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Online Shopping in Japan: The Pre-Paid Card Primer

Pre-paid credit cards are available at all konbini stores but how easy are they to use for the non-Japanese speaker? We take a look at some of the most popular cards for shopping online.

By 3 min read 49

Here’s the situation: You live in Japan. You don’t speak Japanese. You like stuff. Getting a credit card is possible, but frankly, to a newcomer or transient expat, this is an intimidating proposition. So what do you do when you want to shop online but not use your credit card from back home?

Buy a pre-paid card at the konbini. There are a few to choose from, and some are much easier than others.


Amazon.jp cards are available in 3,000 yen and 5,000 yen denominations. While these cards are the most limited in variety (no Visa or MasterCard functionality—it’s like a gift card) it’s also the easiest to use. iTunes, Google Play, and other vendor-specific cards you see at the konbini work the same way—basically—you’re buying store credit.

TO USE: Buy, scratch off the code on the back, and enter that code under “Gift Cards and Promotional Codes.” Boom. Done.

PROS: Super easy and English-friendly. I love Amazon.jp because they have a decent variety and ship insanely fast—you can even schedule your shipment.

CONS: You can only use at Amazon.jp… and you can’t use it to pay for Amazon.jp purchases at the konbini. (But if you’re already shopping online, who cares?)

BUY AT: Family Mart, Mini Stop


The Rakuten Virtual Pre-paid came out last year. It’s available in denominations from 500 to 50,000 yen, and functions as a pre-paid Mastercard, so you can shop with it anywhere Mastercard is accepted online.

PROS: Easily available, and Rakuten has a much bigger selection of goodies than Amazon.jp. Plus, it’s a pre-paid MC, not a gift card.

CONS: You do have to register the card online, in Japanese, using the half-width characters. If you’re decent at Japanese or have a friend who can help you out—this shouldn’t be a deal breaker. And though it’s a prepaid MasterCard, you can still only use it online.

BUY AT: 7-11, MiniStop, et al.


The Vanilla Pre-Paid seems the most user-friendly of all the Visa/MC “register” cards. You buy the card, register online (again—you might need help!) but the site interface is much smoother and from reports I’ve received, it’s the card people go back to.

PROS: Easy to find, fairly easy to use. Buy, register, and get your cc# and security code like a regular credit card. BOOM. InstaVisa.

CONS: Even though it’s supposed to be a virtual Visa, not all merchants will take this card. There’s a list of merchant on their site that cannot accept Vanilla.

BUY AT: Lawson’s, Mini Stop, 7-11

VPC Lifecard

The Visa Pre-Paid Virtual Credit Card (a.k.a the VPC Lifecard)

This isn’t a physical card, but rather a voucher you can buy for Visa credit through any Family Mart. I don’t recommend this method for novice Japanese speakers like me– it requires using the red, Family Mart pre-paid shopping machine and is pretty intimidating. I finally asked the clerk to help me.

Once you buy the voucher, you have to register it online (just like Rakuten and Vanilla), again, all in Japanese. I had a Japanese friend of mine help me translate and even he had a tough time figuring it out (those half-width characters again!).

That said—I did get my “credit card number” and “security code.” And was able to shop online.

PROS: Available anywhere

CONS: Not all merchants accept this one either. I tried using it an an independent UK shop and it didn’t work, but Asos.com accepted it.

BUY AT: 7-11, Mini-Stop, Lawson’s Family Mart, Daily Yamakazi, Circle K SunKus


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  • Michael L Grimes says:

    The Vanilla cards are now being discontinued. Maybe you should update your article, and provide more alternatives. The Vanilla card was great, and I’m doing research now to find another way to get online buying ability.

    • Martin says:

      The vanilla cards are still available on convenience stores, I am confused about them, cuz I have read that those are accepted everywhere in U.S, probably some rules have changed. However do you have any suggestion for a new pre-paid card.

      • Kristi S says:

        The old Vanilla cards are no longer available as of this week but there is a new one available. You do not have to register for the new card, but you do have to be able to receive a text (at a Japanese cell number) to activate it for online shopping use.

        • Yan says:

          Hello Kristi,

          Is this a new version of the vanilla card?

        • Brion Valkerion says:

          Thanks for the heads up on this. I’ve been looking for a replacement pre-paid debit card and none have been as easy to use as these in USA or Japan. Sad to see them go but will keep my eye out for the new cards, seems like a simple updating of their method hopefully.

  • Okkin says:

    is there any of this that might work in nike,com.jp?

  • Rod says:

    Anyone try using prepaid visa card to use for PayPal? I tried AU WALLET but no luck, PayPal don’t accept it?

  • Farah says:

    Will the Vanilla prepaid card work with iTunes?

  • Ken says:

    Is there anything I can use on Amazon (USA)? I dont have a working debit card or credit card, my card was frauded so Im cardless at the ATM. I only have a stupid japanese cash card.

  • Mack Baise says:

    I would also recommend getting the ponta pre-paid Visa card at Lawson. You can charge up to 100,000 a month and get 1% cash back on purchases. Also ANA offers a prepaid card you can get miles with and can be charged up to 300,000, but the online application Is pretty complicated and you have to have an insurance card issued by your company.

  • Jazzmine Doxxy says:

    Can you use the Rakuten Pre-paid card on the Rakuten Global Market?

  • Akiba says:

    20000 yen card are gone for all eternity, their limit used to be 100k which was great, at least for me, only 5000 yen cards are available now, no more 20k or 10k. The limit for the 5k cards is 30k I think which is basically nothing, it’s very sad.

  • irfan says:

    Hi, Is it possible to put money from your vanilla card on your paypal account ?


  • Rafael Goia says:

    Hallo, Cynthia.

    Thanks for the information! Its very helpful, here in Japan we can easily get lost!

    I bought some five tausend yens Vanilla-Cards and want to know if I can add more registered credit cards to get the amount of a flight ticket. “JDSelma” answered this a year ago and get no replies.


  • Goya Yoshio says:

    Hallo, Cynthia.

    Do you know if I can use multiples VISA Vanilla Online credit card to purchase just one item?

    Now in Japan we can just sum 30.000 yens per card and I don’t know if we can sum the amounts of these multiples cards.

    Hope you can help me, thanks!

  • Nicole Antoku says:

    So, I went to the konbini to get a vanilla card to pay for a purchase I made online, but they only had one left so I ended up getting an American Express Giftcard as well, thinking that it should work similarly.. Well, long story short; I have now been sitting here for the last hour trying to figure how in the world I can use it online and I am slowly beginning to wonder if it in fact only works as a physical card and not for online usage. In other words; HELP! Does anyone know if (and if so; How) to register the card somewhere and how to then be able to use it to pay for stuff online?

    • Ben Maitland says:

      I’m glad I’m not alone they got me too in America I would bought American Express gift cards sometimes and they work like a credit card so simple. In Japan they can only be used at department stores but not all department stores in only a select few, but that did not stop them from charging me 1,190 yen for 1,000 yen same and the visa next to it. BUT IT IS OLNY A GIFT CARD.

      • Nicole A says:

        Right? And I assumed that because it’s American Express then you should be able to use it where they accept AMEX, but nope. Everytime I ask, all I get is “No, sorry!”. So now I’m sitting here with a 5000 yen card that I can’t use because I can’t find anywhere that accepts it..

  • ab says:

    still available in my areas and i just used it for amazon us

    • Nicole Antoku says:

      I bought it a few weeks back at Donki (20000 and 10000 yen), but then when I went back a few days later, all the Vanilla cards were gone.. Since then I have only seen the Vanilla-cards for 5000 yen, but no higher than that anywhere else.. Really sucks, because they were really convinient..

  • Alvian says:

    um.. hello i just move to japan and bought a vanilla gift card, and i cant seem to find any website that accept this damn card, could you help?

  • Yui says:

    Hello! I’m planning to buy on ebay and i don’t have a credit card but i bought an amex prepaid card, can I use it via paypal? And how?

    I do have a basic free paypal. Thanks >~< or can you tell me what prepaid cards can i use in paypal? Thanks.

  • Akina says:

    Does this also work for foreigners NOT in Japan? I’ve been trying to buy from Rakuten and 7netshopping but my Visa card wasn’t accepted and Paypal isn’t listed as a payment option. So I’d be really interested, if there is a way to complete these purchases.
    Yahoo Wallet won’t accept my credit card. So there goes one major payment option.And as I can’t log onto Yahoo.jp using a Yahoo.com account, I guess that using Yahoo.com Wallet to fill up my Yahoo.jp Wallet won’t do either, right?

    So basically my “targeted” payment options, I’d like to use are:
    – Yahoo!ウォレット and Yahoo!かんたん決
    and some way to shop at
    – 7netshopping (aka 7Eleven, 電子マネー「nanaco」)
    – Rakuten (maybe something like a prepaid card)

    Yes, there are services like buyee etc that will bid for you etc but they take a crap load of money for that and while you already need to pay for international shipping costs and possibly a forwarding service, you’d have to have a money-growing tree in order to always use that.
    So is there any way to use the above mentioned options with a foreign Visa credit card and/or PayPal and/or any other for foreigners outside of Japan accessible payment option (at this point I don’t even care anymore if it’s buying a gift card with a gift card with a prepaid card with a gift card with Paypal…)?

  • Frank Ryan says:

    same here, I use the 20000 cards, and in nagano nowhere to be found. Kinda a pain and slightly more expensive, but I have to buy 4x 5000yen cards to do the same thing as one 20000 card

  • Andree Surya says:

    I wonder if the 10.000 yen Rakuten card will cost me 10.000 yen or more?

  • Andree Surya says:

    For the Rakuten pre-paid card, I wonder if a 10.000 card yen will cost me 10.000 yen or more?

  • abcd says:

    went to 6 familymarts and cannot find 20,000yen vanilla card (only saw 5000yen gift card). do they discontinued the product?

    anyway how to use rakuten prepaid credit card? i checked their website and it seems that it requires to have rakuten card. does it have any annual fee to get it? will love it if you make the tutorial to get rakuten mastercard

  • Reynaldo Senra says:

    Please, which one of the online prepaid credit cards sold in Japan (VISA
    or MasterCard related like Vanilla) would be useful for me. I need it
    because I need to pay a remittance service offered by a Canadian
    company. Please I need any help

  • Fox John says:

    It is similar, once bought such a card has vanillia 10,490 yen .and that just has to be exhausted! How do your rechargerr for? explanations of

    http://vanilla-online.jp/ are not clear ??

    have to go to a convenience store (ie: seven / 11) to charge on an ATM terminal? really i don’t know ?? it’s Same Before system with E-card visa of UFJ?

  • Fox John says:

    Careful because the cards vanillia 22,890 yen, are very hard to find!

    I made 5 – 7/11 and in each of them, they had only cards and 5,290 yen 10,490 yen!

    For black card, a 22,890 yen I do not know where to go to get it ??

    Finally in these 5 – 7/11 The staff is not even able to answer you!

    He does not know these 3 Vanillia card payments! While it is neither more nor less than the E-card, of it a few months ago that I used to do my shopping on the net!

  • Jyune Cruz Sato says:

    Hello can you make a tutorial on how to register the Rakuten pre-paid card thanks✌️✌️✌️

  • Juniper says:

    I have a similar issue as the Vanilla Visa question below, but with a Rakuten prepaid gift card I bought at a convenience store. I have registered the ¥5,000 card online with Rakuten so I can see my points now. But when I click the option to use my points to buy something and proceed to next stage, Rakuten keeps telling me there is an error – that credit card details must be filled in. I thought the whole point is that you don’t need a credit card for these prepaid gift cards. Or do you? Am I doing something wrong? Appreciate any help as it is driving me bonkers!

  • JDSelma says:

    Hi I wish to buy an online flight ticket, is it possible to add cards to get the amount? Like 3 cards making one total amount? Thanks

  • yumiko bautista says:

    I recently bought a Vanilla Visa card to shop online. To complete the transaction, the website is asking for the card’s expiration date and 4-digit code which Vanilla Visa cards don’t have. Has anyone ever come across this problem? What did you do?

    • Anthony Joh says:

      You need to login to the Vanilla website and that’s where you will see the expiry and security code. http://vanilla-online.jp/

      • yumiko bautista says:

        Oh, never mind. I’ve figured it out. Thank you for your help though 🙂

      • yumiko bautista says:

        Thank you. I think I found the tab but it says “情報を確認されたいカードの「確認」ボタンを押してください。

        By any chance, would you happen to know what this means?? All I got was “please click the button”. What button it is I haven’t got a clue. 🙁

  • Frederick Sincioco says:

    hi can you guys help me out i bought a jcb prepaid card but whenever i type the card number on paypal skrill or any merchants options online the card number seems to be invalid please help me

  • Nicolas Duran says:

    Bestbuy accepts foreign orders has anyone tried buying something back in the States with one of these cards?

  • sqexgal says:

    Has anyone tried using a prepaid credit card bought in Japan while traveling abroad? I’m taking a group of exchange students to the US next month and some mothers were worried about sending them over with cash only.

  • BGAIJIN says:

    i want to shop some stuff online the company is china based
    they say they would accept
    credit cards payment(VISA,MASTERCARD,JCB) and Western Union,Bank Transfer…

    so in this case would the Rakuten prepaid Master card work ?

  • Fel says:

    But these cards actually don’t work because they don’t support billing addresses. I want to buy some software, but most of the times I need a correct billing address… Which none of these cards ask for when you register them.

  • Erik says:

    I actually prefer to use the Amazon (and other!) gift-card method of online shopping even back home in the USA – I can pay cash for the cards and the whole transaction is much more secure,..



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