The ink is dry on your bank paperwork and your business bank account is open and ready to go. The next step maybe further financing and accounting, and one option there is credit cards. We’ve already discussed obtaining personal credit cards before, so let’s look at your corporate credit card options.

What you need to apply

If you’ve already applied for a bank account, this will be a pretty simple process. Most of the same documentation that the bank asked for will be required again. This includes the tokibotohon (登記簿謄本), the applicants’ personal ID, and the business seal or jitsu-in. Some banks, especially if your business account is provided by them, will allow you to apply entirely online. However, some will want a short interview with you as well.

Being accepted or rejected

As with personal credit cards, banks won’t tell you why they accept or reject you, only what the outcome is. The banks claim they look at your tokibotohon and general company health when making a decision. While that will be a factor, we have noted before that foreigners can struggle to even get a personal credit card in Japan. This is no different in the world of business credit cards, so it’s worth keeping in mind if you can’t figure out why you keep getting rejected.

Credit card options

SMBC

SMBC branch in Kinshicho | Photo by Gregory Lane

SMBC offer a range of corporate cards aimed at small and medium sized businesses. One of your options is the SMBC Business card for Owners (Link in Japanese). This card is perhaps the best “all-purpose” choice. Depending on your specific needs, another card might offer more useful features and benefits, but the “for Owners” card is a simple, uncomplicated credit card. The “For Owners” cards come in three tiers, Classic, Gold and Platinum, with higher tiers having higher credit limits and better perks. Amongst these benefits are overseas travel insurance and a point rewards scheme. There is a larger annual fee for the first card, followed by smaller supplemental fees for each additional cardholder, up to a maximum of 20.

Card TierCredit LimitAnnual FeesAdditional Perks
ClassicAround ¥1.5 million¥1375 for first card, ¥440 for additional cardsOverseas travel insurance up to ¥20 million, shopping insurance up to ¥1 million
GoldAround ¥3 million¥11,000 for first card, ¥2,200 for additional cardsOverseas travel insurance up to ¥50 million, shopping insurance up to ¥3 million. Free access to certain Airport Lounges
PlatinumFrom ¥2 million upwards¥55,000 for first card, ¥5500 for additional cardsOverseas travel insurance up to ¥100 million, shopping insurance up to ¥5 million. Free access to certain Airport Lounges

MUFG

MUFG has lots of central city branches | Photo by Gregory Lane

Like SMBC, MUFG also has a range of cards for business owners, with their “Business” range (Link in Japanese) being aimed at small and medium sized companies. Following a similar system of three tiers, the Business and Gold Business cards are MUFG Visa or Mastercards (you can choose which you want). Meanwhile, the premium Platinum Business is an American Express card. Unlike SMBC, however, MUFG explains the financial criteria they’re looking for at each card tier, making it much easier to find a card you’ll be accepted for. As a similar “all purpose” card, MUFG’s perks are also familiar: a point reward system, and accident insurance at higher tiers. Additional cardholders are also available, with the same supplemental fees being added to your annual fee per cardholder.

Card TierCredit LimitAnnual FeesStated RequirementsAdditional Perks
BusinessBetween ¥400,000 and ¥800,000¥1375 for first card, ¥1375 for additional cardsCompanies that are currently solventPoints based reward system
Gold Prestige BusinessBetween ¥1 million and ¥3 million¥11,000 for first card, ¥2200 for additional cardsCompanies at least 3 years old, with 2 or more consecutive fiscal years of solvency.Overseas travel insurance up to ¥50 million, shopping insurance up to ¥3 million. Free access to certain Airport Lounges
Platinum Business AMEXBetween ¥1 million and ¥5 million¥22,000 for first card, ¥3300 for additional cardsCompanies at least 3 years old, with 2 or more consecutive fiscal years of solvency.Overseas travel insurance up to ¥50 million, shopping insurance up to ¥3 million. Free access to certain Airport Lounges

AMEX

Credit card sign Tokyo
Straight to the source at AMEX | Photo by Gregory Lane

American Express also has business credit cards in Japan for small and medium businesses. There’ll be no surprise on how many tiers they offer either, with their AMEX Business range (Link in Japanese) coming with Business, Business Gold, and Business Platinum options. One significant perk of AMEX may be the access to good English support, with the application process being available in English. A similar array of benefits as before are also available with each card, but AMEX does not give you a credit limit until you apply. So, you’ll have to worry about both acceptance or rejection and how much credit AMEX is willing to extend. They are also the most expensive provider on this list by a wide margin, so keep in mind that the perks of English support come with a cost.

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Card TierAnnual FeesAdditional Perks
Business¥13,200 for first card, ¥6600 for additional cardsPoints based reward system
Business Gold¥36,300 for first cards, ¥13,200 for additional cardsVery good overseas travel insurance up to ¥50 million, shopping insurance up to ¥3 million. Free access to certain Airport Lounges
Business Platinum¥143,000 for first card. Four additional free cards, then ¥13,200 from the fifth onwards.Excellent overseas travel insurance up to ¥50 million, shopping insurance up to ¥3 million. Free access to certain Airport Lounges

Rakuten

Rakuten Online Bank Japan
Rakuten has a bank now? | Photo by Rakuten online banking site

While not the first place you might think of when you think of business credit cards, Rakuten does offer a single card for businesses. Rather than the range of cards other providers offer, Rakuten’s business card (Link in Japanese) is a basic credit card for any business. The unique concept the Rakuten Business card offers, however, is the ability to intertwine it with your personal credit card. This makes Rakuten better suited for small businesses, since the ¥3 million maximum credit limit is shared between the business and personal accounts of the holder.

Though the only perk the Rakuten Business Card offers is a points-based rewards system, it can be used in conjunction with the Premium personal credit card. This provides more conventional benefits such as travel insurance and access to airport lounges. Rakuten’s Business card has an annual fee of ¥2200, but only allows the cardholder a single card. Despite all these restrictions, if you’re a sole proprietor or a very small new business, the Rakuten card might be a good stepping stone into business credit cards.

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