I was interested in this topic, but Googling it just led to a bunch of conflicting anecdotes, some from foreigners who couldn’t get credit and others from foreigners who could get lots of credit. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it in Japanese:
To get a credit card, one must first undergo a review by the card issuer. The standards for the review vary by card type and issuer, but essentially, the review is conducted based on the applicant’s “attributes” (occupation, income and credit history).
Generally, because it is mandatory for the applicant or their spouse to have confirmed regular income, it is difficult for unemployed people (excluding students and pensioners) to pass the review. On the other hand, in many cases, a person with real estate, investment, inheritance or gift income who is doing business with a financial institution, even if they are unemployed, can receive a card from an issuer within that insitution’s keiretsu.
In the past, “freeters” and dispatched employees (other than dependents) would not pass the employment and income review of many issuers because they were viewed as having uncertain employment, but due to the changes in working patters in recent years, this is currently less stringent than it was before.
Moreover, in cases of past lateness in credit card payments or periods of nonpayment due to debt restucturing (whether voluntary or through legal restructuring such as bankruptcy), a new credit card cannot generally be issued for the following five or ten years as a penalty, although this varies from case to case. This information is stored at a credit information institution in which the various card issuers participate, so if a person were to apply for a new card from another issuer, in many cases, they would be denied credit during that period. However, because the reviewer is given discretion (there are no laws or regulations on point), there are rare cases where a card is issued. Also, even credit cards which have been regularly paid may be stopped by the card issuer, but the handling of this varies among issuers.
Now, the anecdotes from foreigners in Japan suggest that:
- “Dedicated” credit card companies, like American Express and Saison, will issue a card to anyone, while issuers tied to banks, like Sumitomo Mitsui, are much more difficult to deal with (in part because their cards are much sexier).
- There are some foreigners who get credit cards on the day they land in Japan; there are others who live in Japan for years and can never pass a single credit review. Oddly enough, when they talk about this on the internet, they never speculate as to why this might be the case. (Maybe it’s because a NOVA salary barely pays the rent?)
- Being a permanent resident helps a lot.
- Being a lifetime employee (as opposed to working on a fixed-term contract) REALLY helps a lot.
- It is completely unnatural for a country to be this stingy about consumer credit. (Especially considering that in the US, a Doberman/newborn baby/ice sculpture can get a credit card in the mail without even applying for it.)
Personally, I’m amused and appalled that reputable American financial institutions have given me something like $10,000 in additional credit lines this year when I’m living off of student loans. But I’d like to know: do any of our loyal readers have experience with the Japanese credit review game?