Convenience, points fuel spread of e-money in Japan

Convenience, points fuel spread of e-money in Japan
A customer uses an e-money card at a convenience store in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

JAPAN -Electronic money is being used more and more often since the consumption tax hike in April, as consumers seek to reduce the amount of small coins in their wallets and take advantage of point services.

Companies operating e-money services are competing to widen the range of stores where their cards can be used. Credit card use is also on the rise, indicating a shift in Japanese consumers' longstanding preference for cash payments.

Nanaco, an e-money system operated by Seven & i Holdings Co., was used about 347 million times from April to June this year, an enormous 48.9 per cent increase from the same period in 2013.

Nanaco users put money into prepaid cards in advance, and receive one point for every ¥100 they spend at Seven-Eleven and other stores under the holding firm's umbrella. One point is worth ¥1, and the points can be applied to later purchases.

"People appreciate not having to deal with small change," a Seven & i Holding spokesperson said.

The Aeon group saw the number of times its WAON e-money system was used rise 26 per cent in the April-June quarter, and the nine cards issued by public transportation service companies, such as East Japan Railway Co.'s Suica card, saw a total increase of about 16 per cent.

The traffic companies' cards can be used at many different railway companies and other businesses nationwide.

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