Leading cashless payments methodsNon-cash means of payment refer to any digital payment made without exchanging cash, such as card payments and mobile payments. In Japan, there is a wide range of digital payment options available to consumers, including credit cards, debit cards, electronic money, and smartphone payment services. Credit cards are one of the most established digital payment methods, used not only in stores but also for online shopping and regular payments. Transactions with credit cards accounted for the major share of cashless payments over the past years, followed by electronic money, debit cards, and QR code-based payments. E-money in the form of prepaid IC cards was introduced as early as 2001 as a fare collection system for public transportation and has become a widespread payment method accepted in many stores and supermarkets. More recently, mobile payment methods such as QR code payment services have gained increasing popularity. Responding to the vast number of code-based payment service providers that have entered the market, the government has initiated the creation of a new standardized QR code system (“JPQR”) to facilitate the use of different payment services for vendors and consumers.
Promotion of cashless paymentsIn Japan, where crime rates are low, cash is considered a secure and reliable payment method. While the share of cashless payments has doubled throughout the last decade, Japanese consumers have been known for their preference for cash. Many cite fear of personal information leakage and overspending as leading concerns about digital payments. Meanwhile, convenience and discounts received through loyalty programs were regarded as the main benefits of cashless payments.
Estimating the annual cost of maintaining a cash-based infrastructure at more than one trillion Japanese yen, the government aims to raise the share of cashless payments in Japan to around 40 percent by 2025. As a major step towards promoting cashless payments, the government launched the cashless campaign in October 2019 along with a consumption tax hike. The cashless rebate program rewarded consumers for using cashless payments and was successful in increasing the share of consumers who used cashless payments. Another campaign, the MyNA point program, rewarded consumers for linking their individual identification numbers to a digital payment service between September 2020 and March 2021. As a further step in the direction towards a cashless society, the government has announced to lift the ban on digital wage payments in early 2021, allowing employees to receive salaries as digital money via mobile payments apps.
As in many other economies, the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have pushed more people towards using cashless payments. With an increasing share of consumers using digital payments in their everyday lives and the government further promoting a cashless society, cashless payment usage in Japan is likely to expand in the coming years.