Is really not an easy thing to do……
So why is so much to effort to get your hands on a credit card in Japan when they are practically throwing them at you back home?
The difficulty in getting hold of a credit card stems from the idea that a foreigner with a credit card in Japan is a liability, capable of upping and leaving without notice, abandoning unpaid debt. In fact, it is for this reason that in most cases you will get turned down for a card, unless you have been working steadily at the same place for at least 3 years.
In my case, I had been refused for 3 applications before on the 4th I finally got accepted. Financially I wasn’t earning a great deal, about Y3.5 million a year, but it was considered enough to meet their conditions to advance me on to the next stages of acceptance. I had been working at a company for exactly 3 years at that time, something I had to prove.
It’s then common for credit companies to call your place of work to confirm details about you and your time working there. I got call part way through the application to say they had called my office but nobody had answered and that they would try again and continue the assessment once they had got in contact. Thankfully they did and all was finally settled that I got the elusive card.
Factors that affect the success of your Credit Card Application:
1. Type of Visa
It seems you would have more chance of getting accepted if you are on a ‘spouse visa’ than on a regular working visa. Tourist = no chance and working holiday, little. The more secure your status appears, the greater the chances of success.
Most applications require you to prove your income before being accepted. Where as it’s not important that you be a high earner, having a steady salary, with a base of Y3million+ yearly is required.
3. Japanese ability
This may sound discriminatory but being at least conversational in the language is a helping factor when going through the application process. It’s quite obvious if somebody else has filled the application out for you. in which case the issuing company may assume you have little ability with the language reflective of intentions to leave Japan. They will call you at least once to confirm details of the application and your workplace and if you cannot converse with the operator, the application may hit a sticking point.
4. Years working
As mentioned above, this can be a crucial factor if you don’t have permanent residency, a spouse visa or a 正社員（せいしゃいん/seishain/full-time company employee status). Think 3 years working at one company as standard. This is not always fact but in many cases has seemed to apply.
Tips for being accepted:
1. Be thorough
When applying don’t be sloppy with the application and make sure everything is filled out exactly as they want it and you provide everything they ask for. Be specific about dates, your company, your position and salary as they will be most likely be checking up on this.
2. Japanese assistance
Not to be confused with the point above. Get a Japanese friend to help (but not actually write for you) fill out the application to make sure everything is in order and you have understood the small print. Try and get some confidence in Japanese before applying too. At least be familiar with some of the terms on the application as they most likely will ask you questions related to these when they call you.
3. Don’t give up if you get turned down
It can also be one of those ‘hit and hope’ situations where you may get accepted on your very first try. I had a friend who got very lucky on his first attempt after being here less than a year. It’s better to think of 3 years in the same place as being a standard as mentioned before, in Japan this indicates stability.
4. Try different cards
There are so many different cards on offer, not only those offered by your bank. Aeon shopping centres, Gold Gyms, Department stores (Parco, Mitsukoshi) are just a places you may frequent often and will often have application desks set up. If you use Rakuten to shop on-line, there is no harm in applying for a card at the same time (they are in the process internationalising the company and have a Japanese web page in English). Depending on the time of year, need to collect customers, conditions required etc, some cards can be easier to get accepted for than others.
Good luck with your card application.