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When I gocto a shop in Japan, whenever I pay for something with a credit card, I am always asked if I want to charge my purchase more than one. My Japanese isn't very good, so I may be misunderstanding what is being asked, but what is the reason for this?

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Qualifier: I live in Japan and have several Japanese credit cards.

The "ee-kai?" (one time) question you get asked at the register is how many payments you want to make. One, two, five and so on. There is also "bonus-kai" which will match your payment due date to the semi-annual bonuses paid by many large Japanese companies.

Credit cards in Japan are more like charge cards as the balance is due in full each month. Thus you have to decide the number of payments at the time of purchase. You can't change it later.

Also oddly, a 2-time payment or bonus-time payment choice usually doesn't charge interest. So you get an up-to-6 months interest-free loan out of it.

  • There is also a "revolving" option, which is similar to cards in the U.S. in that a specified amount each month is paid against the balance of all charges. And, card companies have realized there's more profit this way, so they will allow you to change a n-kai payment schedule to "revolving". One card is even "kind enough" to send me an email each month to remind me that the deadline to make such a change is approaching. – Kent Jul 9 '16 at 11:37
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    I was a bit confused by your "ee-kai"... Properly romanized it's ikkai (いっかい、一回); roughly pronounced as you'd read "ee-kai" as an English speaker. — ええかい eekai would be very colloquially something like "'s alright, bro?" ;-) – deceze Jul 9 '16 at 14:54
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    @deceze For those unfamiliar with Hepburn romanization, "ee-kai" will have more reliable results. "ikkai" could be read a "eye-kai". Also, in this situation the phrase will be heard far more often than spoken. I live in Japan and can write it in kanji, but one should always write for the audience, not the speaker. – peter Jul 10 '16 at 0:45
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Japanese credit cards usually allow you to pay for purchases in two monthly installments, at no extra cost. If you want to do this, you must mention it at the time of purchase, which is why many shop clerks will ask (lest you forget). I do not know what happens if you try to do this while your (presumably foreign) card does not allow it.

  • I am familiar with a similar facility in South Africa where you have the option to have the charge in one 'straight' transaction or to 'budget' it over a number of automatic monthly transactions. There's usually even a separate credit limit for 'straight' vs 'budget' transactions. – brhans Jul 7 '16 at 13:12
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    Yes in Japan too you can have more than two installments, but then you must pay interest. – fkraiem Jul 7 '16 at 13:13

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