QR code cashless payment
Photo: David Dvořáček/UnsplashA stock photo of a cashless transaction

Best cashless payment options in Japan: what they are and how to use them

Forget loose change – from Suica and PayPay to Nanaco and Rakuten Edy, Japan has plenty of digital payment options

Kaila Imada
Written by
Kaila Imada

While Japan remains very cash-based, cashless payments have made great strides over the last few years, with many more options available for users. From store point cards to mobile apps, there are plenty of ways you can go out and about without having to pull out bills and handfuls of coins. 

Most of these systems do require you to have a local Japanese phone number to set up payment, so short-term visitors have a limited number of options compared to residents in Japan. But don’t fret – if you don’t want to use an overseas credit or debit card, you can just use your transit card to pay.

Do keep in mind that it may be impossible to go completely cashless. You’ll still want to keep some bills in your wallet, as many of Japan’s smaller shops are cash-only.

To help you figure out what works best for you, here are some of the most common and convenient cashless payment systems you can use in Japan.

RECOMMENDED: 50 reasons why Tokyo is the greatest city on Earth

Transit IC cards

One of the first and most commonly used cashless systems in Japan is the humble transit IC card. These cards are mainly used for public transportation including trains and buses, but they’re so ubiquitous, you can also use them to pay for things at convenience stores, vending machines and even some shops and restaurants. The main IC cards used in Tokyo are Suica and Pasmo, but you’ll find regional versions of these cards in different areas across the country. The major IC card brands are all interoperable, so don’t worry about bringing a Pasmo to Osaka – it’ll work just fine.

You can easily top up your IC card at stations, convenience stores or even through your mobile phone (if you have the e-wallet version of the card). You can purchase a new card at nearly any train station ticket machine for a ¥500 deposit.

Smartphone digital wallets

Totally addicted to Apple Pay? Good news – both Apple Pay and Google Pay work in Japan, too. They’re super convenient as they are most likely already installed on your phone. Keep in mind these are digital wallets, so you will need to add a payment method. In Japan, that can include IC cards like Pasmo and Suica, or old-fashioned debit and credit cards. When paying at the counter, you’ll need to specify the exact payment method you’d like to use.

Payment apps

Payment apps are becoming more and more popular in Japan, with many systems offering points and other rewards for usage. Some of these apps can also be used to pay bills or send and receive money with anyone else who uses the same app. As it can be difficult to apply for a Japanese credit card as a foreigner living in Japan, these payment apps are a great alternative.

Of all the apps out there, PayPay, Line Pay and R Pay are the three most English-friendly:


What is it? PayPay is a digital payment app that functions like a prepaid debit card. 

How do you get it? The app is completely free to download through Japanese app stores. You will also need a Japanese phone number to create an account. Once your account has been made, you can also link your bank account for transfers, or just top up at ATMs, via gift cards or with your credit card. To pay at a store, just scan the shop’s QR code or show your own barcode inside the app.

Why use it? PayPay is widely accepted at many stores in Tokyo – even shops where you can't use a credit card. There are no fees to join and no minimum balance required. PayPay also offers discounts and campaigns with participating stores.


Line Pay

What is it? Line Pay is a digital payment system that’s part of Line, Japan's massive messaging service app.

How do you get it? Line Pay is free to use, but you’ll need to have the Line messaging app to set it up. Line Pay can be used in any country except mainland China, Indonesia, South Korea and Singapore. Once your account is set up, you can top up your balance with cash at convenience stores or just link it to your bank account. Do note that if you are outside of Japan or Thailand, you can only use credit cards as your method of payment. 

Why use it? You can use Line Pay at stores, restaurants and even online. Since it’s integrated right into the messaging app, you can also use it to send money to your Line contacts.

R Pay (Rakuten Pay)

What is it? R Pay is linked to the massive online shopping hub Rakuten and lets users earn Rakuten reward points when using the service. 

How do you get it? R Pay can only be downloaded from Japanese app stores. Once your account is created, you can link it to your Rakuten credit card and pay using a shop’s QR code or by showing your barcode within the app. If you don’t own the credit card, you can simply top up your balance through your bank account. Be warned, though – while Rakuten Pay does have an English-friendly website, the app is completely in Japanese.

Why use it? If you own the Rakuten credit card, you can earn double the points. These points can then be used to purchase things from Rakuten or through other participating outlets such as convenience stores.

Point cards

There are also a number of store loyalty point cards which you can top up and use like a prepaid debit card at shops across Japan. An advantage of signing up for one of these are the points you'll earn when shopping at certain stores. Here are three common cards you can easily sign up for in Japan:


What is it? Nanaco is a point card run by the konbini chain 7-Eleven.

How do you get it? You can apply for the card online or pick up an application form at your nearest 7-Eleven. The card costs just ¥300 and there’s no ongoing fee.

Why use it? The card can be used at thousands of shops and restaurants operated by 7-Eleven parent company Seven&i Holdings, including Ito Yokado department stores and even Denny’s. Accumulated points can be used towards purchases at all stores that take Nanaco in Japan as well as redeemed for ANA air miles.



What is it? Waon is a point card affiliated with Aeon, a retail company known for its large shopping centres and grocery stores.

How do you get it? You can sign up and purchase the card online for ¥300 and there are no ongoing fees.

Why use it? The Waon card allows you to collect points when purchasing things at Aeon supermarkets, Gourmet City, MaxValu and Daiei stores. You’ll rack up one Waon point for every ¥200 spent on the card. These points can then be used to purchase things at participating outlets.

Rakuten Edy

What is it? Rakuten Edy is a prepaid card run by massive online shopping site Rakuten.

How do you get it? You can purchase the Rakuten Edy card online for ¥330 – after that, there are no other fees.

Why use it? Rakuten Edy can be used at over 400,000 stores in Japan, including Yodobashi Camera, McDonald’s and more. Plus, you can use and top up your credit at convenience stores. You'll earn one Rakuten point for every ¥200 you spend with your Rakuten Edy card. These points can then be used to buy things on Rakuten and other participating outlets.

Explore more of Tokyo

  • Things to do

Our ultimate checklist of the best things to do and see in Tokyo, from museums and art galleries to restaurants and bars

    You may also like
    You may also like