Most of my Instagram Stories about food feature me and my girl at Kurazushi, Mister Donuts (and even McDonalds), all courtesy of my Rakuten points. Other Stories feature shopping hauls done on double or triple point days.
So, what’s up with the point programs in Japan and how do I get all those points? This is how I earn points in Japan like a boss.
Start With Your Mobile Phone/Data Provider
Don’t know where to start when it comes to points in Japan? If you have a mobile phone or use an internet provider here, you might already have a stockpile of points!
Y Mobile and Softbank users earn T-points; Docomo users earn D points; AU users earn AU Wallet points; Rakuten Mobile users earn Rakuten points.
As a long-term Softbank user, I get 500 T-Points credited to my balance every month, in addition to 20 points for every 1,000 yen on my bill. They’re valid for only one month and I can’t use them in brick and mortar stores like Family Mart.
But, I can use them online, where I always buy a face masks or cleansing sheets on Yahoo Shopping. Additionally, as a Softbank user I automatically earn 10x bonus points when use Yahoo Shopping. So when I can’t find something on Rakuten, Yahoo is the next place I look. And Amazon?
Choose Your Point Cards Wisely
The next step to this addictive, but money-saving hobby is easy– get a point card. But, not just any old point card. You’re in this game to maximize the points earned so you can reap the benefits before your points sit idly in your wallet and expire.
Randomly collecting point cards for any and every shop you enter is actually a disservice to you. You only want point cards for places that you frequent.
I “only” have 7 point cards: Rakuten, Lawson, T-Point, Starbucks, JRE, Little Mermaid (a bakery), ANA Mileage Card, and one for my neighborhood supermarket. That may seem like a lot, but I make sure that I only frequent establishments where I can earn points.
(Update: I got a Plaza card so I can get a few cosmetics when it’s double point day at the train stations. It’s a last-minute resort because they do have a Rakuten shop, but don’t offer free shipping)
Take time to think about your daily/weekly routine and observe the shops on your commute – what convenience stores/supermarkets/coffee shops do you visit most? Those are the places where you need to make a point card.
Apps Are Your Friend
If there’s too much plastic in your wallet, consider downloading the corresponding app which will eliminate clutter and time wasted fumbling around for your point card– or worse, realizing that you left it at home.
Sometimes there are special bonus point/rewards for app users. I’ve even gotten coupons from Rakuten for free doughnuts from Mister Doughnut!
Another option is to add a retailer in your Line contacts in order to get earn bonus points. ANA, Softbank, Rakuten, and Domino’s Pizza are just a few of my Line friends (and you’d better believe that I turn on notifications!).
Think Before You Shop
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I do a majority of my personal/household/baby shopping on Rakuten, and I only shop on specific days: during the Rakuten shopping marathons (where bonus points increase when you shop at multiple stores within a given time frame) or during bonus days for credit card holders.
If I see something at a train station shopping mall, I wait until it’s double point day. Likewise, I try to shop at my neighborhood supermarket on Fridays as it’s triple point day.
Sign Up For Newsletters
I actually check my junk mail folder daily because I’m always on the lookout for deals. Judging by my Insta Stories, it may look like I go to Starbucks a lot, but the truth is I don’t even drink coffee. I just want to know when the seasonal drinks are coming out— and when I can earn bonus stars with the purchase of certain food/drinks.They also have seasonal BOGO coupons!
Online merchants like Rakuten and Yahoo also send emails where you click on a link or fill out short surveys to earn points. It may be “just” one or two points, but they certainly add up!
Learn The Basic Vocabulary
When it comes to points and reading newsletters/in-store ads, all you really need to know are how many points (pointo | ポイント) and earning ratio per 100/200 yen (bai | 倍).
Add in the kanji for the days of the week and you’re set: 月 (getsu | Mon); 火 (ka | Tues); 水 (sui | Wed); 木 (moku | Thur); 金 (kin | Fri) ; 土 (do | Sat); 日 (nichi | Sun).
You’ll also want to to look out for points that are valid for specific time frame (期間限定 | kikan gentei). Be sure to note when your points expire! (有効期限| yuukou kigen). You wouldn’t want all your hard work going to waste!
When you’re ready to pay with your points, say “Pointo barai de (ポイント払いで).” If you want to hold on them just a bit longer, say “Pointo wo tamarimasu” (ポイントを貯まります).
And, if you’ve forgotten your point card and are hoping that you can get the points added to your account later, ask, “Pointo no ato tsuke wa dekimasu ka? (ポイントの後付はできますか). Hopefully your answer will be, “Honjitsu chuu de areba dekimasu (本日中であればできます. | As long as you come back before we close)!
Open An Account With A Portal Site
Once you’ve mastered the basics of earning points, take it to the next level by opening an account with a portal site. Points are earned when you shop online after clicking on the site’s affiliate link. You can also earn point through surveys and games, too.
You’ll need to know how to navigate the pages in Japanese if you want to use some of the advanced functions, but portal sites are a great way to earn points if you shop online.
I then transfer the accumulated points to a PEX account in increments of 3,000 (3,000 EC Navi points = 3,000 PEX points).
Those PEX points are then recycled into Rakuten Super Points (1,000 PEX points = 100 Rakuten Super Points). And, those Rakuten Super Points are the reason why my girl and I are always at Kurazushi!
PEX points can also be exchanged for Amazon Japan gift cards, Google Play and App Store credits, convenience store points, airline miles and even cash wired to your bank account!
Getting credit here as a foreign resident is tough, but once you’re in, it becomes much easier to earn points. Japanese companies typically reimburse workers for transportation so consider getting a Sucia/Pasmo credit card to use for buying commuter passes and shopping in/around train stations.
I’m a reformed riku maira- (陸マイラー), the Japanese term for a person who earns airline miles not by flying, but on land through shopping and other daily activities. I wouldn’t go anywhere nor would I buy anything without consulting the long list of physical/virtual places where I could earn bonus ANA miles or credit card points that could be converted to miles.
With my work schedule, it’s easier for me to shop online. I’ve been a Rakuten member since my exchange student days and it saves me so much time if I plan ahead and buy diapers/wipes and household goods there. With a Rakuten credit card I earn 5x points when I shop on any day that ends with a 5 or 0!
Combine that with a shopping marathon and one month later I’ve got a balance of 3,000+ yen that I use for sushi dinners, pizza nights, doughnuts, and more online shopping. It’s a wonderful cycle that keeps giving!
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Points Are Everywhere!
Point cards are more than just cards that you scan when you checkout. Wear heels or business shoes often? Get a Mister Minit stamp card. They’re often found in train stations so you can earn shopping mall points along with saving up for a discount coupon.
Buy diapers? You might be in luck. Pampers, Merries, Goon, and Genki diapers all have point programs. Sign up online at the respective websites to earn points every time you buy diapers. Points can be redeemed for toys, educational goods, or gift certificates. You can even use points to enter monthly lotteries for home appliances or other prizes.
I buy Pampers and there’s a rectangular sticker inside the top portion of the package with a code. Each code is worth a certain amount of points, depending on the diaper package. So far I’ve used my Pampers points for printing photos, but last week I finally had enough to redeem for a diaper disposal pail.
This is just a really brief look at the ways I earn points, but are you ready to start your journey of collecting points in Japan?