Jul 16, 2019
Getting a credit card as a foreigner can be troublesome. Credit card institutions still have prejudices against foreigners and reject applications just because they have a foreign name on it. But let's go through the process step by step.
1. Get a Japanese bank account
First, you need a Japanese bank account. You can refer to this article for more information on that.
2. Choose a credit card
Credit cards in Japan are not restricted by where your bank account is. You can choose any credit card organization you like. Different credit cards come with different perks, e.g. if you have a Rakuten Card you will get Rakuten points for every purchase you make with the card, same goes for the Amazon credit card.
Some bigger shopping malls in Japan also have their own credit cards that will provide special discounts if you shop in the shopping mall.
Some credit cards are easier to get as a foreigner. Some are more difficult. Rakuten has a reputation for being not as strict with their screening. In general, I believe the higher your credit line, the harder it is to get the card.
3. Wait for the right timing
Some criteria for credit card institutions are how long you have lived in one place and how long you have been working for one employer. If you just moved or just changed jobs it might be a good idea to wait a few months before you submit your application.
4. Fill out the application
Depending on which card you apply for you can fill out the application online or on paper. I prefer online as there is quite a lot of information you must provide. They will ask for your bank account, your employer, your savings, liabilities, etc.
Make sure to fill out everything correctly and get help if needed. A small mistake in the application might be your downfall as the credit card institution might not consider it as a mistake but rather that your Japanese knowledge is not good enough to understand the application form correctly.
5. Provide documents
Depending on the credit card institution they will ask for certain documents to identify yourself. Make sure to submit them timely. You might also need your hanko. If you do not yet have one already you can read this article on how to get one.
6. Don’t be disappointed if they refuse you
As I said, some foreigners are being refused credit cards just because they are foreigners, so don’t be disappointed when you are refused. Most of the time it will be pointless to ask for reasons as they will only tell you that you didn’t fit in their internal standards.
That said, I personally have had the experience that asking for reasons can be helpful. When I applied for my first credit through my bank, I got refused at first. When I later visited the bank to ask why they didn't give me any specific reasons, and explain to them that I just needed a credit card for online shopping and did not plan on spending more money that I have, they agreed to check my application again under the condition that they call my employer to check whether I really work there or not.
I agreed and after they successfully confirmed my workplace, I got my credit card a few weeks later.
If you are not as lucky as I was, just wait a few months and try again later with a different company. Good luck on your credit card journey.
Hi, I’m Eli. I’m from Germany and moved to Japan a few years ago. I am a typical nerd and like collecting Pokémon merchandise.Follow me on twitter (@hannari_eri) for the latest nerd News from Tokyo. I also write a blog in German over here. https://lifeinjapanisstrange.wordpress.com/