How to Save Money by Using Convenience Store Point Cards

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Photo by Maid Runner

If you’ve been in a Japanese convenience store, you may have been asked if you have a point card. If you are living in Japan and can’t answer this question with 「はい」(“yes”), then you should look into getting a convenience store point card.

Which card you should get will depend on which stores you frequent and what you can get with the points, but if you visit convenience stores at all, a point card can save you some money.

With the large number of convenience stores in Japan, examining all of the available point cards would take an eternity. For this reason, we’ll examine the point cards of three of the most numerous convenience stores: 7-11, Lawson, and Family Mart.

7-11

Card Name: Nanaco
Points Earned: 1 point for every 100 yen spent
Point Validity: Expire at the end of March two years from the day earned (example: points earned June 2014 expire March 31, 2016)
Nanaco Official Website [in Japanese]
Nanaco Wikipedia Entry [in English]

Going by mascots alone, 7-11’s Nanaco card has the cutest: a tiny giraffe with a kerchief around its neck. One of the Nanaco card’s best aspects is that you can also use it at Itoyokado (grocery/department store) and Denny’s (family restaurant).

Lawson

Card Name: Ponta
Points Earned: 1 point for every 100 yen spent, plus 1 point for visiting the store
Point Validity: Expire if card not used within 1 year; renewed if card is used within 1 year
Lawson Official Ponta Website [in Japanese]

One appealing aspect of the Ponta card is you can also use it at Geo (DVD rental store), which typically has lower prices than TSUTAYA. Also, you receive 1 point for just checking out and can exchange points for cute mascot and character plates and bowls during campaigns. Right now, I think you can exchange 300 points for a Rilakkuma bowl.

Family Mart

Card Name: T-Point
Points Earned: 1 point for every 100 yen spent
Point Validity: Expire if card not used within 1 year; renewed if card is used within 1 year
T-Point Official Website [in Japanese]

The T-Point card is probably the most versatile of the three point cards presented here. In addition to Family Mart, the T-point card can both receive and use points at TSUTAYA (DVD rental store), Shidax (karaoke box), Bamiyan (Chinese family restaurant), ENEOS (gas station), and more. Go on Tuesdays, Saturdays, and the 20th of each month for double points.

At all of the stores, 1 point is equal to 1 yen, so if you have 100 points, you can buy a 100 yen item with those points. Sometimes you can find items that cost fewer points than the cash price or that cost less in cash if you present your convenience store point card.

On a similar topic, many point cards have campaigns with which you can receive a higher percentage of points for buying a certain item. Items that award extra points will have a sign below that reads something like “+20 point,” “+20 ポイントボーナス,” or “+10p”.

A point to keep in mind is that most items can be bought at the supermarket for cheaper than at a convenience store and that many supermarkets also have point cards. Buying most items at the supermarket and then buying mostly items that rack up high points at the convenience store would be the wisest way to collect convenience store points.

Another important point is that a few items, such as tickets, utility bills, cigarettes and stamps, don’t issue points.

The next time you go to the convenience store, be sure to ask about their point card. Most cashiers will be happy to explain in simple Japanese or English if they can about how to sign up for and use your point card.

Which convenience store do you use the most and which convenience store point cards do you have?

Topics:    

Spends weekends aimlessly wandering Tokyo.
  • Nicole Erika Trajano says:

    My question is, that after not using it for more than a year can you ask for the reapplication of the card? Because i recently bought a T-point card, due to it being a campaign for my favorite anime, problem is im graduating in september and probably would not be back in Japan after graduation. But when i do, I hope to at least be able to reapply that card in particular.

  • Fred says:

    Sorry to ask but once you got your points on your Ponta lawson how to use it? Can you pay your groceries with those? And how to say that in Japanese?

  • Riquez says:

    A really useful thing missing from this article is how to say “Spend Points” in Japanese.

  • Graeme Goode says:

    I went to a Tsutaya (Yokohama) yesterday and my T Point card was refused. They no longer accept it and now they accept the Ponta card used at the Lawson chain. Just an FYI 🙂

    • shadson says:

      That is untrue. must have gone into a Geo and thought it was Tsutaya. It hasn’t changed from T-point in years, since Tsutaya started using T-point as their point card preference.

  • Ricardo Cantu says:

    I got all three, and found Nanaco to be quite lacking compared to the other ones. Apparently, getting the nanaco costs money, whereas getting any of the other ones is completely free. Also, you have to put money in it to use it, much like the suica/pasmo transportation ic cards.

  • Laura Smoley says:

    I feel silly for asking, but I just got here a few months ago and my Japanese listening skills aren’t as great as they could be.
    I got the nanaco card but I am not sure how to get points applied to it during purchase. I’m often asked if I have a T-Point card, but nobody asks if I have the Nanaco card (places that use it don’t ask). :S How do I get points put on? I know how to use them once I have them, but I have none yet. XD

    • Lynn says:

      The points should be applied automatically when you present it at the register at participating stores. Maybe 7-11, Itoyokado, Denny’s and other Nanaco stores aren’t so good about asking 😉 You can still give them the card if they don’t ask, though.
      Sometimes the cashier forgets to ask me at Lawson’s and I forget too, so I have much less points on my Ponta card than I should have D:

      • Laura Smoley says:

        Thank you for answering!
        Hmm… I will present it next time I’m at the store. How do they scan it, though? It doesn’t have a bar code like the Ponta card D: I know you can touch it to a scanner to use the points; does acquiring points use the same method?? o_o I wouldn’t care so much but I shop at nanaco places a lot and I’m losing out on a lot of points XD

        • Lynn says:

          Good question! I should have looked a little more into it. The Nanaco website states that Nanaco is technically a charge card in addition to being a point card; you put money on it and then when you buy items with the money on the card, you get points. Sorry for the unclear-ness! I’m not sure how they scan it, but I’m guessing they use the same type of scanner as for a credit card. Hopefully you can save up lots of points!

          • Laura Smoley says:

            Ooooooooooooooooohhhh I see. That makes things I’ve seen make a lot more sense. Hmm, I will need to figure out how to put money on it, then. I read that I’d need to have been a resident here for six months first, and I’m almost there! After that I think I can sign up on their website and start dumping money onto it. I’ve also noticed that it doesn’t store my points from the bottle recycler, so I hope it’s related to that.

            Thank you so much for your help! 😀

  • エジプト人 says:

    I have a Nanaco card, because I go to the 7-11 and Ito Yokado near my school most of the time, but I made it for a different reason, since the 8% tax I end up with lots of 1yen coins that I didn’t know what to do with.
    It would be nice if you made an article about the IC cards from transport systems as well,
    Thanks a lot :3

    • Lynn says:

      Most of my cards are also from stores I go to a lot. Like someone said below, it’s cheaper to shop around, but I prefer buying most of my stuff from places close by.

      The 8% sales tax has definitely increased the amount of 1 yen coins in my wallet. The prices used to be so even! Is it easy to deposit 1 yen coins on the Nanaco card?

      That’s a good suggestion about the IC cards. A lot of them exist, and you’ve made me curious about the differences among them.

      • 餅ちゃん says:

        No, you can’t add 1 yen coins to the card, but I got most of the 1 yen coins from 7-11, so now they considerably decreased. I still have some, but less than before.
        And yes I would like to know the difference between them, because I use a lot of public transform, so I wanted to know which was the most valuable.

  • gerber says:

    I always considered point cards a minor annoyance. However, my T-Point is now up to 3000 yen in credit. Time to get some free beer.

    • Lynn says:

      Good use of those points. I know what you mean about them being annoying though. I recently lost my Ponta card, which had about 100 points on it. There goes my free milk tea.

  • zoomingjapan says:

    I only use point cards of stores I go to often.
    I have Lawson’s Ponta, I have a T-Point card (originally got it from BookOff 6 years ago) and my favorite card is WAON for AEON. The card barks when you pay with it. The points on the card can be changed into cash later on.

    • Lynn says:

      That’s a good strategy. Too many cards, and you end up forgetting which ones you have.
      The WAON card barking sounds both cute and annoying at the same time. I used to live near an AEON and really miss it.

    • Anthony Joh says:

      I have a point card for Yodobashi. Love getting the points from all the gear I have to buy for work 😉

      • エジプト人 says:

        I wish I had made a Bic Camera card when I first came to Japan, I need a bit of gear at this time, It would have been worth it.

        • Lynn says:

          Bic Camera’s definitely a good one to have. I’ve probably only bought 3 things from Bic Camera, but because items there tend to be ones that are more expensive (computers, cellphones, and, well, cameras), you can get a lot of points.

          • Mujair Hassan says:

            I am using a nanaco card today i bought a 5000 gift card from 7 11 now how can i recharge my nanaco card from that gift card due to am new in japan i cant understand japanese thats why i cant go to 7 eleven for help

          • Lynn says:

            Hi there! I stopped by my local 7-11 to directly ask about adding money to nanaco cards with gift cards. The clerk said you can covert your 7-11 gift card to electronic money on your nanaco card. You can do this at register at any 7-11 for a service charge of 300 yen.

            I think the best way you can do it without much Japanese is to show both your nanaco card and gift card at the register. Then, say something like, “Chaaji shitainndesu ga…” (“I want to add money to my card…”) The word “chaaji” (actually “charge”, from English) is the key word.

            I hope this helps. Good luck!

            P.S. You can also add money to your nanaco card with cash or credit cards.

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