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In your experience, how easy or difficult is it for a foreign resident to obtain a credit card in Japan?


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My J-wife owns JP Bank credit card and another from an electronic shop so we just share when using the credit card. So I wasn't thinking of getting one for myself until I was approached by a staff from Sports Authority when I was shopping for some Under Armor t-shirts.

I was asked if I would like to have a credit card with no annual fee guranteed forever (永遠年会費無料) and I even get to choose if I want Visa, Mastercard or JCB. I went to fill their form for 5 minutes. Their main office rang me up a few days later to confirm it's me with the right number (本人確認). I got my card in less than a week.

I would rate my experience of getting a credit card in Japan as much easier than I thought it would be.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Not difficult at all when my Japanese wife said to the clerk: And of course my husband gets one, too. Right? And the clerk couldn't say no. (Since my name is on the account and I have permanent residence.)

However, my wife has since found out from the wives in my little neighborhood that I'm the only husband who has a credit card. Why? According to one wife, Of course, it's because he's a foreigner; they all have one. (I'm the only foreigner she knows.)

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@borscht You are the only male with a credit card. That's hilarious! The ladies run your little town :)

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I find it highly unlikely that Japanese men don't have a credit card.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

As a foreigner, getting a credit card in Japan depends on 1) how long you've been in Japan 2) how good you're Japanese is and 3) and most importantly, if you have Japanese family. When I moved to a new city I had to open a new bank account because my previous bank was a regional one. When I was opening my new account, I asked what the process for getting a credit card was and was just told "It'd be really hard". End of conversation. I also have known people who have been in Japan for several years and had to struggle quite a bit to find a company that would accept them. On the other hand, there are people who haven't been in Japan for long, but because they have Japanese spouses were easily able to get a credit card if their spouse submitted the application. Companies are always afraid of the risk of a foreigner running back to their home country and leaving a ton of debt behind. But if that foreigner is married, it's assumed that the Japanese spouse will be responsible. I can't totally blame the companies for being cautious, but it is extremely frustrating especially considering most foreigners are more used to a credit economy than a cash economy.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I applied for a Gold Card from the old Sumitomo Bank, because it was bundled with overseas travel insurance. They were reluctant but I wouldn't take no for an answer. I had an account in their bank (of course), equity in my house and permanent residence, so I told them there were no grounds for refusal. (Also my income was reasonably high, and I had steady employment.) It took them a week to come around, but I got it. These days I actually get solicited to apply for cards.

2 ( +2 / -0 )


You do have to watch out though for ""REBO"" as in revolving credit. When I got my Citibank card at first I didn't realize it was set up for the dreaded REBO, anyway after using the card for 6-8mths with payments going ok, my fault I wasn't paying enough attention.........

SO I look closer at my statement & see I have several 100s of thousands of yen outstanding, dig a bit & realize instead of paying the full amount each month I was paying say Y30-Y40,000 a month anything over that was carried over & interest incurred. Luckily I caught so I stopped the REBO & upped my monthly payment to clear the backlog, was rather costly & its easy to see how people here can get caught!

My advice DO NOT do the REBO thing!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It took me almost 10 years before I was able to get my first credit card. Now however, it's no problem at all. I have a few. I'm not sure if it's still hard or not to get a first one as a foreigner though.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Got denied by Marui some years ago without a proper explanation.Talking about they couldn't say why.I knew though.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It may sounds absurd, but for me it was way easier to get Credit cards from Yahoo and Rakuten (both online shopping services I signed up 2 days earlier) than from my 2 banks I've been using for years.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Got denied by Marui some years ago without a proper explanation.Talking about they couldn't say why.I knew though.

I don't think they ever say why. I got denied once right after I switched companies and bought a new house. I thought the house might convince them I was financially stable enough, but their decision is heavily based on how long you have been working at the same job and how long you have been living in the same place. After a couple years, I was able to get the same card no problem.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

About 12 years ago coming to JP I was offered a credit card from the bank that my paycheck would be deposited in but declined. A few years ago to use ETC I got one from Daiei. I have no idea what information they have on me, but it was no problem.

Recently I have signed up for two cards from Chase as the mileage offers are good, and Amazon gives you 50 bucks just to sign up!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm not a foreigner, but the US guys in the office were talking about this a few months ago. Their problems was when they opened bank accounts, the banks were really hard selling their credit cards. One had to really insist that he didn't need a credit card because he already had several.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Credit Cards from banks seem still difficult to obtain for some, but from the Credit Cards Agencies like SMBC-Card (especially when it is Airlines Mileage-linked like ANA, JAL...), it has never been a problem. Got mine after 6 months in Japan on my first application, with no Japanese family nor permanent residence.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Easy if you earn over 5 million yen a year.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

JCB gold card no problem for us. We even used it in the States for car rentals and such

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It was difficult before Abenomics for me, now, I have one for every big shop I visit frequently. Amazon, Itoyokado, Aeon.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

First one was tough though that was nearly 10 years ago, several declines before I got one. Guess its a little easier now, plus I have a credit history I suppose..

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Not difficult at all. If you can show that you have a bank account, a regular income and no intention to flee the country, the credit card companies queue up to persuade you to have their card.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Easy. Got a Citibank one. Now they have left life a bit more difficult.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Thirty-five years ago it was quite difficult although once I got a card from a foreign bank it was easy.

0 ( +1 / -1 )


Yeah, I got one from Citibank early on. The bank that was nowhere near as xenophobic as your typical bank. Several years later, I was charged a monthly fee - and I promptly cancelled my card. It was nice while it lasted (a long time) but there are plenty of cards who won't charge. And by that time, I had already gained a good credit history (thanks to Citibank).

And one card is enough for me.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I have only one credit card which I made twenty years ago.I had no problem in obtaining because I had regular income and good bank balance. I know some people who struggled to get one.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

SMBC-VISA Card explains how an foreign national can get a credit card.


0 ( +1 / -1 )

I was declined the first time I tried after having been in Japan for only a year or so, but it was to a JCB card tied to a local bank, so I think they were afraid I might use the card and run. I applied for a Visa soon after and got it right away (well, after having to continuously throw away and restart the documents because of some tiny mistake and red tape). Got a MasterCard a couple of years later with no problems, either. So, you might have more of a hard time with domestic cards, but that could also have been because I was pretty new here at the time. I would likely get one now if I applied, but I don't think I need to.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Sounds like it is till a mixed bag, voodoo science & all!!

Over 25yrs ago when I first applied to JCB it was brutal, the back & forth with documents went on for 6months or so then nothing & almost year later a CC arrived by kakitome from JCB LOL! I had a whopping limit of Y30,000/mth, but it was my first CC!! Even then though they were clearly rather terrified & even used to call me to remind me of upcoming payments..........

I was self employed at the time & even thought I was making pretty good cash & could demonstrate it to JCB is a painful frustrating experience.

Then shortly after that my wife applied for his/hers MC & even though she was un-employed & I was still self employed we had 2 new CCs in a couple weeks no fuss, in a word it was ridiculous!

Eventually I got a Visa at Citibank & have used since & needless to say there is NO MEASELY Y30,000 limit! I still also have the MC but rarely use it.

I long let the JCB card expire & didn't re-new it was just too painful.

Sounds like its better than when I first washed ashore but only marginally so...........

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I had NO problem doing so in the early eighties !

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Twenty odd years ago, I had friends who deliberately joined the sports gym Tipness because it was the only way they could get a Japanese credit card. Members had to have one to pay their monthly subs, so Tipness was forced into giving them to gaijin members too. I remember applying for a few different cards unsuccessfully until I went to Citibank.

I know have about three different ones, one of which is for my business. From summer this year, there's no fee for using a cc on Yahoo Auctions now, my favourite shop. I don't delve deeply into points, but its a small victory to get some we can use for things just by paying our electricity bill. The free travel insurance if you book with a credit card is a boon too.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

How can you blame them?

If a cardholder pulls a runner and leaves Japan never to return, a foreign credit card company such as Visa or Mastercard could possibly still put collection routines in force in the runner's new country. How so if the company is Japanese and has no operations outside Japan?

Also, they are probably looking at hard data including past incidents. The worker bees you see in person are implementing company policy decided in other, invisible departments. In the US, large companies have big data analysis included in the fraud detection processes they perform before granting credit.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Long time ago impossible, till the economic bubble burst. Tried once, and was knocked back 5 weeks later. Then 10 years ago was told that the Post Office Bank would use Saison card, so surprisingly was pressured, got one with 30 man limit. Three years ago limit was 100 man. Last month was 200 man limit. Go figure!

Also, trying to join sports clubs, etc a long time ago was forced to get credit cards linked to bank account (actually accepted) as they did not accept cash (here!!!).

Credit cards here are like delayed debit cards actually - the bill is taken from bank account automatically with no option for flexible variable payment (except when they ask if you want to pay over one month or two as in Uniqlo). The result is that I am more likely to have some idea of how much money I actually have here on a monthly basis than in Australia where credit cards are administered only in banks' or businesses' own good time with their ongoing nasty monthly surprises - and the fees. So far here never any fees!

Advantages and disadvantages!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I have about 10 million yen of credit available on my cards (Amex Gold, Amex, two visas) and I've used them extensively for travel for the last 15 years, but I get turned down for the Costco Master Card every time. :) Idiots...

Japanese wife didn't make a difference for me.

I'm sure it's difficult for someone with limited Japanese language skills, low-time residency and low income.

Now I'm spending more time in the US after a long time of being away and I can't get a credit card in the US now. LOL I don't exist anymore in the US.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

but I get turned down for the Costco Master Card every time. :) Idiots...

Lol, this is the card I was talking about above. I got turned down because I had just moved to a new house and new company, I think. They specifically ask how long you've been at your company on the application. I had been at my previous company for 6 years, but that didn't matter. I was able to get the card a few years later, but yeh, they are probably just idiots.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My experience: impossible

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Got one my first day in Japan.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Why bother? The few places that let you use one will accept any card from around the world.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

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