Try to get a credit card in Japan

As is the case with many people, coming to Japan was a real change of pace for me. After finishing uni and deciding that the land of the long, white tobacco cloud was not for me, I said goodbye stable home life and hello freedom. For the first time, I was living alone, paying things called “rent” and “bills,” and enjoying the next step in my young, innocent life.

I’ve always been a cash man, so there was no adjustment necessary when I moved to Japan.

If I wanted something, I paid cash. If I didn’t have money, I waited until I did. If I was in urgent need of a loan, then it was on the phone to the folks Down Under to beg for a U.S.-style financial bailout.

The problem with this good economic sense is that the world expects you to be packing plastic. Whether hiring a Lexus, booking a room at the Peninsula, or subscribing to dubious Internet sites, it’s almost a requirement that you have a credit card.

The final straw came when I was holidaying overseas and went to check in to my hotel.

“Sir, can I please see your credit card?” asked the receptionist.

“Um, I don’t have one….”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

I don’t know what was more embarrassing — her response, or me having to leave, tail between my legs.

So despite having lived an almost trouble-free 24 years sans card, I decided it was time to take on the responsibility. Almost like a rite of passage.

In Japan, applying for a credit card is easy. A trip to my local Super Autobacs had me crossing paths with the in-store credit card man who, to my delight, spoke English. This and the gift of 1,000 Autobacs yen sealed the deal: my application was away. Three to five weeks later, I was awoken by a call from Visa. Exactly what was said, I don’t know, but after 10 painful minutes it was clear that I was being rejected.

A few months passed until I got around to applying again, this time at my local UFJ bank. Having been a loyal customer for well over a year, I thought I was a shoe-in. Again, helpful staff, again waiting period, and again rejection. The 500 yen shopping voucher the bank gave me was of little consolation.

The quest continued. First Mizuho told me to get lost. OK, that’s not quite true — they “suggested” I try the local SMBC. Which was unmanned. So I went back to Mizuho and, ultimately, got rejected, but picked up a bank account I didn’t need. Next, Citibank was happy to speak to me. This went well until I realized their fees would probably drag me below the poverty line. So it was back to UFJ, which this time around gave me a cheap clock and once again filed my application under “fat chance, gaijin.”

Now, all of this seems a bit suspect. I can’t remember the last time I entered a shopping center without passing the credit card table. Banks are always advertising them. You’d think it’s a shoppers’ market. On top of that, I am seemingly part of an in-demand demographic: I’m young, have a steady job, have lived years at the same address, and have no bad credit history because I have had… no credit. Right around now, most of you are probably thinking that the deciding factor in these repeated rejections is my fair hair and pasty-white complexion. I hope that’s not true, but I’m running out of ideas.

So what other options do I have? If it’s fast cash I’m after, I could try a credit financing firm like Aiful or Acom. But I avoid these loan sharks because of their high interest and potential for fast-mounting debt. Another idea is to organize a credit card from Australia. Assuming I’m accepted, though, I then have to worry about fluctuating exchange rates and whether the card would be accepted in Japanese stores.

If I’m really eager for a Japanese card, there’s one other thing I can do: call the local credit companies, who will advise me to visit one of their counselors, often found in big department stores. This representative would no doubt explain that having a Japanese spouse, job stability, solid local residency and a guarantor would do wonders for my application.

But what if you’re unmarried, between jobs, new to Japan and don’t like others to be accountable for your actions? Or what if you’re simply a lowly foreigner who just wants the chance to reply “credit” once in a while? Do like I do: tap your ruby slippers three times, apply for everything and, at worst, snap up all the free gift vouchers, clocks, laundry powder, happoshu, bags, calendars and aprons you can.

You might get lucky. And if not, you might as well cash in.

Jeremy Blackman is a freelance writer and photographer living in Chiba.

This commentary originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

Author Infomation

Moderator
Moderator
  • 0

    hereandthere

    ** This representative would no doubt explain that having a Japanese spouse, job stability, solid local residency and a guarantor would do wonders for my application.**

    and now you might understand how the meltdown in the US credit started... easy credit to people who don't deserve it... which Japanese credit companies try to avoid.

  • 0

    hakujinsensei

    Although I got my first card here without being married, I was 42 and that could have made a difference along with having a job at an international company. If you have been here for anytime at all, you realize that Japanese expect you to heading home anytime so regardless of what you put on your ap, there is a credibility issue. For most credit of any substance you will need to have a permanent residence status. My suggestion is to get one in your home country, it will work fine here sans you will have trouble at many cashing machines : )

  • 0

    movieguy

    I have two Japanese credit cards and I received them almost 13 years ago when Japan was even more xenophobic. I have a Saison Visa Gold (12.9%) and Saison Mastercard (9.9%). I believe those fall around the average APR for credit cards.

    I did have a Citibank Visa around the same time and at that time it was at 12.9%. I dropped it when the rate went up.

    I was also granted an American Express card in Japan, but canceled it because I was never in a financial situation to pay it back every month at that time.

    I was working at one of the ubiquitous "eikaiwa" schools, that's still around. At the time I didn't think I had a snowballs chance in hell of getting one considering my employment at that time, let alone not being Japanese, but hey... I've been granted 4 different credit cards from 3 different companies in Japan back when I was 28 years old so maybe Mr. Blackman was just unlucky.

  • 0

    jonnyboy

    i had to a apply a couple of times to get a card, but was eventually able to get one linked to the account into which i was receiving (a pretty good, at the time) monthly salary.

    incidentally, i use my credit card as more of a charge card. neither a borrower, nor a lender be

  • 0

    Youdontknow

    I used to have a credit card here, but never renewed it this year! The interest rates are stupendously high and they added to the large hole in my pocket. I will never have another credit card while I remain in Japan - my choice. And if a hotel rejects me because I don't have one, then I simply add them to my list of 'Not to do business with in the future' establishments, along with several banks and stores in my area. Diligence paid off when one bank approached me to offer me loans and business credit when my business took off! It was a great pleasure to slam the door in THEIR face for a change and take my business elsewhere!

  • 0

    Zybster

    I wonder why anybody who is "unmarried, between jobs, new to xxx-country" should get a credit card. That's begging for a jump. If you show that you are stable and responsible, then there may be a chance. Otherwise, as it was pointed out, the company is asking for trouble. A card is not your right - it's a social form of acknowledgement that the person is trustworthy, even if that doesn't always work that way. So, earn some kind of trust from somebody, like a person you can marry, a company that you have stayed with for some time, or a person who feels you're stable enough that they could vouch for you, and you just may get the card, regardless of the nationality. Oh, btw, I got mine after a few years of working and showing I pay the income tax.

  • 0

    desmosedici

    Many years ago, applying for a credit card at my bank, I was told they could only issue me one if I had permanent residency. It was easier to get my permanent resident visa, than a credit card from my bank. However, at the time, Nicos gladly issued me one without all the hassle. Last year I opened a new bank account and they asked me if I wanted a VISA credit card with the new account. Only had to show my drivers license.

  • 0

    mikekchar

    Having worked with bankers before, I can tell you the problem: No credit history.

    It seems strange, but even slightly bad credit history is better than no credit history to the credit card industry. They like to see a long history of you having an outstanding balance, but still somehow paying the interest. Even if you miss a few payments, as long as you eventually pay up that's what they're interested in.

    Back in Canada, where I'm from, there used to be very strict guidelines about issuing new credit cards in banks. For instance, 20 years ago it was virtually impossible for a new graduate to get a credit card. What they used to do was allow you to make a "deposit" of, say, $500. Then you would get a "credit card" with a $500 limit. After a year or two of showing that you payed you bills you could get your deposit back. It's a way of getting a credit history. Maybe you could do the same in Japan, I don't know.

    Actually, since coming to Japan I've stopped using my credit card. I will probably cancel it in a few months. But I do understand the desire to have one while traveling.

  • 0

    ptolemy

    Both my wife and I are US citizens. When we first arrived in 1997 neither of us had trouble getting credit cards. Maybe because we live in Nagoya I guess. The application process was not difficult and the same day they called us at home to say we were approved. Aichi Ginko has always been easy to deal with.

  • 0

    sk4ek

    I've never had trouble getting a credit card in Japan, and I am self-employed (for the most part), on a work visa, and have "only" been here 8 years. My JAL gold card has a 2 mil. yen limit (I only use it to purchase air tickets online), the others all have typical credit limits/rates, the only restriction being that a couple have no cashing capability.

    It is getting more difficult for anyone in Japan to get a credit card--until a few years ago, there was little coordinated credit-checking (companies would just verify the data the applicant provided), but more recently the credit bureaus here have begun sharing information, so there is now more comprehensive credit history data available to the banks, which they use together with their own in-house scoring to determine creditworthiness.

  • 0

    Patto

    Years back, I had the same trouble with Visa, but much better luck with American Express. I have that deducted from my main bank account directly and keep it paid off. The Y20,000/year charge is worth it for the reasons the author notes when travelling--it's essential. I considered one card enough, but when applying for a mortgage on a property back home, they demanded two. It didn't look like I was eligible for a credit card from my credit union in California, so I tried applying again for a Visa card in Japan. This time I had a spouse and was with him at the bank. They didn't care what my income was--they wanted to know my husband's. He was semi-retired for medical reasons, so his income was tiny. After a month I got back a letter from them, and it appeared I'd been rejected, but my husband got a card from them and he carried it around for about a year before he realized it had my name on it. So I have a Japanese Visa card now, but they deduct the bills from my husband's account. So back to the realtors to try again for a mortgage, a fixed-rate one from a decent bank because I'd read up on investment. Having paid off my student loans 20 years prior, I had zero credit rating. But the bank was very nice and tried to find a way to get me the loan with a higher down-payment and a note from my Japanese bank explaining my creditworthiness. The Japanese bank (Sumitomo at the time), couldn't understand why such a thing was needed. In Japan, a foreigner has zero chances of getting a loan, period. I sat there in their lobby until they provided me a letter saying they could not provide the information requested because their system doesn't work that way in Japan. (A friend suggests singing loudly while waiting in the lobby, so as to speed the process up.) After some more negotiation with the American bank, I actually did get accepted for the loan. I was overjoyed that someone finally believed in me! I'm a professional with steady income and significant savings and assets, which exceeded the value of the mortgage I wanted.

  • 0

    Richard_the_First

    I opened a citibank account about two years and the staff member offered, begged me to apply for its visa card. I did on the assumption that I would get it, though I had my doubts but she said don't worry. I received a letter about two weeks later saying thanks but no thanks. I called to ask why but they just said my credit score was below par, blah, blah. I was angered, I will freely admit as it was a complete waste of my time. If I had no chance, they shouldn't have pushed me to sign up. No doubt, the person who signed me up got a perk for doing so.

  • 0

    Xinef

    "Normal" cards are not for "us", this is what everyone who tried to obtain a credit card has felt as far as I know. Gaijin must mean a straight trip to the trash can for any application. On my side, I have found two solutions:

    • First one was a JAL credit card. I needed someone to agree on being my guarantor, but they gave me a CC and I receive miles for using it.

    • Second method is much easier: MitsuiSumitomo. They offer a range of standard credit card, cheap and good service. And all the people I know who applied for it got their CC. You just need to give an address which can be the one from your home country, no need to harass a Japanese friend or colleague.

  • 0

    Helly

    Apply for an Amex. They approve everyone. I get Credit cards without even applying these days. I end up cutting them up and sticking to one card for purchases and one for automatic billing for keitai, electric, cable.. etc.

  • 0

    cleo

    What's all this about the interest on credit cards? You use the card for shopping, you settle when the bill comes, no interest is charged. At all. And you get points to save up. If you use your credit card as a cashing card the interest rate can be pretty high (or so I understand) but if your credit rating is good there are other ways of getting quick cash that don't cost an arm and a leg. Like using your bank card at a conbini ATM.

    Or is there some other way of using a credit card that I know nothing about?

    most of you are probably thinking that the deciding factor in these repeated rejections is my fair hair and pasty-white complexion

    If so 'most' would be wrong. I have the same fair hair and fair (not pasty, thank you :-)) complexion, and virtually every shop of any size I shop at wants me to have their credit card. I turned all of them down except one that offers discount shopping, and they were quite happy to give me the card in my own name, paid for out of my own account, no need for a sponsor. I did use my AR card as ID.

  • 0

    BlackFlag

    Orico gave me a credit card no problems

  • 0

    presto345

    Hmmm? Never had a problem getting credit cards. Had quite a few of them, but cut down to just 3 recently. I don't have a large income, but have permanent residence status, pay my taxes and debts on time (usually) and have lived at the same address for 30 years. And have used credit services for buying consumer goods and automobiles many times!! Perhaps the latter counts in your favor: you have a history of borrowing and paying. The color of your hair or skin is not a deciding factor.

  • 0

    gogogo

    It's not hard, esp. these days, get them from department stores, they love to give them out, banks wont give them to you if you're gaijin cause they think you'll run out of the country not paying a bill... I am gaijin I have 4 Japanese credit cards 1 gold and 1 platinum I am not married and have a regular job.

  • 0

    jayrvox

    Another way to have a better chance (if not 100%) of getting a credit card is if you join a private gym. In my case, married but not to a Japanese with a working visa and been 3 years here, they offer me 2 choices - JCB or Visa so i chose JCB. It was approved but i canceled it since i have to quit the private gym after 3 months membership as the monthly dues are quite high that i realized.

  • 0

    jayrvox

    By the way, i already have an HSBC Visa card from my home country so i chose JCB from the private gym i joined last May (it's Renaissance btw).

  • 0

    Cos

    Welcome to the club of the "no card for you".

    ***if you join a private gym. ***

    Thak made nothing for me, except nice muscles. 4 different gyms, they said : "self-employed" = card application rejected, sports club application accepted (they take the money directly on my account). I have filled applications for over 50 cards from different shops, always the same story, I receive only the shop card without any credit-card option. I do it because I am nice : the girls get points for finding applicants, and I get a free pencil or a keyholder. No mystery : my Japanese bank refuses systematically. I have met them to discuss the issue several times -with successive banks as they merged later- to hear their pretexts, now it is : "We don't care how much taxes you pay. We'll accept only if you have a sponsor that is a company where you have been employed full-time for over 1 year, or a sponsor that is a steady company employee. That's our rule. Yes, we know you have a higher income than bank employees, less risk to lose your job than us, very trustable, yeah really, you look sekinin and all. That's not the point, there is are rules that say : No card for you.".
    When I was employed full-time, they were saying I couldn't get it because I had not worked 3 years yet. When I was employed half-time during 4 years, in 2 companies, they said I should be full time in ONE company. I guess they would always find a new rule to refuse. I have had "international visa" cards since I was a teenager, my older Japanese bank account dates back from my first trip. I never was in the red one minute. So how dare they refuse me the "Sumitomo Visa" ? I don't know what kind of discrimination it is (against foreigners ? against single women ? against "young" people ? against self-employed ?), but there is something not fair.

    At some point, I have decided that the Japanese "banks" will never ever see more than 15 000 yen for more than 12 hours on my accounts. Now, I use them as a mere machines to pay utilities, I transfer or withdraw the rest imediatly.

    I always pay airplane tickets with (foreign) credit cards. That brings me insurances and allows immediate refund and possibility to buy another replacement ticket on the phone in case of problems (that happened). That week, that sucks as I have to pay my next ticket in euros and not in yen, and I'll travel with my wallet full of yen, and I will have to go to change them in weird shops in Paris. Well, I can live without that J-card.

  • -1

    cleo

    I don't know what kind of discrimination it is (against foreigners ? against single women ? against "young" people ? against self-employed ?)

    Can't be against foreigners - lots of foreigners have credit cards.

    Can't be against single women - the last card I got no one asked whether I was single or married. (The surname is a giveaway of course, but they wanted me to have the card before they asked my name)

    Can't be against self-employed - I'm self-employed, it's never been a problem.

    Against 'young' people? Hmm. 'spoze it depends how young is young.....

  • 1

    Thenewfront

    cleo- You seem to live in an isolated "utopia" like region in japan, infamiliar to others residing in Japan. I was refuswed a credit card by my bank, my wife who applied at the same time was accepted. My in come is over 5 times hers. I asked for credit terms in electrical store Midori was refused for being "foreign", my wife who was unemployed at the time was accepted, even though the monthly payments were made from my bank account.

    So Cleo, you seem an expert. There can't be discriminatuion against fgoreigners etc in Japan then.

  • 0

    GW

    interesting stories here, lots of contradiction, but hey thats Jpn!

    First one I got was a JCB with a Y100,000 limit(took 6 rediculous months) & even after 5yrs use the limit never nudged up, but I had other cards within a year of the JCB & now have more credit than I want/need many millions of yen. Ditched JCB as the service was non-existant, the ones I kept I use & pay in full thats the only way to go unless you have some emergency.

    Patto, foreigners can & do get home loans, I did, twice actually for the same house, first bank canceled it when the house was 90% done & in fact I had fully moved into my house before the 2nd bank(Suruga, very nice experience btw, avoid Shinsei like a plague) loan was done, now that was funky, can you imagine trying to explain to a bank you need a loan for a home yr already living in!! But hey if I can do that then anybody has a shot at a CC.

    Oh & why the writer of this article is having no luck is largely answered at the bottom where he states his job:

    Jeremy Blackman is a freelance writer and photographer living in Chiba.

    Sorry man but while I love my 20+ cameras doing the above is going to mean getting credit is a bitch!

  • 0

    BBLeo

    A very good article. Anyone that started up with 'plastic card' will be in the future very sorry. Cards are an addiction like gambling. You borrow anhd paying and paying back but there isn't any end. Fininacial institutions are making money on suckers of plastic cards. Ande it is tyhe plastic cards that also participated to world economy. Scammers are enjoying the plastic cards game.

  • 0

    cwhite

    never had a problem with credit cards, even Rakuten practically gave me one, must be because of my platinum Rakuten status. Citibank gave me a gold card no questions asked having used them for a couple of years. View Suica Card is a great card to have. None of these cards have my real name on them, but who cares, plenty of loop holes in the system and anonymity on the web is a good thing. My suggestion is to sign up for a CC via the web; JAL, ANA, BicCamera, Rakuten, take your pick... send the the stuff they need, salary info, house info whatever it takes to satisfy their doubts (too much supporting info can't hurt). Plenty of student Visa cards out their for those studying. I find it hard to believe the main bank you use would turn you down, but I guess it depends on the mood of the person that day.

  • 0

    french

    hahahaha, nice to see that I am not alone. I live in Japan for 4 years, I have a good job, I am always at the same bank, I never had a negative figure on my account, I always paid tax and I have a valid working VISA. Last year and this year I applyed 8 times to have a credit card and 8 times I was rejected. As I am curious I tryed to know the reasons of the reject. Then, when I was rejected by my bank (SHINSEI BANK) where I have my account since I came in Japan, I called them. First they told me that they are not responsible for the credit card. This service is done by an other company. Thus I cold them. The people that I had on line, first told me that it was not possible to tell me the reasons due to the privacy of information. Nice!!!!! if I am not concern about the privacy of my own case, then who is concerned? I asked to my bucho to take the conversation with the operator. After speaking a little together, the operator told to my boss that because I made a mistake on the formular, the computer rejected my application. This was very strange because I filled the formular at the Shinsei bank (Shinjuku office) and I did it with an employee of the SHINSEI bank who checked all what we wrote at the end (then the probability to have made a mistake was close to zero). We said this to the operator and I proposed to fill again a formular at shinsei bank. The operator told us that it was not possible because when the computer rejected one time a custommer, it was not possible to apply again. Nice to see that at the 21 century, computer are so stupid. I think that they are using IBM computer. Maybe if they used Toshiba computer, for instance, it would be possible to make a new input (^-). By the way, the meaning of the reject was obvious. Last time I tried to apply for a credit card, I had more than 10.000.000 jpy on my account. I though that with such amount there would have no problem. I was too naive. Again rejected.... (TT) Sometimes at the restaurant, I see customers who are paying the bill. Some of them have 3 or 4 credit cards in their purse. I awonder what are the conditions to be able to have a credit card in Japan. If someone has an idea of the answer, don t hesitate to teach me this mysterious secret.

  • 0

    Loki520

    Are they doing credit checks in the native country? If your from the US, do they (can they?) check with the big 3 reporting bureau's or are they making decisions based soley on the facts of being in japan?

  • 0

    roughneck

    I know someone who works in a bank and does initial checks on applications for credit cards....she told me, they have an unwritten rule...if the total income of the family is not above 7 million a year, they usually reject the request.

  • 0

    sk4ek

    Japanese banks and credit card issuers do not have access to foriegn credit bureau data, so your application is scored solely on the basis of your financial record here in Japan. The banks all have their own "scoring engines" (usually software, but sometimes including human checks) which include pre-configured rules for filtering out clearly unqualified applicants. Names/nationality are not usually configured as part of these rules. The software then generates a score, which is combined with/compared to scores generated by one or more of the outside credit bureaus--though if you have no credit history in Japan, that step will not usually produce a result--to determine an acceptable credit limit, in the case of acceptance, or to reject the application.

    Banks have stricter guidelines for income and existing debt; third-party credit card issuers will often accept applications with household income well below 7 million yen (otherwise most recently hired graduates wouldn't be able to get a credit card, with average starting salaries averaging 3.5-4.5 million). Of course, as in any other country, length of residence and continuous employment will affect the overall scoring. The new systems, which rely more on automated scoring and industry-wide access to shared credit data, are actually probably fairer and less prone to any kind of discrimination than in the past, when an application could easily be rejected simply on the basis of personal prejudice or institutional bias.

    I personally don't think the standards are skewed to significantly disadvantage foreigners in the process. Some banks (like Shinsei and Aozora, which have only a short history in retail banking and a long history of strict credit standards) will be easier to deal with than others--as someone noted above, Suruga Bank excels in customer service, while Mizhuo is a real misery to deal with--but that is certainly not something unique to Japan, either.

  • 0

    sk4ek

    Sorry, I meant that Shinsei and Aozora are NOT easier for consumers to deal with, given their lack of experience in retail banking services.

  • 0

    elbudamexicano

    I have way too many credit cards from Japan. Never go to Roppongi, well with all of your credit cards and get totally ripped from drinking all night because on your way back to the station, those young Chinese girls working the streets can smell your credit card burning in your wallet a mile away! American Express, better to leave it at home or in your hotel room! Leave home with out it in Roppongi etc...believe me, you will love yourself more in the morning!

  • 0

    electric2004

    Here is my solution:

    When I went to a Nissan dealer to buy a new Nissan Moco for my wife, I also applied for credit card and ETC card. Well, it worked without problem.

  • 0

    Betting

    I guess I'm another fortunate with a credit card here. I used to have 3 from two different banks. When I got my first I was only working at NOVA too.

  • 0

    rivx

    I don't think it got to do with discrimations. I guess they do a check on your work situation, income, account balance, visa status. I'm no expert but Sumitomo gave me one instantly so did UFJ and Nicos. I just apply for them just to get the perks and points... I worked for 1yr as a contractor, applied for one with Sumitomo and 3 weeks later, i was shopping with plastic.

  • 0

    GW

    Like I said above, Jpn a land of contradictions, some have only to apply to receive, others with steady well paid jobs cant buy a card, some experience no prejudice while others are very clearly discriminated against.

    Like I have said in many threads there is very little common sense in Japan & the word logical is virtually non-existant, its just the way it is shoganai!

  • 0

    larguero

    very good article. I use my home country credit card, I dont know if you can apply while living in Japan, but it works for me. The article makes a good point and, as the author, I hardly use the credit card, simply because I dont need credit. But to buy in Amazon, book a hotel or pass the US immigration officials at their aiports I need a credit card. I will try to get a credit card just to see if they accept me...

  • 0

    japanidol

    Lately a number of my clients in the USA have informed me that although they have not once been late on a payment their credit cards or credit lines have been revoked without reason. There's a major problem today and the future aint looking good.

  • 0

    sk4ek

    Since when will a credit card get you through US immigration? Unless you're bribing a customs officer with it...

  • 0

    Good_Jorb

    others are very clearly discriminated against.

    You mean those who are rejected and then play the race card.

  • 0

    zaichik

    I think we've been over this one before and there was a wide range of experiences cited then.

    I didn't have a problem getting a Nicos Visa in 2002. I was married to a Japanese chap at the time, although our combined household income was less than the 7 million yen cited above as the minimum threshold. Even after we got divorced, and I no longer had a Japanese family name, I still had no problems getting other credit cards.

    My partner, who is Russian, got his first credit card (from Yamaya - not playing up to any stereotypes there!) in 2003 without problems, using his alien card as ID. He did apparently have to state his employer and how long he'd been working there, but as he'd been with the same institute for 10 years (though on a succession of one-year contracts - they wouldn't give permanent contracts to foreign employees at the time), that wasn't going to be a problem. His household income was also well below 7 million yen at the time, and he didn't have to provide a Japanese guarantor. He had no problems getting other cards subsequently, either.

  • 0

    french

    I know people who have less than 7 million income/year and who have credit card. I also tried at mitubishi ufj which is the bank of my company and same reject.

  • 0

    ultradodgy

    Hey, try to get a credit card in the US when you are a foreigner new to the country with a low income and no credit history! What am I missing???

  • 0

    cleo

    What am I missing???

    What you're missing is that when something doesn't go as planned in other countries it's just the way things are, but when the same thing happens in Japan it must be racism. And if some have no problems in Japan, it must be because they're living in utopia/denial/a different Japan from everyone else.

  • 0

    Altria

    I was rejected for 3-4 department store cards with a 100,000 yen limit - applied for a card through my company and scored a gold card with a 1 mil. yen monthly limit, no questions asked.

    Now that I have a credit history I suppose I may be deemed worthy of a crappy department store card.

    The gaijin factor does play some role, since they hand out those promotional store cards to college students, the unemployed...

  • 0

    Sarge

    Jeremy should have gone to Daei. He could have gotten an OMC card with Visa. Heck, they even gave me one!

  • 0

    Sarge

    "Now that I have a credit history"

    Applicant: I'd like a credit card, please.

    Bank/Store: Sorry, you don't have any credit history.

    Customer: That's what I'm trying to rectify.

    Bank/Store: Sorry, you don't have any credit history.

    I went through that.

  • 0

    Mycab

    You have to be a permanent resident visa holder first.

  • 0

    Betting

    "You have to be a permanent resident visa holder first".

    To get a credit card, you mean? Definitely not.

  • 0

    gogogo

    Mycab: No you don't I have 4 Japanese cards and they send me all the time applications for more and I'm not a permanent resident.

  • 0

    franknbeans

    You don't need to be a permanent resident, but you do have to have an alien registration.

    Don't even try it if you are military or SOFA status.

  • 0

    mcheeky

    The people that I had on line, first told me that it was not possible to tell me the reasons due to the privacy of information. Nice!!!!! if I am not concern about the privacy of my own case, then who is concerned? I asked to my bucho to take the conversation with the operator. After speaking a little together, the operator told to my boss that because I made a mistake on the formular, the computer rejected my application. This was very strange because I filled the formular at the Shinsei bank (Shinjuku office) and I did it with an employee of the SHINSEI bank who checked all what we wrote at the end (then the probability to have made a mistake was close to zero). We said this to the operator and I proposed to fill again a formular at shinsei bank. The operator told us that it was not possible because when the computer rejected one time a custommer, it was not possible to apply again.

    I have had the EXACT same run around. It must be textbook BS studied by all these service reps. How can one correct an unknown problem?

    You know its really fascinating reading everybody's happy success stories (NOT!) but it seems most of you have not got any more clue why you were accepted and others rejected than anybody else. I am telling you that these run around stories are completely real no matter what your personal experience. And I can't tell you why that is because the bastards won't tell us WTF is going on.

  • 0

    hold the Mao

    Jeremy, go get a seibu card. They'll sign you up with a 100K yen limit. Buy some stuff, pay it off then go for another credit card and you'll get approved. It's a pain, but you will get one if you keep trying. Good luck mate.

  • 0

    chinpira

    Interesting... I never really though that this could be a point of difficulty. I applied for my first card from Citi back here in 2000, was 26 and under 7M per year. Its the only card I've ever needed, not used much and always paid in full the following month with zero interest paid. I have added 2 cards to my collection... again rarely used but sometimes handy when used within the store for further discounts.... Department store ISETAN (VISA) card and a Cubic T3 (VISA) created via Toyota Rent a car, just send the application form via the mail and 2 weeks later card is in the mail. It's a sinch bar the ugly form you need to fill out. As for needing an Alien registration... if you don't have any other forms of Japanese ID then yes of course, but I only ever use my Japanese drivers license whenever ID is required and this is never an issue. I don't think the "gaijin" factor is really at play here...

  • 0

    Nessie

    they were quite happy to give me the card in my own name, paid for out of my own account, no need for a sponsor. I did use my AR card as ID.

    So Cleo, they didn't ask whether you were married, the nationality of your spouse or his income? I'm wondering what they did ask.

  • 0

    sk4ek

    I have yet to see a credit card application that requires you to provide your nationality, much less that of a spouse.

  • 0

    Nessie

    I got a song and dance two weeks ago even just trying to cash a 5,000 yen traveler's check. I had my passport, gaijin card and bankbook. It took several phone calls by the staff and special dispensation from the "Pope" at the intenational desk.

    Did I mention this was the very bank that issued the traveler's check, down to the very branch? And did I mention that I've had an account there for more than a decade?

    Thanks for wasting yet another 35 minutes of my life, Hokuyou Bank. I suspect they would laugh in my face if I applied for a credit card. Politely, of course.

  • 0

    gogogo

    sk4ek: Your name is a dead giveaway in Japan.

  • 0

    cleo

    they didn't ask whether you were married, the nationality of your spouse or his income? I'm wondering what they did ask.

    They asked me if I wanted a credit card. I said No, I already had one, thanks. Then they told me I would get a discount on everything I bought in their shop with the card, plus special big (30-50%) discounts several times a year, so I said OK. Then and only then did I produce my AR card as ID. I asked (like a good little Japanese wife) if I should put the card in my husband's name, to be paid for out of his account and they said no, my name and my account would be fine. They didn't ask about his nationality (it's pretty obvious from the surname, though I suppose he could be a nisei or something) or his income. I can't remember if they even asked about my income; if they did they took my word for it. If I'd had to bother fiddling with official proof-of-income forms I would have told them to keep their card.

  • 0

    Nessie

    if they did they took my word for it. If I'd had to bother fiddling with official proof-of-income forms I would have told them to keep their card.

    Are you saying your application was never screened and no check of your creditworthiness was made? When was this, 1850?

  • 0

    Nessie

    What I'm getting at, Cleo, is that salespeople are happy to give you a card, but the approval machinations that go on from that point forward are where people on this thread are reporting hangups. I'm just wondering what kind of screening you got. Many people so far were targeted for cards but later, inexplicably, denied cards.

  • 0

    cleo

    Are you saying your application was never screened and no check of your creditworthiness was made? When was this, 1850?

    Yup. Like I said, it was they who wanted me to have the card in the first place; if I'd had to jump through any hoops at all to get it, I simply wouldn't have bothered. I didn't need it. Whether devious, underhanded screenings took place behind my back I don't know, but I didn't provide any proof of income. I didn't have my bank account number with me so I took the form home, filled it in and posted it. About ten days later I got the card by registered post. It was a while back, but not 1850. Maybe 4-5 years ago.

  • 0

    thundercat

    While I wouldnt make the argument that companies base their entire decision on race, I have had the unpleasant experience of being told not to even bother filling out the forms because my bank does not issue cards to foreigners. There was no question of permanent residency, guarantors or anything else of the sort. This from a financial institute that I had been a customer of for over 8 years. I was offended enough to actually close the account at great inconvenience to me as I had to reroute salary payments and home bills etc...

  • 0

    GW

    well everyone there is clearly no real method to the madness about getting a CC card in Jpn, but I wud say you need to have been here a while(I`d guess 5yrs), steady employment & then try for the CC that have a limit, hell I started with Y100,000 job back in the stone age & worked up to the point where I snagged a housing loan, so if I can do it anybody else shud be able to with some perserverence

  • 0

    weatherjp

    I bet most of the complainers about being rejected were trying to apply for a CC in English. Fat chance.

    Speak Japanese and your chances go up drastically.

  • 0

    Triumvere

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Have you considered, like most things relating to prejudice in Japan, that this is all a roll of the dice, and that the kind of treatment you get is dependent entirely on who shows up at the window (or the computer terminal) that day?

  • 0

    french

    I bet most of the complainers about being rejected were trying to apply for a CC in English. Fat chance. Speak Japanese and your chances go up drastically.

    →Dear weatherip, sorry but as I am in Japan, I spoke in japanese. I speak english only with foreigners. My 8 requests was filled all in Japanese and in most of them, I gave my driving licence as reference. 時々外国人も日本語で話せる。 宜しくお願いします。

  • 0

    timeon

    I got a Visa card and A MasterCard at 22, as a student, because they had a campaign at my uni. lucky I guess. but I have a funny story. I have the two aforementioned cards, and I was always on time with the payment. never had any trouble. I have a steady and respectable income (researcher), I've been living in Japan for 10 years, my wife is Japanese. So when I went to the local Tsutaya, they told me that their credit card is a good deal, so I applied for it. after about 4 weeks, never-heard-of-bank send me a letter to get lost, I don't present enough guarantees for those monthly 1000 yens spent on DVDs...

  • 0

    timeon

    forgot to mention: both my CCs are Japanese, I did all the applications in Japanese.

  • 0

    larguero

    Since when will a credit card get you through US immigration? Unless you're bribing a customs officer with it...

    Well, you should show that you have enough funds to be in the country. THere is no fixed amount, but if they ask you to show them your credit card(s) and you do not have, you really look suspicious...

  • 0

    Pukey2

    I bet most of the complainers about being rejected were trying to apply for a CC in English. Fat chance.

    Speak Japanese and your chances go up drastically.

    Me too, I did all applications in Japanese and when meeting Japanese strangers, I always speak Japanese. Granted I haven't applied often, because I just only want one credit card. Rejected once many years ago, and a few years back by by gym, despite my saying I didn't want one in the first place. Thank God for Citibank. They were easy. I'd only been in Japan for a few weeks. In general, one of the better banks in Japan. I can even withdraw money from my bank account using ATMs abroad and the exchange rate isn't bad.

  • 0

    Pukey2

    Speak Japanese and your chances go up drastically.

    I disagree.

  • 0

    bdiego

    Japanese without a job get rejected for cards as well. In fact, I know plenty of Japanese who need a relative (typically parent) to get a card - there's no other way. Ask someone who doesn't have a job and got a CC during that time and they're going to have a guarantor.

    A steady source of income is the biggest criteria, because they're not going to be able to send collectors to harass you if you aren't earning money.

  • 0

    nutsagain

    Years ago, I applied for a Visa card. The woman at the counter was very helpful and positive and guided me through the paper work. She smiled and said she'd jut go over an have everything verified and be back. When she did come back, her expression had changed and she regretted to inform me that it wasn't possible to have a Visa card. She'd of course been told to say no to the foreigner which pissed me off no end I can assure you...

    I didn't want to make an issue of it there and then as the woman was most helpful and she also thought it wouldn't have been a problem. Initially at least so I kept on my best behavior.

    My retort was this and I advise anyone else to do the same when confronted by this BS. "Show me the rules where it says I can't have one?" They couldn't of course but the incident left such a bad taste in my mouth that I decided to stick with American Express (free plug...)

  • 0

    Anomaly_Jr

    Here we go again... this has come up a few times on JT. You don't need to be in Japan for X years or anything like that. There are semi-automated machines in several train stations in Tokyo, at least, that will give you Saison cards in AMEX, MC or VISA flavours, in about an hour. You have to fill out a form, and have the machine scan your passport etc. The machine gives you a receipt which you use later to retrieve your card. Worked for me, and for some of the last batch of JT posters that asked the question. It's all in Japanese, of course, but what do you expect? Expecting to get a Credit Card in Japan using English is highly parochial and naive.

    Google "SAISON CARD MAKER"

  • 0

    zzonkerr

    AMEX has always been hassle-free in my opinion. You get an AMEX, build a good history, then the Japanese card issuers will look more favorably on your application.

  • 0

    Himajin

    I went to the States in 2001 to research starting up a business. I had been out of the country for 21 years, and thus had no credit rating. I couldn't even buy a cell phone! Every cell phone company turned me down! I borrowed my father's phone when I went out. I tried to buy a car, 18 banks turned me down for a loan. If you have no credit rating, even cable TV needs a $200 deposit as a guarantee.

    No credit rating would seem to be a stumbling block anywhere...

    AMEX is too expensive, the yearly fee just for having the card is ridiculous. I have a Citibank Visa card, it's the only one I have, I don't use a credit card much. I've had it for 25 years probably,and 'graduated' to platinum two years ago.

  • 0

    efftta

    Here we go again... this has come up a few times on JT. You don't need to be in Japan for X years or anything like that. There are semi-automated machines in several train stations in Tokyo, at least, that will give you Saison cards in AMEX, MC or VISA flavours, in about an hour. You have to fill out a form, and have the machine scan your passport etc. The machine gives you a receipt which you use later to retrieve your card. Worked for me, and for some of the last batch of JT posters that asked the question. It's all in Japanese, of course, but what do you expect? Expecting to get a Credit Card in Japan using English is highly parochial and naive.

    Google "SAISON CARD MAKER"

    Thats really useful info - didn't know they had machines that do it. I got a new credit card about 2 weeks ago, all applied via online process with ebank. Absolutely no problem....

  • 0

    nutsagain

    Then things have changed and that's of course, good to know. I did my application process in Japanese and already had an Amex card with more than ten years membership, but was refused a Visa card at that time. Must have been the stocking over my head? Kidding...

  • 0

    genexis

    I am from Australia as well and arrived in Tokyo mid October, took two weeks to get my Alien Registration card. As soon as I got that it was off to Citibank.

    Got a savings account immediately and the credit card arrived within the week.

    Have a colleague arrived from Shanghai a few months back and went to UFJ, had no problems getting bank account or credit card.

  • 0

    Hikozaemon

    I applied for a UFJ card once a year for my first 7 years in Japan. They simply do not seem to want to offer cards to foreigners, even ones with stable and better than average paying employment.

    The main reason I wanted a credit card was online shopping - particularly Amazon and similar bookshops to buy English CDs and DVDs not available in Japan.

    Someone mentioned that they got a Saison Card no problem. Well, same here - I got a Saison Amex card from the automatic kiosk under Ikebukuro station after years of getting rejected by a bank.

    It seems to me that banks are the toughest when it comes to issuing cards to foreigners - it is these more minor companies that offer better conditions. I'll always appreciate Saison, and frankly the approach of banks to deciding who to extend credit to (ie, lending freely to broke businessmen and construction companies, and rejecting much safer credit risk foreigners) is a big part of why they all got into such a pickle with bad loans.

    Peace

  • 0

    butterfly1

    I recommend the OMC card... mine is Green and has Hello Kitty on it ;P

  • 0

    jinjapan

    i found getting a japanese credit card from an american airlines like united or american air, seemed to go smoothly. you also get mileage for using the card which is a nice added bonus . they also usually give you a mileage signing bonus when (if) you are accepted.

  • 0

    bdiego

    Yeah it's ironic how the first time you arrive in the States (or if it's been 7 years) nobody wants to touch you. Students who came to the US to study had to give $400 deposit just to buy a cell phone because the phone company is afraid they'll rip them off.

    Then you establish credit you get an offer a month for a CC - from the same people who rejected you. Can't blame them, otherwise it's too easy to skip town forever.

  • 0

    ThonTaddeo

    Hiko, I just managed to get a 3M yen home renovation loan from Mitsubishi UFJ after being rejected by six or seven other banks previously. Supposedly, the branches that were run by Mitsubishi prior to their merger with UFJ are more accepting of foreigners than the ex-UFJ branches are.

    I'll be getting a credit card with this loan when I open the required bank account, though I don't know what my credit limit will be once the loan is finished.

    And MUFJ, to their credit, lent me the money to be repaid over three years despite my visa being up for renewal next year. No other bank would consider lending any money past that date, despite the fact that I'm a [i]seishain[/i] whose visa has been successfully renewed several times before.

  • 0

    USAkuma

    Thanks for the info about the Saison card. If I get to Ikebekuro station, whereabouts underground should I hunt for this wonderous Credit Card giving machine?

    But having been burned by bad credit-rate-elevating card companies in the States, I have to wonder what the rate is for the Saison card? I don't know I want to deal with 24% like in the states.

    I was also under the impression (from my own rejection calls) that foreigners are considered high risk unless you have permanent residency visa because they fear that we'll flee in the middle of the night.

    Also, I heard that all J-Credit cards are like AMEX in that you are expected to pay off the full amount at the end of the month, not carry a revolving debt like in the states. So those who have had revolving debts would be considered a bad risk... Anybody able to confirm that?

  • 0

    cleo

    Japanese credit cards charge no interest if you pay the full amount owing at the end of the month. This is what most people do. You can also choose to pay over a fixed number of months, or pay in full in the bonus month. I don't think these charge interest, but I'm not sure.

    If you choose to go revolving, my Saison info says that the interest rate for your shopping balance is 13.8%pa, for cashing 18%. If you need to make a large purchase that you won't be able to pay off in one go, there are often more interest-friendly options than a credit-card.

    But you get more points for revolving.

  • 0

    seesaw

    The best service from a credit card company is OMC. Yearly fee is 1050 yen. Staff are polite, know their job well. Plus I get to change my points to JAL mileage. I've cancelled my long time American Express card in favour of OMC.

  • 0

    dagbrown

    It took me no effort at all to get my credit card (and it has an absurd ¥700,000 limit, way bigger than my credit card in Canada has).

    Then a few weeks later, I applied for a small loan (to pay for the ETC reader I had had installed in my motorcycle--I would've been happy just to pay that off, but whatever), and received another credit card entirely by accident.

  • 0

    archmiel

    Per the request of friends, I am posting my experience.

    I have never had a problem getting a credit card in this country. After filing for bankruptcy last year (massive tax messups and loss of a higher paying job the previous year), I had another credit card issued to me not 3 months later (Saison card sent from Mizuho). I have never had a really high paying job, but for some reason credit card companies keep sticking credit card offers in my face (when signing up at Tipness, my company arranged for another one)

  • 0

    Asara

    I guess those card application processors are more patriotic and/plus don't understand english (fr,de,es) that is why an applicant highly suggested to write the application in japanese.

  • 0

    sangetsu

    I arrived in Japan in April of this year to begin teaching English at an Eikaiwa. Immediately after arriving, I obtained my alien registration card and opened an account at the local JP bank. I was quickly sent a EDY ATM/debit card which worked just about nowhere, so I returned to the bank and in very poor, broken Japanese asked if I could get a Visa branded ATM/debit card. I was given an application to fill out, which I completed (or so I thought) and handed back in. 5 days later I received a call at my workplace from JP bank verifying my employment. A few days later I was sent another application as apparently I had forgotten to fill in a few items on the first one. I filled out the second application and sent it in, and 4 weeks later I received a Visa credit card with a limit of 500k yen. The card is a JP bank Visa, but is apparently issued by SMBC. I was surprised to be approved, and even more surprised by the rather high credit limit.

  • 0

    cwhite

    as I said before you don't need any proof of anything to get a credit card in Japan. Just sign up online with Rakuten or any of the other ones you can fill out online and they will send you the card and a tired postman will pretend to check your whatever form of ID and hand over the package. No questions asked no need to set up a bank account (pay at the convenience store) and definitely no hassle. Great if you want to use a Japanese name to buy stuff online with no hassles.

  • 0

    cwhite

    500k is around the minimum for gold cards, 5million is on the high end for gold cards and anything above would be platinum or black cards.

  • 0

    Weasel

    500k is around the minimum for gold cards, 5million is on the high end for gold cards and anything above would be platinum or black cards.

    Guess the concept of Visa Signature or MasterCard World accounts do not exist in Japan?

  • 0

    miffy06

    can a housewife apply for credit card? wat are the documents i need to submit besides my alien card? how does the saison card machine works??

  • 1

    appetime

    I've never had a problem getting a credit card in Japan. In fact, I've had five of them at one time, three of which have been from Japanese banks. I'm sure there are plenty of foreigners out there who have had no problems either. They just can't be bothered writing about it!

  • 1

    Tenchan

    You should try Rakuten card.Here is english support http://rakuten.japanese-credit-card.com/

Login to leave a comment

OR

More in Opinions

View all

View all