Tokyo Cashless 2020: Consumption tax relief with the CASHLESS rebate program

1️⃣ Dear JR East, we need a new Suica Charge App
2️⃣ >Consumption tax relief with the CASHLESS rebate program
3️⃣ Are Apple Maps and Siri really Apple Pay level ready for the Tokyo Olympics?
4️⃣ Blame the Japan Cashless Payments mess on VISA and EMVCo, not FeliCa

Tokyo Cashless 2020 is a series covering all things cashless as Japan gears up for the big event. If there is a topic that you’d like covered tweet me @Kanjo


Note: CASHLESS rebate program details are constantly updating, new information is consolidated here instead of separate posts, check for updates at bottom

Apple Pay Japan Cashless Rebate page

A reader asked if I knew of any comprehensive English guide for the various Japanese point systems: Rakuten, T Point, JRE POINT, etc. It’s a good question, and a timely one. Unfortunately the short answer is no, a guide like that does not exist.

It took me a year to put together a good Apple Pay Suica ecosystem guide (at least I think it’s good for covering the basics, if not let me know). It’s impossible to intelligently catalog the various Japanese card and payment app ecosystems into English for the CASHLESS rebate program in a short time.

Instead of a broad sloppy sweep, I updated the JRE POINT guide that covers the entire JR East ecosystem of Apple Pay Suica and how it works with the CASHLESS rebate program. The basic concepts apply to all CASHLESS rebate program qualified e-money cards. Hopefully this post and the JRE POINT guide will give you enough information to find the right setup for your card/app payment/point system of choice.

You may not have to do anything to get ready. As the rest of this post shows, credit card users don’t need to do anything more than use a Japanese issue credit card.

The JAPAN CASHLESS Rebate Program

The Japanese Government CASHLESS rebate program, CASH=LESS get it?

In tandem with the 10% consumption tax starting October 1, the Japanese government is launching a CASHLESS rebate program that offers a 5% or 2% rebate with cashless purchases at participating stores and online shopping sites like Amazon JP, Rakuten JP and Yahoo Japan Shopping. The idea is to ween Japanese society away from its infamous “cash addiction”.

The CASHLESS program is overseen by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and will be valid for certified cashless purchases from October 1, 2019 until June 30, 2020 at qualified participating stores. A METI outline of the CASHLESS program is available in PDF (Japanese only). The CASHLESS web site is informative and constantly updated, hopefully with English at some point.

It’s important to understand that from October 1 the consumption tax is 10%. The rebate program effectively reduces the tax rate until June 30 depending on the kind of purchase (food vs household items, etc.) and how it is paid for (cash vs cashless). After June 30 the consumption tax will be 10% across the board.

2% rebate convenience stores calculate the rebate and instantly deduct the amount from the cashless transaction, effective tax rates are shown on the right of the chart

No matter what item you buy, or the tax rate, all items are eligible for CASHLESS rebates when purchased at stores displaying the 5% or 2% CASHLESS banner. How do you get the rebate? This part is easy: make purchases at any store displaying the 5% or 2% CASHLESS banner with:

  • Japanese issue credit/debit cards, either plastic or on Apple Pay (iD/QUICPay)/Google Pay.
  • Japanese e-money cards (Suica, nanaco, WAON, etc.) either plastic or Apple Pay Suica/Google Pay.
  • Japanese QR Code smartphone payment apps (PAYPAY, Origami Pay, Rakuten Pay, etc.).

2% instant CASHLESS rebate at convenience store checkout
When you make a cashless purchase with any of the certified methods (credit card, Suica, QR, etc.) at CASHLESS certified 2% rebate independently owned convenience store franchises for 7-Eleven, Lawson, FamilyMart, MiniStop, the 2% rebate is instantly calculated and deducted from the transaction, and shown on the store receipt. Only franchise locations are certified, large O&O locations are not eligible. Be sure to check for the CASHLESS banner on the store front.

Note: Any Apple Pay Suica card you add to iPhone/Apple Watch is considered “Japanese issue” and qualifies inbound Suica users for the 2% instant rebate at convenience stores. No signup or registration required. Just use Apple Pay Suica, it doesn’t care which country you come from.

2% or 5% post-transaction CASHLESS rebate
When you make a cashless purchase with any of the certified methods (credit card, Suica, QR, etc.) at CASHLESS certified 2% or 5% rebate stores, the rebate is calculated but not shown on the store receipt, then processed and refunded at the end of the month according to the type of card:

  • Credit (post pay): CASHLESS program rebate amount totals are calculated by the card company at billing and automatically deducted from your monthly credit card bill. Credit card CASHLESS rebates are not tied to point systems.
  • Debit (instant pay): CASHLESS program rebate amount totals are calculated by the card company at end of the month and automatically refunded to your bank account, or instantly deducted from the purchase amount at transaction. Debit card CASHLESS rebates are not tied to point systems.
  • Prepaid (stored value): CASHLESS program rebate amount totals calculated at the end of the month and refunded as points. The point system depends on the type of e-money prepaid card: JRE POINT for Suica, Rakuten point for Rakuten EDY, etc. The point rebate model also applies to QR Code systems like PayPay, however prepaid e-money rebates are tied to point systems while QR Codes are tied to app user accounts. Be sure to check the CASHLESS details of your QR Code payment system.

The CASHLESS web site maintains comprehensive lists of qualified credit/debit cards, and prepaid e-money cards/QR Code Apps. The site is constantly updated with direct links to all participating payment system CASHLESS rebate information pages. Search your payment system, and it will link you with the CASHLESS rebate information for your payment system. All pages are in Japanese language, there is no English.

Surprisingly Easy
The 2% instant convenience store rebate is a no-brainer. All anybody needs to do is use one of the certified cashless payments at certified convenience stores displaying the 2% CASHLESS banner, that’s it.

The 2% or 5% post-transaction rebate for all other rebate stores is easy too. All Japanese issue credit card users need to do is use their card at any store displaying the CASHLESS logo, that’s it.

Debit cards are also straight forward but users should check how the rebate is handled for their card account. QR Code systems sign up users with an account and should be automatic as well but be sure to check the rebate method.

Prepaid e-money card users need to register their prepaid e-money card with the appropriate point system to get 2% or 5% post-transaction CASHLESS rebates. For Apple Pay Suica users this is covered in the JRE POINT guide.

The nice thing about CASHLESS + Apple Pay Suica is that users are not chained to Green/Yellow logo JRE POINT locations to get JRE POINT CASHLESS rebates. Any store participating in the CASHLESS rebate program that offers Suica for payment is good to go. Check for stores displaying CASHLESS and Suica banner logos on the store front or at checkout.

CASHLESS + SUICA JRE POINT logos

JR East also has a bonus JRE POINT campaign for Suica purchases running concurrently with the CASHLESS rebate program. Keep your eye out for campaign logo marks and details in JR station retail areas and NewDays stores.


9/20 UPDATE: The CASHLESS iOS map app has been released. Download it and get ready to find stores around you offering rebates with cashless purchases. There is also a CASHLESS online map version to search and find rebate stores with filters.

10/28 UPDATE: After a weak start with bad data, the CASHLESS Map App has finally gotten its act together. The data is fixed and the v2 update adds filtering: search by store type, rebate type, cashless payment type, etc. The app is finally useful but still only supports Japanese language, handy nevertheless. Download it if you don’t already have it.

10/16 UPDATE: Finally solved the ‘some convenience stores have 2% discounts, some do not’ mystery: independent owner franchise stores are eligible in the CASHLESS rebate program, directly owned and operated locations are not. This explains situations such as why Kintetsu FamilyMart in-station locations don’t have rebates while FamilyMart stores near stations do.

10/9 UPDATE: the CASHLESS iOS map app and web site have been updated. The database seems fixed now. Some locations are still missing, like MiniStop, but listings now show the correct store payment information. The next Cashless store wave of 500,000 is due to join the program on October 10. At that point MiniStop should finally be listed.

10/7 UPDATE: Be careful, not all 7-Eleven, Lawson, FamilyMart, MiniStop convenience store locations are certified and offer instant 2% rebates. Always check for the CASHLESS banner on the store front or at checkout. I have yet to find an in-station convenience store that offers CASHLESS rebates such as Kintetsu Family Mart.

10/4 UPDATE: Apple Pay Japan launched a new web page promoting CASHLESS Rebates

10/3 UPDATE: The CASHLESS iOS map app and CASHLESS online map are not reliable. Japanese media news reports say that settlement companies uploaded the wrong data sets to the maps database. MiniStop convenience stores for example give the instant 2% rebate with cashless purchases, but are not listed yet. The most reliable way is to check for the CASHLESS banner on the store door or at checkout. Until CASHLESS maps are fixed forget the smartphone app and stick with the ground truth.

10/1 UPDATE: The CASHLESS rebate program has kicked off and the field experiences show: convenience stores offer instant 2% rebates deducted from the transaction.

9/30 UPDATE: The number of CASHLESS rebate stores for the October 1 start up is capped at 500,000. There are many more CASHLESS rebate stores to come, however in order not to overwhelm payment systems, stores will be added in waves: launch wave @ 500,000, wave 2@ 500,000, and so on every 10 days until all 2 million participating stores are up and running with the CASHLESS rebate program.

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