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Paying Bills in Japan Conveniently: A Simple Guide

Post: Thursday October 26, 2017

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 relatively 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. And while Japan is very technologically advanced, it is still a very cash-based society, so don't leave home without your yen notes or at least ATM card. In this article, we will go through the pros and cons of paying bills in Japan at various locations.

young man doing some shopping and salesclerk at convenience store

The Best Ways to Pay Bills in Japan

At the Conbini (Convenience Store)

Convinience Store

Visiting the conbini, or convenience store, is perhaps the most hassle-free way of paying bills in Japan. 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.

The pros are:

  • Open 24 hours
  • They are everywhere. Choose from 7-11, Lawson, Sunkus, FamilyMart,etc.
  • A simple, no-fuss payment procedure. The clerk will scan the barcode on the bill, which you pay in cash or cash card. For electricity bills and such you will get a stub with a stamp that is your proof of payment—save this for tax time!

The downsides are:

  • Credit cards not accepted
  • Depending on the transaction a small fee may be charged

Through Bank Transfer

money

If you prefer to pay your bills in the comfort and privacy of your home instead of venturing out to the nearest combini, you can of course do a bank transfer. This type of payment is called 口座振込(kouza furikomi) in Japanese. If you'd like to set up a bank transfer via the internet, you should keep the following in mind.

The pros of bank transfer are:

  • No need to join a physical line
  • Online transaction records can be checked
  • Automatic monthly deductions can be arranged

But there are some hurdles to the process:

  • Ability to read Japanese required, except in the case of Shinsei Bank which has an English site
  • Entering the billing information can be a hassle
  • Most banks charge a transaction fee, and if you enter the information wrong the transaction fee is still charged though the transaction doesn't go through

Taking the bill directly to your nearest bank branch or ATM is another way to do a bank transfer. Again ability to read Japanese is required and a processing fee is levied.

Automatic Withdrawal

The question of how to pay bills in Japan isn't always simply a matter of pure convenience, but also of time. 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.

The upsides:

  • Hassle-free monthly payments
  • Punctual payment guaranteed
  • Utility company will send you notice of receipt each month

But on the flipside:

  • Physical application required
  • Application takes around a month to process
  • Other payment method has to be arranged in the meantime

At the Company Office or Store

As last resort, especially in the event that you happen to miss a month, one way of paying bills in Japan is to go directly to the customer service center or store of the company that issued a given one and pay there.

The pros:

  • Only option if your account is in arrears and bill cannot be read at convenience stores or ATMs
  • Possible for mobile phone bills as there are many physical stores

The cons:

  • Time consuming as you have to go to the company's customer center during office hours
  • Usually only cash accepted

How to Read a Japanese Bill

image

You could learn each and every kanji character on the Japanese bills you receive, but why not keep it simple? Most of the time, paying bills in Japan is simply a matter of handing the appropriate one to the clerk without saying a word, much less reading one! They will simply scan the barcode, stamp the bill right inside the circle, and give you a copy of the receipt along with a separate conbini one.

If you're concerned about making the wrong payment, have no fear: The amount due is always listed on the bill in an easy-to-see location. While there are several ways to denote monetary amounts depending on the situation, the easiest thing is just to look for this symbol: 金 (kane, kin) which means "gold" or "money." The amount shown may not always be indicated as yen (¥), but rest assured you're probably not paying thousands of dollars in utilities per month—for example, the amount above comes to about $140 US dollars.

Handling Overdue Payments

Especially if you have an overdue payment, there are cases where you have to mail in a given bill yourself. Especially if you have an overdue payment, the company will usually send a new notice the size of a postcard with a new barcode that you pay with. In lieu of mailing it, you may have to go to the bank and take care of it there, as conbini usually don't handle past-due bills unless they're credit cards like Rakuten or other companies.

It's not How to Pay Bills in Japan, But Where

There's no magic to the question of how to pay bills in Japan—with so many places to do it so conveniently, you should feel free to mix and match. You may find utility bills are best paid at the combini, while you can arrange for your handphone bills to be charged to your credit card. Online bank transfers may be the best way to pay your credit card bills if it is a substantial sum and you don't want to handle large sums of cash. Use whichever method you find most convenient and that will allow you to pay your bills on time!

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