When you hand your credit card to a cashier at a store to purchase goods, most of the time you’ll see them raise one pointer finger and ask you a question. What are they asking? What does it mean?
The cashier is asking you if you’d like to charge your card one time for the full amount of the payment.
To understand what’s happening, first you need to know about credit cards in Japan. Credit card payments are auto-deducted from your bank account in full the following month around the 27th (or following business day if the 27th falls on a weekend).
When making a payment with a credit card, you have the option to have the payment amount split into installments in case you do not have enough funds in your account to cover your full credit card bill. Typically, there are no fees for splitting your payment over two months, but fees will be added if you want to pay in three or more installments.
Most foreigners in Japan use credit cards that are connected to bank accounts outside of Japan, which means that they can pay off the card online whenever they want to. If you’re in this boat and a cashier holds up a pointer finger asking if it’s okay to charge in full, hold up one finger and say “hai” (yes).
Additional Information: Japanese credit cards can also be paid off using a system called “ribobarai”, which means “revolving payment”. This is the equivalent of making the minimum payment per month until you have the funds you need to make larger payments towards your credit card. This system can be set up online from the cardholder’s side.
Looking to get a credit card in Japan? Here's a guide to choosing a credit card. Personally, I recommend you try getting one from Rakuten as they offer the application in English and it's easier for foreigners to get a card.
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