelve credit cards which in theory may be easier for foreigners in Japan to receive. I’ve listed the credit card name, the credit card brand, the yearly fee, and some of the rewards associate with the card. All of this information comes from the cards’ official websites. This information may change, so please just use this as a guideline and double check on the official website.

As a side note, students may have more trouble getting a credit card in Japan. According to the credit cards’ official websites and the above mentioned guides, the following cards are recommended to students: MUFG Card Initial American Express Card, Walmart Card Saison American Express Card, Saison Card International, Aeon Card. In this case “student” usually means a student at a four-year university, not high school students / language school students / trade school students / etc.

Before I choose a card, I plan to do more research about the cards. I’ll post that research about Japanese credit cards later and also let you know how my application goes.

Credit Card Table

Credit card nameBrandsYearly feeRewards
Seven CardVisa, JCB500 yen/year (first year free; free for the following year if you buy 50000 yen or more a year)Point System (exchange points for shopping, ANA miles, etc.)
Saison Card InternationalMastercard, Visa, JCBNone (forever)Point System (never expire, exchange points for JAL miles, or docomo or au points, etc.)
JMB Lawson Ponta Card VisaVisaNone (forever)Ponta Points (exchange points for shopping at Lawson’s, JAL miles, etc.)
Walmart Card Saison American Express CardAmerican ExpressNone (forever)Point System (never expire, exchange points for au or docomo points, items, tickets, etc.)
MUFG Card Gold American Express CardAmerican Express2000 yen/year (first year free)Point Program (exchange points for JAL or United miles, au/softbank/docomo points, online shopping, etc.)
MUFG Card Initial American Express Card (only for those 29 years old and younger)American Express1312 yen/year (first year free, free while you are a student)Point Program (exchange points for JAL or United miles, au/softbank/docomo points, online shopping, etc.)
MUFG Card GoldJCB, Visa, Mastercard2000 yen/year (first year free)Point Program (exchange points for JAL or United miles, au/softbank/docomo points, online shopping, etc.)
Mitsui Sumitomo Debut Plus Card (only available to those between 18 and 25)VISA1312 yen/year (First year free; free after that if you use at least once a year)Point system (points can be used to purchase items from World Point catalog)
Viaso CardVisaNone (forever)Cash Back (automatically receive 1 yen for 1 point)
Recruit CardVisa, MastercardNone (forever)Point system (can use points at Hot Pepper, Eruca, etc.)
Aeon CardVisa, Mastercard, JCBNone (forever)Point system (WAON points; can use points at Aeon stores, McDonald’s, Family Mart, etc.)
ANA Visa Suica CardVisa2100 yen/year (first year free)ANA Miles

Do you have a Japanese credit card? What is your advice for getting one?

What is the best credit card for foreigners in Japan?

Related Articles

Reviews of Japanese Credit Cards

My Japanese Credit Card: NICOS VIASO

65 thoughts on “12 Easy-to-Get Japanese Credit Cards

  1. Intisar Md Chowdhury says:

    Thanks mate. I have applied for a Line Pay Visa credit card at the beginning. I heard that’s one of the easiest. I got rejected and applied for the Rakuten Master Card (within one week gap) and got rejected within a single night. I am wondering I might apply after 6 months or as soon as I start a regular job. Both of the cards I applied I heard are student-friendly.

    1. L. says:

      That sounds really frustrating! It’d be really nice if cc companies were more transparent about their evaluation standard. I hope you have more luck with future applications!

  2. Intisar Md Chowdhury says:

    I have a long-term residence, Japanese phone number, no bad credit record, I pay my bill on time, studying as a PhD student in Japan, my parents also live in Japan, I also earn a decent amount per year (through university funding and also research project), YET I AM GETTING REJECTED FOR A CREDIT CARD. It is getting really difficult for me to understand why? The last thing that I can conclude is –> I AM NOT A JAPANESE SO I WILL NEVER GET CREDIT CARD IN JAPAN, DOEST NOT MATTER HOW MUCH I EARN OR HOW CLEAN MY BACKGROUND IS.

    1. L. says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your credit card frustrations.

      Unfortunately, the foreigner / visa holder aspect can be a strike against us in our applications.

      Which cards did you apply for? And how much time between rejections did you wait to reapply?

      If you haven’t had the chance, you may wish to try applying for one of the student-friendly cards listed.

      Also, some Japanese financial blogs note that it is better to space applications out since too many rejections in a short period can put you on a six-month-ish blacklist.

      Let us know how things go!

  3. E says:

    I’m currently on a Spouse of a Permanent Resident Visa (1 year – renewable), is there a possibility to get a cc after a year of living/working here? I’m quite far from the big and more popular cities though. I am currently residing and working in Gamagori, Aichi. Thanks!

    1. L. says:

      Good question! To be honest, I’m not sure.

      Anecdotally, several friends of mine were approved for credit cards after less then a year in Japan. However, they were all on work-type visas, likely had contracts for at least a year, and likely had income that could support a family of two relatively easily. So if your situation is different, your chances will likely be different.

      If you apply, let us know how it goes!

  4. L. says:

    I’m guessing you mean for your work number.

    You need to give a landline work number where you can be reached, because usually they will ask to talk with you.

    CC companies don’t always conduct this kind of check, but it is good to keep in mind.

    I hope this answers your question!

  5. GM says:

    Hello, I am so desperate to get credit card in Japan recently. I have been in Japan for about 5 years and a half, and i got the same case as TJ. So, this is my attempt to get cc:

    1. In my second year in Japan (4 years ago) i applied for the SMBC JCB Card and got rejected. at that time i just had job changed.

    2. Last year, i tried to buy a new car by loan, but got rejected twice simultaneously (i am sure it was in the middle of October) because i don’t have permanent resident.

    3. Up until last month, i never get rejected for phone loan (e.g softbank or Docomo), but last month i want to buy new iphone X but the provider (AU) said that i can not buy the phone by loan.

    i don’t know if those 3 had something to do with the cc acceptance. but 4, maybe this is the most important, i sometimes didn’t pay my phone bill in time. However, it never passed 2 months so before the next bill payment come, i’ve always paid my phone bill.

    This month, i applied to yahoo cc, and they asked me something (number) from my bank account that i didn’t know so the application failed. the day after, i applied to Acom mastercard but also got rejected.

    So my question is, what could possibly be the biggest obstacle in order for me to get the cc? how should i deal with it?

    Really appreciate for a reply, Thank you

    1. GM says:

      Just want to inform that I’ve just got accepted for Amex Gold!!
      Even there was no reply though, thank you..
      I applied after wait 1 month and a half after my last attempt, and after 3 months working in my new company (I’ve just changed job recently). Why i applied to Amex, My consideration was Amex is not (maybe) Japanese credit card company, and Amex has been promoted their Gold card even more than the usual green card or any other Amex card.. So i guess that’s why..

      1. L. says:

        Sorry I missed replying to your first comment!

        That’s awesome! Congrats on getting accepted.

        Your comment will definitely be of reference to anyone else in a similar situation, so thank you.

        Enjoy your new card!

    2. ng says:

      Hi Everyone. I was reading your post of May 2.I have a long time in Japan and what I know from my experience is to pay on time all your bill. If you don’t pay in time or you forget to pay for more than 1-3 months probably your name will add in the blacklist or you have a bad history in Japan system. Another point is your salary. If your salary is more than 400.000 yen a month probably you will get the credit card but there are many factors. For example, the company where you work. If you work for a big company like Toyota, Nissan or many other companies well they will give you a credit card. Like a say, it depends on many factors

  6. Oldsoul says:

    I applied for a Disney JCB card last week and got a phone call today from them verifying my information. Could this be a good sign that i’m going to get the card? Thanks! 🙂

    1. L. says:

      That’s exciting!

      Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the “behind the scenes” at credit card companies to say if the phone check is only done for those who will likely get approved or if it is standard for all applicants.

      But I hope you get approved soon!
      Keep us updated!

  7. anup bhandari says:

    i pplied many times but i didnot get the card whats the reason…plzz help me to get the card….

    1. L. says:

      Have you been applying to many cards at once?

      Lots of financial websites state that applying for more than two cards a month can negatively affect your chances of getting a card.

      So you may want to try waiting about six months to “clear your record” and then try applying for one card per month.

  8. Kajiwara mildred says:

    Ive been applying for cc countless of times.. I got rejected from rakuten, ana, aeon,jal,jcb..

    Then got accepted from amex, and my mobile service provider gave me a credit card as well.. Au credit card is great and so many benefits as well.. Loved the points.

    1. L. says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience!

      I’m glad to hear you found a credit card, and I hope this helps others looking for one too.

  9. Henry's says:

    I’ve been applying for CC a countless times, but they have been refusing me every time. I’ve applied for almost all of the companies, but never got one. Can anyone help me out with this? Ps I’m working and living in Tokyo since 4 years.

    1. L. says:

      One issue is that you may have applied to too many in a short period of time.

      Generally more than two applications in a month raise a red flag for CC companies.

      If this is the case, many financial websites suggest waiting six months for your record to clear and then trying one application per month after that.

      I hope this helps!

  10. Meat67 says:

    I followed Maya’s advice to try Amazon. It worked. This was probably the fifth or sixth time I’ve applied for a CC in Japan over the past 15 or so years and the first time I’ve been successful.

    Maya’s advice is buried in a reply to a reply so I figured I would make my own comment so other people can find this advice easily.

    Thank you Maya and L. for your help.

    1. L. says:

      I’m glad that advice from another reader was able to help you out.

      I should probably add reader-suggested cards to the post!

    2. Mika3lla says:

      I just applied for amzon credit card and they gave me the temporary card which added to my amazon account, does is mean that i got approved ? Or I might still get rejected?

  11. hiro says:

    i tried all of thwm above. but always rejected. what am i doing wrong? can i send them repeatedly? im a japanese citizen 25 yrs of age. but did not grew up in japan. have been at my work for 3 years. although im just a haken-shain.

    can you give me some advice? im trying to get a credit card with card loan.

      1. hiro says:

        i didn’t know that. thanks i will try to apply aftet six months. do i have to apply just one company per month?

        1. L. says:

          I’m glad it was informative!

          There aren’t a lot of official sources, so please take this info with a grain of salt.

          The website I linked in the previous comment and other similar sites suggest only one application per month. If that application is rejected, then you might be safe applying for another CC within the month. But it seems like two applications a month is the maximum suggested and one a month is safest.

          I hope this is of reference!

          1. hiro says:

            thank you. will keep that in mind. gonna post again if i got the card after 6 months.

          2. hiro says:

            is it the same if i just get a cc without a card loan?

          3. L. says:

            Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure if there is a difference. You may wish to poke around the site linked and possibly even call the card companies to see if they have advice (though if they will actually give out this info might be a long shot).

  12. Baptiste says:

    I have applied two times for a japanese credit card.

    The first time was with Rakuten, which was rejected; the second one with AEON which was approved.

    1. L. says:

      Thank you for sharing! I was rejected for my first one too (Life Card). But got lucky with the second application (Nicos Viaso). Enjoy!

  13. TJ says:

    Is it possible to go directly to a bank and ask them for a card load? I have been rejected countless times, my work requires me to travel throughout Japan and of course i can always ask for a advance payment before the trip but I would really like to cut down on doing that plus my boss mentioned I should try to get a credit card. I was thinking if i go directly to the bank and tell them my situation and that the company will reimburse me 100% of all money used *except for personal expenses* I can speak some japanese but not great a reading and writing it, I have a 5 year spouse visa, tried many card loan locations through the internet but rejected.

    1. L. says:

      Hi TJ,

      Thanks for the comment. Sorry to hear you’ve been having issues.

      First thing I want to clarify is: do you mean card loan or credit card? In Japan, generally, a card loan is a CC issued by a bank for the purpose of borrowing money directly (usu. cannot use it to buy goods directly). A credit card is issued by a CC company for the purpose of buying goods with credit. This reply assumes you mean credit card.

      I’m wondering if the CC companies have gotten stuck on one of two things:

      1. Short time in Japan (have you lived in Japan less than 1 year continuously?)
      2. Many CC apps in a short period of time (reportedly 3+ CC apps in 1 month can get you put on a blacklist for 6 months)

      Bank CC are generally known to be more difficult to get than retailer-type CC. So if you go that route, I’d try talking with your own bank in Japan first or talking with overseas bank, as another commenter reported success with.

      If you’re having issues or doubts about a bank CC, but want to apply in person, you can apply for an EPOS card at Marui. A friend of mine had one issued in 30 minutes after applying at the counter (some Japanese required).

      Good luck!

  14. Jona says:

    I’ve applied and got accepted for a Rakuten Visa. However, my name was written in Katakana and my ID is in Romaji. I’ve submitted a copy of my ID to them already. Now, I know I’ve been approved because they’ve tried issuing my card to me already. But the paper that requested me to submit a copy of my ID says they will “review” my application… does that mean there’s a possibility to get rejected??? Also, how long do you think it will take for them to reissue my card? >_<

    1. L. says:

      Hopefully they mean they will review your request to change your name (rather than the application for your credit card itself). Does the letter give any hint about this?

      The best way to know about this and about the timeline is to give Rakuten a call. Good luck!

  15. Uma says:

    I have moved to Japan in Nov, 2015. My principal bank account is in Mitsubishi-Tokyo-UFJ. While opening my account, I was asked for an option for selecting either debit or credit card. As for financial safety, I chose debit card and it was processed and sent. Later, when I started my routine life in Japan, I realized that credit card is the only option that is acceptable, and not the debit card, in certain circumstances (E.g. BIC sim powered by IIJ, some hotel or hostels (Tokyo Disney Resort) etc.). Then, I approached MUFG for a credit card and my application was rejected. Few weeks later, I opened an account in post bank (JPB) and subsequently applied for a credit card, which was also rejected.
    What I do not understand about the system is, why some circumstances do not allow the debit cards to be used, if everyone is not issued with a credit card (particularly the foreigners) by banks or companies, as mentioned by many of you in this discussion?

    1. L. says:

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such trouble getting a card!

      As written in this wiki article about debit cards, Japan is still very much a “cash society,” so rather than debit cards, everyone simply uses cash, bank transfers and later on credit cards. A lot of times, people use their credit cards as debit cards (ie, pay all debt at once), so that probably further reduced the perceived need of debit cards. As debit cards become more popular, I suspect more shops may start accepting debit.

      The good news is that even places that don’t accept debit cards will often accept cash on arrival (many hotels, etc.) or bank transfers (online purchases, phone contracts). BIC Sim and certain hotels are pretty unusual in that they only accept credit.

      In any case, as you noted, even though Japan is often thought of as a cash society, having a credit card can make life much easier and give you access to more services.

      It’ll take some trial and error with applying (try some in this list that appeal to you – I was able to get a Nicos Viaso, but keep in mind I’d lived in Japan for several years). Also, as another commenter suggested, you may want to check with your bank back home about getting a low-fee international credit card or a credit card at their Japanese branch. I hope you can get one in the near future!

    2. Maya says:

      You could try the Amazon card!
      I’ve been rejected countless times as well,
      but Amazon approved me within 48h.

      Sumitomo Mitsui bank offers the Amazon card, I found out about it while ordering a new iPhone case (ad on the page)

      They don’t require your RESIDENCE CARD copy, even as a foreigner it’s enough to get a regular proof of residence from your ward office (the simple one which just states you’re living there)!

      Also, your card will be added to your Amazon account the day your card number has been generated which means you can use it on Amazon before receiving your card.

      They’ve got 2 types, regular and gold. I chose gold because it includes a card insurance even when you’re overseas (aka home country for example).
      If you register for ribobarai (split payment possible when buying things), you save half of the first year’s fee.

      1. Maya says:

        and by the way, they set my limit to 4 times the amount I’d applied for – though I’m havong a regular teacher salary

        1. Ananta B. says:

          I got approved and got it added to my account too. I’m waiting around 4 days for it to come in the mail.

          How long did it take for it to arrive? The email said within a week?

      2. B.B. says:

        I want to try.but I can’t read the kanji in application form..

  16. Adam says:

    Thought I’d share my experiences as I just used this guide. I’ve been in Japan for about 2 and a half years enrolled at a Japanese university as a foreign student, I applied for MUFG’s initial card the other day using the student application and got my acceptance today with my card now in the mail. If you’re a student then give it a shot, I had two negatives going for me being both a foreigner and a student but it has worked out in the end!

    1. L. says:

      Thanks for the comment!

      It’s really great to hear feedback and personal experiences. I hope your story can help point students to a card that’s right for them.

      Enjoy your credit card! (But not too much 😉 )

  17. Maya says:

    About your comment about not being able to pay off smartphones monthly due to visa:
    When I came to Japan I’d had the same problem and had to purchase one with genkin and me ended up with an older model(price wise). However, after having paid my bills for 6 months I could purchase one in my provider’s online shop! It’s worth trying!

    Right now, my 1-year visa has just been extended but I’m still being rejected for CC. I am having a Visa Debit from my Japanese bank, but I’d like to have a “real” CC. I tried Saison, Sumitomo and Nicos.
    Right now, I’m awaiting an answer from Rakuten.
    It’s my 2nd year in Japan now and I haven’t moved or changed employers ever since, I have a steady income and fairly cheap rent.

    1. L. says:

      Thanks for the excellent tip about smartphones and monthly payments!

      Good luck with your credit card application! Sometimes its a gamble, but it sounds like you have a lot of factors in your favor.

  18. Akina says:

    Thank you for this very informative post! Maybe you’re able to answer my questions..I’ve been shopping online in Japan for a while now because (like many Japan fans) I’m hooked on manga and otaku crap, that’s -if available at all- way too overpriced in Japan but even more so abroad.
    I’m living in Germany right now and get by with cash, a normal bank account EC card and paypal. As 99% of shops don’t offer paypal as a payment option in Japan, I even got myself a VISA credit card, which is supposed to be one of the best, if you’re looking for an internationally usable card because it “only” costs 2% of foreign usage fee per transaction and a free EC card which you can use world wide to get cash without any fees.So far, so good. While technically every shop should accept the card, I came to understand that this unfortunately isn’t the case in Japan. While I do have every possible “advantage” a VISA card can offer (like the “verified by VISA” online usage security, which should be a guarantee for both sides, me – the buyer -, and the seller) it fails at the most common shops. Rakuten won’t take it, Yahoo won’t take it, 7netshopping won’t take it. Yes, there are shops that do take it, but I’d really much like to use it at the prior mentioned shops as well.. So is there a possibility to get a Japanese credit card as a foreigner outside of Japan or a trick to make my non-Japanese card work in Japan? I’m not looking for a loan or whatever because I never spent more than I have, so my finance history is red-free, which is probably also the reason I got a credit card without any problems here even though I have no own income other than the monthly support by my parents because I’m still at university.
    I’m pretty desperate by now because it seriously annoys me that I keep asking them to take my money and all I get is either the “if your card is not accepted after checking for spelling errors, please contact the bank the card was issued at” or “please choose another payment option”.
    Shopping in Japan is expensive enough with the high rates prices are going at over there plus the foreign usage exchange fee plus exchange rate plus (most often) forwarding service plus international shipping plus import taxes/customs. I don’t have the money to also use a proxy service for the payment. And even if I had, the rates they demand you pay are ridiculously overpriced at 10-20% of the value you’re buying plus a fee for banking stuff etc plus the additional costs of the required traceable shipments within Japan.
    So do you know of a possibility to get a Japanese credit card for foreigners outside of Japan? Or if that isn’t the case, a way to fill up Yahoo.jp Wallet? Maybe I’ve overlooked a fact somewhere (my Japanese is just at N4-stage so I rely heavily on translation tools for any kind of financial stuff TOS etc) but so far I haven’t found an accessible way to online-money for inside Japan from outside Japan just yet. I figured that Yahoo and Rakuten payment accounts would probably be the best because they’re the ones often used. But I didn’t find a way to link it to a payment method of my own. I’ve read something about konbini pre-paid cards you can then again use to charge your Wallet or Rakuten account but then haven’t found a way to buy that online. Is it even possible?
    I’m really sorry, I’m asking so many questions. I just don’t know what to do anymore or who else to ask. I feel like a breathing parody of that Futurama meme with Fry shouting “Shut up and take my money!” and the Japanese side sitting there all troll-faced “Problem?!”.. *sigh*

    1. L. says:

      Hi there! I’ll break down your comment into a couple points:

      1. Can you get a Japanese credit card overseas?
      I think you’ll have to check with the credit card companies on this one. The credit card applications typically ask for a Japanese address, so that may be the first hurdle. In addition, the language barrier will be another hurdle – most Japanese credit card applications do not have an English version.

      2. Can a non-Japanese credit card work at a Japanese online shop?
      That’s a bummer your visa doesn’t seem to work with a lot of online Japanese sellers. I used to use a US Visa card and it did pretty well with buying things both online and in person in Japan. You may want to check with both your credit card company and the shop in question about where the block might be. Also, you may want to check out the German versions of the sites you mentioned, such as Rakuten: http://www.rakuten.de/?scid=wi_rdc_topflag

      3. Can I fill up Yahoo.jp Wallet/use prepaid cards?
      Sadly, I’m not familiar with Yahoo.jp Wallet or prepaid cards. You’ll want to ask with your credit card company, Yahoo.jp and the prepaid card companies.

      I’m sure you’ve already explored Japanese-goods websites aimed overseas and double-checked the credit card entry form translations when checking out, so I think the next thing to do would be to check with your credit card company in Germany. Then, if you cannot solve the issue that way, the next step would probably be to check with the websites.

      Good luck!!

  19. Youcef says:

    Hello pleas …could give me how get master card or visa card from japan or yahoo credit card
    Because i want buy from yahoo auction and rakuten auction and they no accept foreign cards

    1. L. says:

      Hello! You can try applying for one of the cards in this post if you would like a credit card that is reported to be easier to get. Also, if you are worried about language difficulties, you could try to ask your bank in your home country if they have a Japanese branch or try asking a bank in Japan with English-language support about their credit cards (Most credit card applications are in Japanese and I can’t think of any English-application credit cards off the top of my head). Good luck!

  20. Courtney says:

    Could you possibly advise me on a credit card I could use to pay loans off back in the US?
    I’m 22 and don’t have much experience with credit cards. Frankly I have no idea what I’m talking about here, since I never want to spend money I don’t have by putting things on credit. I’ve only ever owned one, which I use as a debit card. I have lived in Japan for 6 months as an English teacher and plan to stay here long term, but I’m losing a lot of money paying fees to wire money home to pay off college-loans in the US.
    Any advice on a credit card I could get, so I can put money on it here in Japan and pay off student loans online that way? My loan company informed me that if I pay with a credit card the only money I’d be losing is in the exchange rate, not anything in the actual transfer (now it roughly costs me $20 for every individual transfer, an amount that adds up over time with every loan payment…)

    1. L. says:

      Hi Courtney,

      Thank you for your question.

      I’m afraid I don’t have the expertise to answer you satisfactorily without a lot of reading up on the web and calling around, but you might want to take a peek at this website:

      It’s about sending money from the US to Mexico, but the basic principles are sound. Basically, you want the best exchange rate with the lowest fees. Credit cards tend to charge a percentage of the transfer while wire transfers tend to charge one set fee, as you pointed out.

      When you look for a credit card to pay off your loans, these are the things you’ll want to compare:
      1. Ease of communication (some credit cards have English support; I highly recommend seeking one of these out if you aren’t confident in your Japanese or don’t have someone close who knows Japanese and can help you out. Fees, conditions, etc. can change, so it is important to be able to communicate about that. Additionally, you’ll need to apply for and set up payments for your credit card, so again, lots of communicating. As a side note, also be a little cautious about relying on info from non-official sites (such as this one!) as details can change quickly and the info may not be accurate)
      2. Exchange rates (how they historically compare to each other and to wire transfers)
      3. Annual fee (many credit cards charge a yearly “membership”-type fee just to have the card)
      4. Transaction fee (many credit cards charge a percentage of the transaction. In the US, this fee is usually around 3%, but I’ve seen that some travel-oriented cards in Japan charge 2%)
      5. Whether they’ll be accepted in the US (many of the major types of cards (VISA, etc) in theory should work in the US, but it’s important to confirm this)

      I know this is not quite the answer you were looking for, but I wish you luck in your search for the optimal transfer method and in paying off your loans! Let me know

  21. Francesca says:

    Just got rejected for the Rakuten card. Also got rejected for the JAL card. I earn 18 million PA and my husband earns another 10. We have been only in the country for 4 months. Is that too short to get any card? How do other foreigners deal with this? I do not care how much the card costs or if it gives me any benefits with points etc. I just want a card to make payments online. Any suggestions?

    1. L. says:

      That’s really distressing to hear! Particularly given the info I found online about Rakuten being someone easier to get; I couldn’t find much on the JAL card, though.

      Hopefully someone else can also give you their opinion, but to give you my personal experience, I ended up getting the Viaso card. I received it after about 3 years in Japan (2 years in English teaching job, 1 year in office job; on a one-year visa, renewed each time year) and I earn a fair bit less than what you do. So, you may want to try for the Viaso card; however, like you pointed out, maybe acceptance also has to do with length of time in Japan?

      If you have trouble getting a card in Japan, you may be able to find a card from your home country/bank that works in Japan with minimal fees. I’m afraid I don’t know much about UK cards, but my US Visa card has worked basically everywhere in Japan that accepts cards (I mostly got a Japanese card to avoid fees). On the other hand, my family had a hard time getting their American Express cards accepted anywhere in Japan, so your mileage may vary.

      1. Francesca says:

        We got Amex cards! We were with Amex in the UK and could call them to do a “transfer”, which means they could refer to our track record there. It could be a tip for others!

        1. L. says:

          That’s great! I had no idea that the UK branch could convey that info to the Japanese branch. I hope your tip helps others get their very own Japanese credit card 🙂

    2. Adam says:

      Just chiming in that I also go rejected for the Ratuken card. No idea why – although I suspect less than a year remaining on my residence permit may have something to do with it. I’ll try out some of the others on this site and see how it goes!

      1. L. says:

        That’s a real bummer. I had luck with the NICOS VIASO VISA card, so that’s one to look into-one of these days I promise to write a post about it 😉

        1. Adam says:

          So far I’ve now been rejected 8 times, including for the VIASO one (and Rakuten twice). I give up. I don’t know what the problem is, the rejection notices just say “no”. Could be any of name, length of time at address or employer, salary, type of accomodation, type of job. Those are the common points they usually ask for. My hunch, although I can’t prove it, is they see the katakana name and it’s all downhill from there. Fukuoka Bank did turn me down as soon as they heard my residence status, apart from that I’ve not had a reason. All of my Japanese friends have cards.

          It’s very frustrating because there are some services that are exclusive to credit card holders (cheap phone contracts, car rentals, train tickets, etc.), so being universally rejected by card companies excludes you from those services. Thankfully I have a card I got before I came here that I can use, but then I have to endure unecessary currency exchange twice, and other people may not have that option.

          1. L. says:

            I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having a hard time. It’s especially frustrating when you aren’t provided the reason. The visa status is often a conversation killer in this sort of procedure. One you’ve probably also heard of before: Myself and several other friends have been denied monthly payments for smartphones since the payment plan was 2 years and our visas were only one.

            I hope you are able to find a card!

    1. L. says:

      Good question!

      With a quick search, I found this article on a credit card evaluation blog. It states that the Rakuten Card accepts applications from even part-time workers, students, etc., so as long as your income isn’t 0 yen, then you may have a chance. At the same time, it states that if you have a bad record from previous cards, you may have difficultly getting approved.

      Also, this site states that the Rakuten Card is among one of the easiest cards to receive (this lists also includes the Family Mart T Card, the ShinEneos Card and the Magical Club Card JCB).

      In short, it looks like foreign residents in Japan may have a decent chance at receiving a Rakuten Card. Let us know how it goes if you apply!

    1. L. says:

      I’ve definitely been meaning to write a follow-up since I applied for and received a card. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to dedicate to writing, though. I’ll try to get something written up soon!


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