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Rakuten takes the lead in Japan's credit card market

Rewards program keeps shoppers within the Japanese e-tail giant's ecosystem

TOKYO -- Rakuten's credit card unit apparently led Japanese card issuers in purchasing volume for the first time in the six months through September, thanks in large part to a loyalty program that the online mall operator plans to expand further.

Consumers spent 2.99 trillion yen ($26.5 billion) on cards issued by Rakuten Card between April and September, up 21% on the year. This was the highest figure among Japanese credit card issuers, not counting co-branded cards, Rakuten Card President Masayuki Hosaka said. Merchants outside the Rakuten group accounted for more than 80% of this figure, according to Hosaka.

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