TOKYO -- Credit card use in Japan is on the rise thanks to the growing popularity of internet retailers and a widening range of establishments that accept that payment option.
Payments made with credit cards rose 8.2% in 2016 from the previous year to 53.9 trillion yen ($494 billion), exceeding 50 trillion yen for the first time, according to the Japan Consumer Credit Association.
The largest factor behind the rise is the growing e-commerce market. Internet retailers like Amazon and Rakuten allow a variety of payment methods such as cash-on-delivery or payments at convenience stores, but a growing number of people are using credit cards for instant settlements. "We are seeing a nearly 20% year-on-year jump every month in use for e-commerce," said an official at Sumitomo Mitsui Card.
The e-commerce market reached 13.7 trillion yen in 2015, up 8% from the prior year, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The market is expected to keep expanding despite concerns that labor shortages could lead to service declines.
The number of goods and services that can be paid for with a credit card is also climbing. Among the credit granted by Credit Saison in 2016, the amount that was used to pay for tax-related items like auto taxes and tax-deductible donations to rural municipalities under the hometown tax system, rose 40% from the previous year. Medical-related expenses paid for with a card also grew 25%. "The number of elderly who pay for medical expanses with a credit card at hospitals is increasing," according to credit card company JCB.
McDonald's Japan will ensure that all of its stores can accept all major international credit card brands beginning in the second half of 2017. Keihin Kyuko Bus introduced ticket machines that accept credit cards at Tokyo's Haneda Airport in March.
The latest statistics do not include Apple Pay, which was launched last October in Japan. Given that more payment methods are being introduced, "the market should keep expanding," predicts JCB.