Both to a) lessen the impact of a consumption tax rise that came into effect on October 1, 2019 and b) encourage the move to cashless payment systems in cash-loving Japan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has stepped in to introduce a scheme to return either 2% or 5% of the purchase amount back to the buyer in the form of points.
I can haz moneh?
The points rebate scheme covers the full range of electronic payment methods including stored value cards such as Pasmo and Suica, app-based payment systems such as LINE Pay and R Pay, debit cards, and credit cards. As the point systems are Japan based, the bonus points aren’t available if you’re using a non-Japanese credit or debit card. For a full list of the electronic payment systems that can be used, scroll to the bottom of this article. Note that all these payment systems are part of the program, but not all stores accept these payment methods!
For many of the payment methods, you will automatically be opted in to getting bonus points. However, for others, you will need to sign up to get the points (who even knew you could get points on a travel card?) For a full list with links, see the list at the bottom of this article. Since this whole scheme is aimed at domestic consumers, sadly there isn’t a lick of information available in English!
Where can I get bonus points?
While the scheme has been widely adopted, it’s not available everywhere. The bonus points are available at shops which display the Cashless logo. There is also an app that shows stores offering the points on a map. As of writing, the app had an average 1.2 star rating on Google Play—which is about as bad as you can get. The main problem seems to be that it positions stores in the wrong place and many stores on top of each other which can’t be tapped on.
In addition to offline shopping, you can also rack up points online at sites like Amazon, Rakuten and Yahoo Shopping.
Major holdouts to the system include large supermarket chains, department stores, Starbucks, Tully’s, Yodobashi Camera, Bic Camera and Don Quijote. Also, confusingly, there are combined points/electronic payment cards (such as Nanaco) which are part of the system, as well as ordinary point cards (like Tsutaya’s T-Point card or the Bic Camera point card) which aren’t part of the system.
The scheme also won’t last forever. The incentive will be in place from October 1, 2019 until June 30, 2020.
Which stores offer 5% and which offer 2%?
Most smaller stores including hotels, bars, restaurants, cafes, drycleaners, pet hotels, hairdressers, clinics, beauty salons, fashion stores and pharmacies that are taking part in the scheme seem to be offering a 5% points bonus.
Most of the big chains taking part, such as convenience stores, fast food joints and gas stations, offer 2% bonus points.
Any other fine print or gotchas?
Yes, there are plenty. Besides the fact that some payment methods are opt-in, there is an upper limit on bonus points. Most credit cards have an upper limit of 15,000 points/month. At the 5% level, that’s a purchase of 300,000 yen or more. For prepaid travel cards, the limits vary. For Pasmo, it is 20,000 points in a three-month period. For Suica, it is a per charge limit (don’t ask us what this means), while for Rakuten’s Edy card it is limited to 2,500 points per transaction.
Additionally, there are varied ways that the points come back to you. For most of the travel cards, points are tallied up and added the following month or added at specific times until the end of the campaign. The app-based payment methods are even more varied. With LINE Pay, you get the points straight away, while with others you get them the following month. For most credit cards, you get them two months after the purchase. So if you spend 10,000 yen on a night out in October, you’ll get your 500 yen worth of points in December.
Partial list of applicable payment systems and sign-up links
There are literally hundreds of systems that are taking part. If you really must see all of them, check the Cashless website. If there is no link in the list below, it means membership is (probably) automatic. Payment methods with a link direct you to the points registration page.
If you’re not sure if your payment method qualifies, check directly with your payment provider.
- American Express
- Diners Club
Prepaid loaded value cards
QR code–based smartphone apps
- LINE Pay
- R Pay
- d barai
- au Pay
- Origami Pay