(Photo credit: Matt Nelson)
by Kelly Jackson
I never thought that I would need a credit card while in Japan. Before coming to Japan I had a debit card from my local credit union that could also be used as a credit card. Since I’d heard that Japan was a cash-based society, I was confident that I would be set. Yet, in my third year on JET, it became necessary for me to buy an airplane ticket with a credit card. I immediately applied for one with my local bank of three years and was promptly rejected.
Fast forward a year. I tried again to apply for a credit card, but this time with au, my cell phone company. By chance, when I tried (and eventually failed) to get a cell phone at Softbank in the same period, I was also was asked to sign up for a credit card. A few days after my Softbank rejection, which stated “Something came back on the credit check,” I received a letter in the mail from a credit card company. It stated in the politest keigo possible that I was not eligible for a credit card. Does this sound familiar to those of you who have tried (and failed) to get a credit card in Japan?
Well, I’m going to tell you how I eventually got mine, and thinking back it was quite easy. After re-reading the letter I gave the card company a call. I stated my query and a day or two later I received a call from a supervisor authorized to answer my question. She asked if I had applied for and been rejected for a credit card before (no), if I had any outstanding loans (no), and assured me that my foreigner status had nothing to do with their application criteria.
So, why was I rejected? Her answer was “There’s no credit record of you in Japan.” She offered to put the Softbank card application through, but I told her to find the au one (my application from a month earlier still had no response). A few weeks later I was the owner of a brand-sparkling-new au Jibun credit card.
The main point is that you shouldn’t give up easily. If you are not approved, call up the company and ask why. It could be something as simple as not having an established line of credit in Japan. You never know if you don’t ask. Furthermore, obtaining a credit card should have nothing to do with your visa status. When I was approved I was in my fourth year with one year left on my visa. If you are going to a bank, ask to speak to a supervisor. If they say that you can’t be approved, ask them who has the ultimate decision on approval, and get that person’s phone number and call them!
I am certain that this advice sounds simple, and I hope that getting approved for a card turns out to be as relatively simple a process for you as it ended up being for me. Good luck!