Convenience store point cards | Time Out Tokyo

How to make the most of convenience store ‘point cards’

Find your favourite card, save up a stack of points and watch the rewards rain down

Written by
Kirsty Bouwers
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Pointo kaado arimasu ka? (‘do you have a point card?’) is an essential part of any convenience store worker’s phrase repertoire. If your answer to said query is no, you might want to consider getting one of these beauties sooner rather than later: a point card is a worthwhile addition to any wallet, as it can entitle you to both discounts and, of course, points, which can then be exchanged for all kinds of magic. Read on for our handy list of which point card does what, and next time you’re down at the konbini, tell the clerk pointo kaado wo tsukuritai desu (‘I’d like to have a point card made’).

And here's a bonus sentence for when you have one: if the clerk asks you pointo wo tsukaitai desu ka? ('do you want to use your points?'), answer hai, tsukaimasu ('yes, I'd like to use them') or daijoubu desu ('nah, it's fine'). For the non-verbal, nodding or shaking your head will do just fine too. Now that you're a card-carrying konbini customer, all you need to do is watch the points stack up while you shop. 

The point card contenders

T-Point card @ FamilyMart

T-Point card @ FamilyMart

Ah, the gold standard of point cards. Aligned with FamilyMart (but technically a Tsutaya card), the T-Point card is the most ingenious of all the cards out there, seeing that you can receive and redeem points at a huge selection of shops, restaurants, cafés and other establishments. In addition to Tsutaya, these include Doutor, Excelsior Café, EyeCity, Isetan, Mitsukoshi and Yoshinoya.

Generally speaking, spending ¥200 gets you one point, while buying certain products at the konbini labelled with a green ‘+xx points!’ sign results in – yes – extra points. Occasionally they’ll do deals that double, triple or even quadruple your points earned if you shop on that day or buy a specific thing. Even better, you can convert 500 T-Points to 250 ANA airline miles, and if you happen to have a Shinsei bank account, you can link it to your T-Point account and get points for just logging on to online banking. Now that’s a fast way to get spending.

That’s all, you think? Nope – you can also receive points by simply making reservations for restaurants online through Tabelog. In fact, so much is T-Point-linked these days that we feel like cheerleaders just talking about it. The only thing this card is missing is a cute mascot.

The lowdown
Card fee: free
Mascot: none...
Collect: at least 1 point per ¥200 spent (depending on store and product)
Redeem: 1 point is ¥1 at FamilyMart, or redeem against a variety of goods and services at other stores, both online and offline. Converting to ANA miles and from certain credit card points is possible too. Note that you’ll need a Japanese YahooID to sign up online

Nanaco @ 7-Eleven

Nanaco @ 7-Eleven

With 7-Eleven being the most ubiquitous konbini in Japan, getting one of the chain’s point cards sounds like the best idea ever. Well, you might be mistaken. Unlike most other cards on this list, the Nanaco is more than a simple point card: it’s actually an ‘e-wallet’ IC card. In simple terms, this means that you need to charge your Nanaco card and use it to pay in order to receive points.

If that floats your boat, then get your hands on one right away and charge-spend away – it’ll help you avoid the nuisance of ending up with a bagful of ¥1 coins from the konbini. If you’re looking for point cards that simply let you collect points without the charging part, best use another konbini. Nanaco cards are also valid at Seven&i Holdings-operated shops and restaurants such as Ito Yokado supermarkets, Loft and Denny’s. Miles are to be had with ANA, and the online conversion process is actually rather painless. 

The lowdown
Card fee: ¥300
Mascot: giraffe
Collect: 1 point per ¥100 spent (1 point = ¥200 at some stores) when paying with Nanaco
Redeem: 1 point is ¥1 at 7-Eleven, or redeem against a variety of goods and services at other stores. 500 points = 250 miles when converting to ANA miles, only available in chunks of 500 points

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Ponta @ Lawson

Ponta @ Lawson

Another popular one, Lawson’s Ponta card works the same way as a T-Point card but doesn’t quite measure up to the Big T in the amount of places where you can receive and spend points. To make up for that, at least they’re accepted at all Lawson-related outlets, including Natural Lawson and Lawson Store 100 (¥100 Lawson), as well as at HMV shops, Seijo Ishii supermarkets, Ootoya and United Cinemas. If you’re looking to book restaurants online and get points, head to Hotpepper.jp, while you can also convert your points to JAL miles and vice versa.

The lowdown
Card fee: free
Mascot: tanuki (raccoon dog)
Collect: 1 point per ¥100 spent (depending on store and product)
Redeem: 1 point is ¥1 at Lawson, or redeem against a variety of goods and services at other stores, both online and offline. 2 points = 1 mile when converting to JAL air miles

WAON @ Ministop

WAON @ Ministop

Ah, the WAON card with its cute little puppy mascot. This is an IC prepaid card just like Nanaco, so you’ll have to top up and pay with it to get any points. The good news is that WAON is actually run by Aeon, so you’ll be able to get points by paying with it at all Aeon supermarkets, as well as at Gourmet City, MaxValu and Daiei. Extra brownie points: the card barks when you pay with it (no joke).

They offer a five-percent discount on your groceries on the 20th and 30th of each month at all Aeon-affiliated supermarkets, and you’ll be able to double or quintuple your points on set days too. Bizarrely enough, you can even get points for recycling through Aeon, although we have yet to hear from anyone who has done this in person (if you do, let us know!).

As with all the others, there’s an air miles link here too – although it is somewhat confusing. It seems that you can only convert JAL miles to WAON points, while you can earn JAL miles if you get a JMB WAON card (a special Japan Airlines miles card with WAON function).

The lowdown
Card fee: ¥300 (free if JMB WAON card; application only by post or online)
Mascot: dog
Collect: 1 point per ¥200 spent (may differ by shop/service) when paying with WAON
Redeem: 1 point is ¥1 at Ministop and Aeon-affiliated supermarkets, or redeem against a variety of goods and services at other stores, both online and offline. ¥200 = 1 mile with a JMB WAON card

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+K / Rakuten Point Card @ Sunkus/Circle K

+K / Rakuten Point Card @ Sunkus/Circle K

The smallest of the konbini bunch, Sunkus doesn’t have a card that screams ‘I shop at Sunkus!’: the sign on the door makes clear that Rakuten (Super) Points are king here. Sure, you can get a dedicated Circle +K Sunkus card, but if you already have a Rakuten credit card, there’s no real need to sign up for another piece of plastic. There’s a dedicated Rakuten Point Card app which has your personal barcode, meaning that you won’t have to carry a physical card around to accumulate or spend points.

If you really want the card, just ask at the counter or request one through Rakuten. Rakuten points can be received and spent at – you guessed it – Rakuten online services, plus a whole boatload of shops from Daimaru and Suit Select to Mr Donut and McDonalds. To add a little extra sweetness, they can also be converted to ANA air miles. Pretty damn useful, we’d say, despite there not being all that many Sunkuses (Sunki?) around.

Note, however, that Sunkus have decided to overhaul their point card system and join the T-Point card ranks. The final date on which you'll be able to use or claim Rakuten Points at Sunkus/Circle K stores is September 30, 2017; your points will still be valid at other Rakuten-affiliated outlets. After the handover, the usual T-Point card terms will apply (¥200 = 1 point, converting to ANA miles, the whole shebang). We're sad to see you go, Rakuten Points...

The lowdown
Card fee: free
Mascot: bear (for +K), panda (for Rakuten)
Collect: 1 point per ¥100 spent (depending on store and product)
Redeem: 1 point is ¥1 at Sunkus, or redeem against a variety of goods and services at other stores, both online and offline. 2 points = 1 mile if converting to ANA air miles (from 500 and up to 1,000 points in one go)

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