Thursday, December 17, 2015

Getting Your Japanese Credit Card

Before she left in 2008, a friend of mine swore that she would have stayed if Japan would have given her a credit card. I'm certain she was only about 20% joking. The issue she brought up, however, is a real one for a number of foreigners.

I never had a real credit card in the US, only debit cards that could be used as credit cards. Cards issued through my local credit union and came with a ridiculously low credit limit. As in, "You may charge up to, but not over $200 in a given day. If you'd like to buy that $1200 plane ticket to Korea for study abroad, call up the credit union and we will graciously raise your credit limit for a 24 hour window."

Since I didn't know much about credit cards, aside from hearing about all the debt people racked up on them, so I put off applying for a card. When I finally got around to asking my local bank here in Japan about a card, I was told I needed permanent residence to get one. Which was strange, because my JET pred had gotten a credit card with the same bank days after arriving in Japan.

That's when I knew something was up. (Scroll down for the TL;DR)

Fast forward a year or so, and I decided to sign up for a card with my cell phone carrier. I was told I'd hear back in 2 weeks and went on my merry way. Three or four weeks later, I still hadn't heard back. And while doing some shopping, I signed up for a card on a whim. It was that card that gave a swift response: NO.

Well, it was a letter in keigo.

I think that many foreigners (?) drop the issue here. "Oh, rejected again." 

However, I made the decision to call up the credit card company. They already said no, so, what's the harm?

The first representative I talked with said that she was not authorized to discuss my application with me. (Huh?) Being the smartass I am, I asked if there were someone above her who could talk to me. I was told to expect a call.

I think that foreigners who do decide to call have gotten stopped at this step...if the internet people are anything to go by. The person says they are not authorized to talk about the application and, "Oh...ok...not card for me."

Thirty minutes to an hour later, I got a call back from a supervisor (?) who explained that my application was rejected due to a lack of credit history in Japan. That word is shinyou, by the way. My gut reaction was, "OMFG! Did this bitch just say that as a foreigner I couldn't be trusted with a card, but they'll give them to unemployed housewives?!"

After some back and forth regarding my job and pay and the card I applied for, but still hadn't heard back from, I was told to expect my new credit card in the mail in two weeks.

Just as promised, I got my card and I've had really no major problems. 

There are more loops that you have to jump through, and if you can't speak Japanese it's very difficult to navigate. So, to sum up:

1. Call the credit card company to ask why your application was rejected
2. Ask to speak with someone who is authorized to talk about your account
3. (I didn't mention this one) Have evidence of a steady job, especially one with a good wage
4. Profit.


  1. Thanks again for the good advice! When my husband and I tried wanted to buy a computer last year, we initially applied for a loan in my name and the same thing happened, rejected in moments. I've heard of another girl in my neighborhood acquiring a Japanese credit card, but I'm sure it wasn't without struggle.

    Good for future use~

  2. I'm glad to be of service! I hope you get one the next time you apply!