Welcome to Japan, do you have a T …
If you’ve been in Japan longer than 24 hours, chances are you’ve already been asked by one cashier or another if you have a T-point card. So, what’s the deal with this card?
The T-point card is just a typical loyalty point card, with a system and rewards program probably very similar to your own country. When you buy things you automatically receive points and you can then use those points towards future purchases. It’s pretty straightforward. The thing about Japan is that every man and his dog that runs a shop also have their own point card system. Hence the reason why you see so many Japanese people with wallets thick enough to cause a hernia, and also the simple fact as to why I don’t bother with point cards unless they have a digital version.
The Benefits of T-Points
However, the mighty T-point card is a little different from the rest. Unlike the growing mountain of other loyalty card programmes, a number of different shops and businesses support the T-point card system. Namely, well-known stores such as Tsutaya (why else did you think it was called a “T” point card?), Family Mart (convenience store), Yahoo Japan, Maruetsu (supermarket), Doutor (coffee shop), Excelsior Caffé, a whole list of family restaurants, Demae-kan. Tabe-log (restaurant guide/reservation site), and so on. For an up-to-date list take a squiz at this website (in Japanese).
If you click a company’s name from the link above, it will even tell you how many points you can accumulate or redeem. For example, here is a screenshot of Family Mart, showing that for every 200 yen you spend you’ll get 1 T-point, and for every 1 T-point you use you’ll receive a credit at the shop of 1 yen. It might not seem like much at the start, but as long as you remember to use it at every eligible store, you will be up to your ears in points in no time.
Shops with wider margins, or those trying hard to attract customers, may offer bonus points to lure customers. Doutor, for example, gives you 1 point per 100 yen used (double that of Family Mart). Most shops also have special days where you earn more points. Maruetsu, as another example, gives you a percentage of your checkout total as points, and also a “per day” shopping bonus for just buying something. Checking out what shops you can add to your daily routine can really build up over the long term.
“So, where can I sign up?”
Ahh, that’s where the T-point system is still so deliciously Japanese. You need to get yourself down to a bricks & mortar shop to actually make a physical card! The easiest ones will be:
Tsutaya (from memory there may be a minimal sign-up fee, but with a free DVD rental ticket in return), or
Family Mart (there is often a stack of cards at the register, but if not just ask for one).
However, a number of other services are now tacking T-point card number onto their existing cards (you can spot them easily enough by the clear yellow “T” logo on the front of the card). These are often credit cards but some shops (even one library) offer non-credit type T-point cards of some shape or form. Unless you already have one though, the easiest way will always be just popping into your local Tsutaya/Family-Mart and registering over the counter. For those of you who struggle with the local language, “T-pointo ka-do wo tsukuritai desu” should do the trick.
Pro-tips (T-point card hacks):
- Get the smartphone app – Download the app to track your points balance both received and redeemed (note that you need to be a Yahoo Japan user to be able to verify your card for this. Verification is good though – otherwise I could easily check up on where you’ve been shopping).
- Register your T-point card at Softbank (only if Softbank is your mobile provider of course) – They’re not overly generous with points, but think of it as a little bit of extra discount on your eye-wateringly priced mobile bill.
- Get a credit card based T-point card – Another excellent way to passively earn T-points by just shopping and paying your card off each month. One such example is the Famima (Family Mart) T card, which lets you earn points on all sorts of items. Just be aware that not all shopping will earn you points, but there will be enough to accumulate a balance of points each month.
- If you often order delivery food, register with Demae-kan – They will actually give you a T-point number if you don’t have one but you won’t be able to get a physical card from their site. We’ll show you how to register and use Demae-kan in an upcoming article, and if you register your T-point card you’ll be able to receive and redeem points with each order.
If you have any other T-point tips or tricks we’d love to hear! Please comment below or send us a message.