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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

LIFELINES

Positive credit card results

There was great interest in last week's Zeit Gist column on credit cards in Japan by Vanessa Mitchell. We'd like to pass on some experiences of card usage in Japan sent in by readers as well as give some information on no-charge cards that there wasn't enough room for last week.

For those looking for no-charge credit cards, a great place to start is the post office. The post office offers a Nicos Visa card that has no annual fee and includes full travel insurance.

One good place to also look for no-charge options is the www.yahoo.co.jp Web site -- though it's in Japanese only.

There are a host of no-charge cards on the site, including an NTT card (Visa); DC card Jizile (Visa); Arubara card (JCB); Japan Postal Savings card (Visa); the Nicos Japan Postal Savings card (Visa); and an Aeon card (Visa).

The post office also offers a joined ATM card with Visa privileges for free, while Citibank offers a no-charge card for the first year.

Quick results

Applying for and receiving credit cards in Japan can be a tortuous and often fruitless process, but that's not always the case.

One reader wrote in to tell us he was in Japan for three weeks, applied for a Visa card with Mizuho and received it one week later. At that stage he had had a bank account open for only two weeks and was unable to read the application -- his co-workers helped out.

Meanwhile, reader Stephen was full of praise for JCB's trouble-free online application process. Stephen was able to get his hands on a card within a week -- though the online application process is in Japanese only and you will need a hanko.

Nancy, meanwhile, mentions that that it's quite easy to get a credit card with one of the Seiyu stores, and there's no yearly charge.

Reader Ailsa recommends the department store option.

She wanted a Japanese credit card so she could save the trouble and expense of sending money overseas to pay bills -- although she'd heard it was hard to get one from a bank, even if you hold an account there.

Around that time she was approached by a staff member promoting credit cards at a Parco store.

After filling out an application form, Ailsa was then told she needed to provide the name of an "emergency contact person," who must be over 30 and married, with a permanent home phone number (nationality wasn't mentioned.) This is apparently required for every applicant. Having done so, she got her card.

Having learned about "ribo" (revolving payment) and used it to buy a computer, Ailsa later found her moving costs pushing her bill higher than she could comfortably pay at one time. She went to her local Parco and asked to switch to ribo again, which can be done "after the fact." There was no problem. They have also raised her limit several times, and she has used this card in Japan and North America.

Card crazy

Reader Bee has card problems of a different kind. Having lived and worked here for over 20 years, he has so many cards, that he's had to stop carrying pictures of his children so he can fit his cards in his wallet.

He's got a Sumitomo Visa, a Mitsui Sekiyu, a Saison Card International, plus a Nicos Master Card for Esso, Mobil, General and Synergy. He's working on his Cosmos card now. He has cards for at least three buildings so he can park his car at a discount, as well as three cards for his dry cleaning. Then there's the three record store point cards, the three video cards, one for dental appointments, an alien registration card, of course, and a drivers license. He also has two telephone cards, and, because he loves electronics, he keeps Yodayabashi, Ninomiya and Best Denki point cards. He also has a post office cash card, a Tokyo Mitsubishi Foreign Remittance card and a Sofmap point card. He has another three denki cards that he can't find. And a few hotel, restaurant and mileage cards. He's heard there's another gas station down the road offering discounts for card holders so he's just applied there too . . .

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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