Getting a credit card is part of normal adult life, and while applications can be difficult regardless of country, getting a credit card for foreigners in Japan can be more involved. The detailed requirements, documents, checks, and seemingly endless applications can make the entire process seem daunting and overwhelming. This guide will provide a simplified and easy-to-understand version of standard requirements, the application processes, and companies that provide English language services.
Firstly, it is important to be aware of the necessary requirements when applying for a Japanese credit card as a foreigner. While you may already know these requirements for your home country, there are sometimes differences between countries and so it is best to be up-to-date on Japanese procedures.
In terms of documents, the requirements are fairly standard. A brief list of things you will need for your application are the following:
・Health insurance card
・Another form of ID (usually a utility bill with your name on it)
・Certificate of employment (not all places require this) - If you apply online there will be further requirements regarding things like your employment status, the size of your company, and other general life questions.
These are just the basics of completing the application. Each bank or company has a range of eligibility criteria that you will have to meet. These are not always specified on the home page, so it can be difficult to judge whether you meet these criteria before actually applying, but here are some more details on the general requirements and considerations.
This involves how long you have been in Japan, whether you have PR status, and if not, what type of visa you have and how long you have left on your current visa.
This will involve whether or not you are full-time or part-time, what what type of contract you have, how long you have worked at your current company, how stable that position is along with how high your salary is.
Some aspects of your personal life can also have an impact on your eligibility, such as Japanese fluency (even if applying in English), and having a long-term Japanese partner or spouse.
Your credit history from your home company isn’t relevant here as Japan has its own databases, but if you have any previous credit card debt or issues in Japan, this can impact your current application. Having multiple applications in a short amount of time for different companies can also appear negative.
Of course, not every aspect on this list will be taken into account at every bank or financial institution, and different aspects carry different weights when it comes to approving or rejecting applications. However, these are examples of considerations that many banks or institutions will make when deciding whether to approve your credit card application.
Applying for a credit card can be difficult in Japan for a foreigner, especially as different companies have different levels of acceptance for foreign applicants. The following companies are known for either having good acceptance rates for foreigners or English support available. For those without English support, Google Chrome translate extensions or applying in person are options for getting around or reducing the language barrier.
Epos is one of the major credit card companies in Japan and is managed by the Marui group, which also owns the Marui department stores. This company is also known for having high acceptance rates for foreigners. They also have automatic overseas travel insurance. Although the website is in Japanese, it is possible to apply through Marui department stores, many of which have English-speaking staff. GTN, a company providing housing services for foreigners also has a partnered credit card with Epos, which offers online English support for applications. However, for this version, you must already be using another of GTN’s services.
・High acceptance rate
・Overseas travel insurance
Unlike credit cards, the GAICA Prepaid Card has no membership fees and no application review. The card functions exactly like a VISA card. It is perfect for those studying abroad because it can be accessed by those as young as 13 years old.
Another option for credit cards in Japan is deposit-based credit cards. These involve putting down a deposit first, which is then used up as you use the credit card. While this is different from a regular credit card, it can be easier to be approved for as there is less risk for the company. These cards can be beneficial for building up a credit history as well as payments. J-trust is a company offering deposit-based credit cards and is well-known for accepting foreign applicants. They offer online applications in English and the entire process has English support available.
・High rate of acceptance for foreigners
・English support is available, including online
・Easy application process
All the banks offer in-house credit cards as well which can be linked to your account with them. That being said, they often have the strictest criteria when it comes to eligibility.
Rakuten is one of the major financial institutions in Japan and is well-known among the expat community for having a high acceptance rate for foreigners. They do usually require applicants to have a full-time job and work visa, but if these two conditions are met, it is common to be approved without too much difficulty.
・High acceptance rate
・Good points system
・Overseas travel insurance
・Customer call center has English-speaking representatives
While not absolutely essential in Japan, credit cards make many aspects of life easier and more convenient. Automatic payments for services, building a credit history, and general payments are all more accessible with a credit card.
The requirements and application process can be difficult and daunting, but with our guide and handy list of companies that are easier for English speakers to work with, you can apply for a credit card with a lot less stress and worry.
Having a credit card also gives you access to a wealth of cashless apps. For more information on these and e-money in Japan, see our previous article here, as well as our various other articles about the financials of living in Japan.
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