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Paying bills in Japan

Post: Monday June 2, 2014

Paying bills is no one’s favorite thing to do, regardless of where you live. Still, as far as how you do it, Japan makes it pretty painless. There are a variety of convenient ways you can pay your bills in Japan, whether it’s your utility bills, your phone bill, or even health bills. Let’s find out how.


At the Conbini (Convenience Store)

Convinience Store

The conbini, or convenience store, is perhaps the most convenient way to pay a bill. All you do is take your bill to the nearest 7-11, Lawson, Sunkus, FamilyMart, or other conbini of your choice and hand your bill to the clerk. They will scan the barcode on the bill and tell you the cost. It should match the amount on your bill. Pay the clerk, and they will then stamp the bill with a dated seal and hand you the stub from the bill. This is your proof of payment so be sure to hold onto it for safekeeping in case the company that sent you the bill contacts you regarding any issues with your payment.
The only caveat to paying at a conbini is that they may not take credit cards so you will need to pay in cash. That said, almost all conbinis have an ATM where you can withdraw money from your bank account to pay the bill with. And, conbinis are generally opened 24 hours a day so you can pay your bill at your convenience, any time!

Through bank transfer

Another way to pay your bill is to set up a transfer from your bank account. This type of payment is called 口座振込(kouza furikomi) in Japanese. You can set these up using the internet if your bank offers an online bill pay service or else take the bill directly to your nearest bank branch.
If using your bank’s online bill pay, once you receive your first bill, you would just need to go to your bank’s internet portal and then enter in the appropriate account and billing information for the company that issued the bill and then enter the amount shown on your bill. Then, it’s just a matter of logging in each month and making the payment when you receive your bill.
If you want to pay in person, you can take your bill to your nearest bank branch and they will be happy to assist you with the account transfer. You can also make payment by account transfer at most banks’ ATMs but generally requires you to be able to read Japanese since the ATM’s English versions generally don’t include the account transfer options.


At the company office or store

The last way to pay is to go directly to the customer service center or store of the company that issued the bill and pay there. If it’s a mobile phone bill, this may not be that challenging since the phone companies have stores everywhere. But, if you’re paying a utility bill, you will need to find the address for the company’s customer service center, go during their office hours, and generally pay in cash since most will not accept credit card payments since Japan is still very much a cash-driven economy. That said, this may be your only option if you miss a bill and your account goes into arrears. If for whatever reason you need to pay a company in person, just bring your bill with you and make sure you have enough cash to cover the bill. The staff at either the store or service center will process your bill, take your payment, stamp your bill paid, and provide you the stub as evidence of payment.

Automatic withdrawal

If you don’t want to have to go somewhere to pay your bill each month, you can arrange to have utility bills automatically paid out of your bank account or from your credit card. In order to set this up, you will need to get an application form from the utility company for the method you want to arrange. You provide the appropriate account or credit card information on the application form and then return it to the utility company. It usually takes about a month for the application to be processed so make sure you pay using another method (one of the other three options listed above) for any bills sent to you prior to receiving notification from the utility company. After that, future bills will be processed automatically and you don’t have to lift a finger. That said, the utility company will typically still send you a bill stub each month notifying you of that month’s cost for reference.

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