My Number reward program gets off to a slow start in Japan

A government reward point program for holders of the My Number social security and taxation identification card started on Tuesday, attracting less than 10 percent of the expected number of applications so far. The program was launched to mitigate the negative effects of last year’s consumption tax hike and speed […]

A government reward point program for holders of the My Number social security and taxation identification card started on Tuesday, attracting less than 10 percent of the expected number of applications so far.

The program was launched to mitigate the negative effects of last year’s consumption tax hike and speed up the spread of cashless payments. But critics doubt whether it will push up consumption as hoped by the government.

The program remains unpopular partly because some major credit card companies have not joined the program, in contrast to active participation by cashless payment services, including smartphone settlement and electronic money businesses.

Users of the program need to select one participating company before receiving reward points.

The program will provide points worth 25 percent of the value of cashless shopping or charges, with the ceiling set at ¥5,000 per person.

Participating cashless payment service providers and credit card businesses offer additional points worth some ¥1,000 to ¥2,000 at their expense in a bid to win new customers.

Cashless payment services joining the program include PayPay, operated by an affiliate of Softbank Group Corp., and Waon of the Aeon Co. retail group.

“Cashless payments go well with the reward points program as most of them are small-lot payments,” an official of a major telecommunications company said.

In the credit card industry, Sumitomo Mitsui Card Co. and some others participate while many others, including JCB Co. and Mitsubishi UFJ Nicos Co., do not.

“The 5,000-yen reward points are unlikely to trigger a rise in the number of credit cards issued,” an official of a major credit card company said.

The government has secured enough fiscal funds to provide reward points to 40 million people. But only 3.77 million applications had been made as of Sunday since the internal affairs ministry started accepting them in July.

“The program is unlikely to generate an economic effect as expected,” NLI Research Institute analyst Yuki Fukumoto said.

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