Japan Boosts Credit Card Use with Smartphone Swipes

Japanese businesses are boosting credit card payments by using smartphones as readers so cards can be swiped on the spot at hotels, stores and even outdoor events.

Surprisingly, Japan has been a laggard in credit card payments which account for only about 15% of domestic transactions. By comparison credit cards are used for payments for over 50% of transactions in S. Korea.

But new smartphone-based credit-card readers are making it easier and more convenient for everyone from hotel guests to shoppers to those attending outdoor fairs to pay with credit cards without lining up in front of a cashier.

In April Mitsubishi UFJ NICOS introduced a system at six Tokyu Hotels that lets staffers carrying Apple iPhones scan customer credit cards at any location throughout hotel grounds. This saves the customers from having to line up at the front desk. They are given printed receipts using portable printers and the card information disappears from the iPhone itself once the encrypted transaction data has been sent. In addition to their use at the hotels’ banquet halls and beauty salons, Tokyu Hotels plans to introduce the service at its restaurants so diners can pay at tables.

NTT DATA Corp. developed an integrated card reader and invoice printer and launched its smartphone credit card payment service in June. Its system sends credit card data wirelessly to the smartphone. The tranaction is completed when the payment amount is input into the phone. Beginning in July the service has been used by major delivery firms for COD transactions and by sales clerks at electronics stores.

The smartphone card-reading system costs only about half of the 100,000 yen ($1,240) charged for conventional cash registers with credit-card readers. The added bonus of using the smartphone system is the ability of retail clerks to check inventory on the spot. It also enables some efficient sales management functions that would normally be more cumbersome and time-consuming.