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What Is The Best Payment App For Foreigners in Japan?

Are you looking for the beat payment app for foreigners in Japan? Here are some of the most popular apps and their features.

By 6 min read

People in Japan traditionally prefer cash for transactions, but digital payment apps are becoming more popular. The percentage of cashless transactions increased from 24.1% in 2018 to 39.3% in 2023. There are many options to choose from, including PayPayt, Rakuten Pay, and Line Pay. That said, what is the best payment app for foreigners in Japan

What is a Payment App?

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A payment app uses QR codes or barcodes.

A payment app allows you to make electronic transactions using your smartphone. To use a payment app in Japan, you need to download and install it on your phone, create an account, link it to your bank or credit card or charge it at an ATM. You can then easily send money and make payments by scanning a QR code or letting the cashier scan yours (or your barcode).

According to an April 2024 survey, PayPay is Japan’s most popular payment app, with around 49% of consumers using it. Rakuten Pay and Line Pay are also widely used.

Popular Digital Wallets in Japan

Here are some of the most popular payment apps for foreigners in Japan.

1. PayPay

PayPay is Japan’s leading QR code payment app.

How to Use and Charge:

  • DownloadApple Store and Google Play
  • Setup: Sign up with your Japanese phone number and confirm via SMS.
  • Charge: Use a Japanese credit card, connect a Japanese bank account, or add money using cash at 7-Eleven and Lawson ATMs.

Pros:

  • English Interface: Automatically switches to English if your phone is set to English.
  • Cashback and Rewards: Offers regular promotions and discount coupons.
  • Wide Acceptance: Usable at over 3.7 million locations in Japan.
  • Security: Encryption and other measures are employed to protect your information.
  • Usage Outside Japan: It can be used through integrated payment apps like Alipay in various countries, including Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Cons:

  • Only PayPay Card Accepted: Only PayPay’s proprietary credit card is accepted.
  • ATM Interface: The ATM interface for topping up is only available in Japanese.

2. Rakuten Pay (R Pay)

Rakuten Pay, also known as R Pay, was launched in late 2016 and is integrated into Rakuten’s extensive ecosystem. This integration allows users to earn and spend Rakuten Points across various Rakuten services, such as Rakuten shopping and fashion.

How to Use and Charge:

  • Download: Apple Store and Google Play.
  • Setup: Register with your Rakuten account, which requires a residence card, a special permanent resident certificate, and a Japanese phone number.
  • Charge: Use a Japanese credit card or bank account to earn and spend Rakuten Points.

Pros:

  • Integration with Rakuten: Collect and spend Rakuten Points across various services.
  • Promotions: Enjoy regular cashback and discounts.

Cons:

  • Japanese Only: The app interface is only available in Japanese.
  • Limited to Japan: Primarily useful within the Rakuten ecosystem in Japan and not typically used outside the country.

3. Line Pay

Line Pay, launched in 2014, is integrated with the popular Line messaging app, making it convenient for sending money quickly if you use it often.

How to Use and Charge:

  • Download: Apple Store and Google Play.
  • Setup: Use your existing Line app login.
  • Charge: Connect a Japanese credit card or bank account or top up with cash at 7-Eleven ATMs, FamiPort and Tokyu Line Ticket Machine.

Pros:

  • Integration with Line: Convenient for sending money within Line chats.
  • English-Friendly: The interface is mostly in English if your Line app is set to English.
  • Convenient: Easy to use for peer-to-peer money transfers and splitting bills.

Cons:

  • Partially in Japanese: Some payment-related pages might still be in Japanese.
  • Limited International Use: While Line Pay is available in other countries through the Line app, you may be unable to link non-Japanese bank accounts or use non-Japanese credit cards, limiting the app’s functionality outside of Japan.

4. MerPay

MerPay was launched in 2019 by the creators of Mercari, a popular online marketplace app where users can buy and sell various items. Mercari functions like a digital flea market, making it easy for users to list items for sale, communicate with buyers, and manage transactions. MerPay allows users to spend their Mercari balance within the integrated online marketplace.

How to Use and Charge:

  • Download: Google Play Store or Apple Store.
  • Setup: Sign up with your Japanese phone number and confirm via SMS to create a Mercari account, and link your MerPay.
  • Charge: Use your earnings from Mercari sales or link a Japanese bank account.

Pros:

  • Integration with Mercari: Effortlessly manage and use your Mercari balance directly.
  • User-Friendly: The interface is straightforward to use.

Cons:

  • No English Support: The interface and support are only available in Japanese.
  • Limited to Mercari Users: Mainly beneficial if you’re an active Mercari user.
  • Limited Usage Outside Japan: Only available in Japan.

5. WebMoney

Many people in Japan use WebMoney as a prepaid payment option. It offers privacy and flexibility for those who do not wish to use regular credit cards via number tickets and prepaid cards offered at convenience stores. WebMoney provides two main prepaid card types with unique requirements and benefits.

How to Use and Charge:

  • Download: You can manage your cards through the WebMoney Card Case app on Google and Apple.
  • Setup:
    • WebMoney Prepaid Card: Apply online via the WebMoney website or the app, provide identification documents, receive the card within a week and activate it as instructed.
    • WebMoney Prepaid Card Lite: Apply via the app without identification, manage funds via ATMs or convenience stores and adhere to a ¥100,000 monthly limit.
  • Charge:
    • WebMoney Prepaid Card: Seven Bank ATM, Lawson Bank ATM, au Shop, Lawson, Internet banking, Mitsubishi UFJ Bank Charge.
    • WebMoney Prepaid Card Lite: Seven Bank ATM, Lawson Bank ATM, au Shop, Lawson, credit card.

Pros:

  • No Credit Card Needed: This is ideal for people without credit cards or choosing not to use them.
  • High Anonymity: It requires very little personal info or verification.
  • Wide Availability: Available at convenience stores, electronic stores and supermarkets.

Cons:

  • Japanese Only: The app interface is only available in Japanese.
  • Monthly Cap: The WebMoney Prepaid Card Lite has a monthly cap, and some stores may not accept it.
  • Pay Ahead: Users need to load funds in advance, which might leave some unused money.
  • Losing the Card: Physical cards and tickets might get lost or damaged, and you could lose your money.

Which Payment App is Best for Foreigners?

Because these apps are all widely available across Japan, choosing the best payment app for foreigners in Japan really depends on your needs

Feature PayPay Rakuten Pay Line Pay MerPay WebMoney Prepaid Card WebMoney Prepaid Card Lite
App Language English Japanese English Japanese Japanese Japanese
Points & Rewards Yes Yes Yes No No No
Cashback Campaigns Yes Yes Yes No No No
Setup Requirements Japanese phone number, ID Japanese phone number, ID Line account Japanese phone number, Mercari account ID None
Usage Outside Japan Limited No Limited No No No
Top-Up Options ATM, bank, PayPay credit card Bank, credit card ATM, bank, credit card Bank, Mercari balance ATM, bank, internet banking ATM, bank, credit card
  • PayPay: Great for those who enjoy cashback campaigns and a user-friendly English interface.
  • Rakuten Pay: Excellent if you use Rakuten often (Rakuten Credit Card, Rakuten Fashion, etc.) and want to earn Rakuten Points.
  • Line Pay: Best for users who prefer the convenience of integrating payments with the Line messaging app.
  • MerPay: Perfect for avid thrifters, shoppers and sellers on Mercari who want to easily spend their earnings.
  • WebMoney: Ideal for users who prioritize privacy and do not want to use a credit card.

What is your favorite payment app in Japan? Let us know in the comments!

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