JCB: An in-depth guide

  1. Introduction
  2. How does JCB work?
    1. JCB Standard Card
    2. JCB Gold Card
    3. JCB Platinum Card
  3. Where is JCB used?
  4. Who uses JCB?
  5. Benefits of accepting JCB
  6. JCBs security measures
  7. How to accept JCB payments
  8. Alternatives to JCB

Japan Credit Bureau (JCB) is a credit card company with headquarters in Tokyo. As Japan's first credit card issuer, JCB was founded in 1961 when the concept of credit cards was still relatively new to the country. The company has since become a prominent global payment brand, beginning its expansion in the 1980s with a series of alliances with financial institutions worldwide. JCB cards are issued in 24 countries and territories, with a major presence in Asian countries like China, South Korea and Taiwan.

In addition to issuing credit cards, JCB manages payment processing and provides merchant services, handling behind-the-scenes aspects of credit card transactions, such as authorisation, billing and settlement services. JCB is known for its wide network, encompassing 46 million businesses globally. Its reach now extends across more than 190 countries and territories.

JCB has introduced technologies such as EMV chip cards, contactless payment systems and mobile payment solutions in Japan, enabling it to grow from a domestic business into a major global payment brand.

We'll cover what businesses should know about JCB's key features, primary users and how it works.

What's in this article?

  • How does JCB work?
  • Where is JCB used?
  • Who uses JCB?
  • Benefits of accepting JCB
  • JCB's security measures
  • How to accept JCB payments
  • Alternatives to JCB

How does JCB work?

JCB operates both as a credit card issuer and as a payment network. As a payment network, JCB processes transactions by validating transaction data, checking the cardholder's available credit and authorising the payment, often within seconds. As a credit card issuer, it has three main tiers of credit card, each with varying credit limit ranges and associated perks. Individual credit limits are determined based on income, credit score, employment history and other financial indicators. Credit limits are periodically reviewed and can be adjusted if there are changes in the cardholder's financial status or credit history. JCB's three tiers of credit cards are outlined below.

During a transaction, JCB validates the transaction data, checks the cardholder's available credit and authorises the payment. This is done swiftly, often within seconds.

JCB Standard Card

The JCB Standard Card is ideal for everyday expenses, such as food shopping, eating out or small online purchases. It typically comes with a credit limit of ¥500,000 to ¥1,000,000, but this can vary based on the individual's finances. By using this card, cardholders may earn reward points on purchases that they can later redeem for various products or services. This card also sometimes grants access to discounts or special offers at partner businesses, making it an appealing option for regular shoppers.

JCB Gold Card

The JCB Gold Card is aimed at individuals with higher incomes or those who spend more on their credit cards. It generally comes with a higher credit limit than the Standard Card, accommodating bigger expenditures. The Gold Card comes with comprehensive coverage for travel-related incidents and complimentary access to JCB's partner airport lounges worldwide. The rewards programme for Gold Cards also accumulates more points per spend compared to the Standard Card.

JCB Platinum Card

JCB's Platinum Card is its top-tier card, catering to affluent clients who require premium services. These cards have the highest credit limits of JCB's three tiers, often above ¥1,000,000 and catering to large-scale spending needs. These cards come with personalised assistance for services including travel bookings, event tickets and other bespoke requests, and even more comprehensive travel coverage than the Gold Card, including higher claim limits and additional protection. Platinum Cards also typically come with privileges at high-end hotels, such as room upgrades, late check-outs and exclusive amenities.

Where is JCB used?

JCB's usage is widespread and varies by region, with a particularly strong presence in Asian markets. In regions where digital and cashless payments are on the rise, JCB's investment in technology is a competitive advantage; in more mature markets, JCB often caters strategically to specific segments to find its customer base. JCB's widespread usage reflects both its global expansion strategy and its ability to adapt to varying market conditions, consumer behaviours and regulatory environments. JCB's key markets are outlined below:

  • Japan
    JCB is extensively used across Japan, its home market. The Japanese market is characterised by high consumer trust in credit transactions and a preference for secure, technology-driven payment solutions like JCB – known for innovations in areas such as contactless payments and mobile technology.

  • China, South Korea and Taiwan
    JCB cards have gained popularity in China, South Korea and Taiwan, all of which share Japan's technological affinity and growing acceptance of credit payments.

  • South-East Asia
    In countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, JCB has tapped into the growing middle class and the cultural shift from cash to card payments. These markets are witnessing a surge in consumer spending and a government push towards a cashless society, both of which have allowed the credit card market to flourish.

  • Europe and North America
    JCB's presence in Europe and North America is notable, although not as dominant as in Asian markets. Businesses in these regions often accept JCB payments as part of a strategy to attract tourists and business travellers from Asia – a significant and growing demographic.

Who uses JCB?

JCB caters to a diverse range of users spanning different geographical regions, business sectors and customer segments, including:

  • Japanese customers
    JCB is extremely popular among Japanese residents due to its strong domestic presence. It's often the preferred choice for daily transactions like shopping, dining and travel within Japan. JCB has a range of card options tailored to the different spending habits and income levels in Japan to serve the widest possible range of domestic users.

  • Travellers in Japan
    Tourists visiting Japan often use JCB cards due to both their widespread acceptance across the country and their travel-related perks, such as access to JCB Plaza lounges and discounts at partner establishments.

  • Asia-Pacific region customers
    In countries such as China, South Korea and Thailand, JCB cards are gaining popularity and are often used for regional travel and online shopping on Japanese e-commerce sites.

  • High-net-worth customers
    JCB also serves a niche market of high-net-worth customers in Japan and some other Asian countries. Their premium cards and associated exclusive benefits are typically used by these customers for luxury purchases and elite travel experiences.

  • Online shoppers
    JCB cards are increasingly being used for e-commerce transactions both within Japan and internationally. JCB's digital security features and partnerships with major e-commerce platforms make it a convenient option for online shoppers.

  • Fintech customers
    JCB collaborates with various fintech businesses and reaches their young, tech-savvy customer base as a result, who appreciate JCB's digital payment solutions and emphasis on innovation.

  • Japanese businesses
    Large Japanese businesses often use JCB cards for corporate expenses due to their extensive local network and business-specific credit solutions. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs in Japan often use JCB due to its flexible credit options and business support services, including expense management tools and small business loans.

  • International businesses
    International businesses, especially those with a local presence or partners in Japan, often use JCB cards for cross-border transactions, trade with Japanese businesses, and business travel to Japan.

Benefits of accepting JCB

Businesses that accept JCB may see the following benefits:

  • Access to Japanese customer base
    JCB processes a large proportion of credit card transactions in Japan. JCB's brand recognition and loyal customer base make it a necessary payment option for both domestic and foreign businesses with operations in Japan. Foreign businesses in particular may find that accepting JCB helps them gain trust and increase sales in the Japanese market.

  • Access to Asian tourist market
    Businesses operating outside Japan may find that accepting JCB allows them to tap into the market of Asian tourists – especially Japanese tourists – abroad. This sector is known for its high spending power, and accepting JCB could be a particularly strategic move for luxury retailers, hotels and upscale restaurants frequently patronised by Japanese tourists.

  • Compatibility with digital payment methods
    JCB cards are compatible with a number of electronic payment methods, including QR code-based transactions and NFC (near-field communication) technology. This compatibility means that businesses can offer a range of payment options to meet customer preferences, leading to faster transaction times and improved customer experience.

  • Localised marketing support
    JCB collaborates with businesses for promotional activities timed to coincide with Japan's distinct shopping seasons and cultural events, such as New Year or Golden Week. Businesses that participate in these programmes may increase sales volume due to the higher foot traffic and spending during these periods.

  • Customer loyalty programmes
    JCB's loyalty programme is deeply ingrained in the Japanese market, and businesses that integrate the programme can attract customers committed to maximising their points. Such programmes not only attract new customers but encourage repeat patronage.

  • Local market insights
    JCB's extensive data on Japanese consumer spending patterns is valuable for both domestic and foreign businesses. This information can guide businesses in tailoring product offerings, adjusting pricing strategies and planning marketing campaigns. JCB also provides multilingual support for understanding local regulations and cultural nuances, which can be particularly beneficial for businesses unfamiliar with Asian markets.

  • Cross-border e-commerce opportunities
    Businesses that accept JCB can take advantage of its expansion in the e-commerce sector, especially in Asia. Japanese businesses that accept JCB can access the growing domestic online shopping market, and foreign businesses that accept JCB can tap into the growing base of Asian customers engaging in cross-border online shopping, distinguishing themselves from other international providers by including a trusted local payment solution, such as JCB.

  • Customised business solutions
    JCB creates customised business solutions that optimise fee structures and transaction handling processes for different market contexts. This can be particularly advantageous for small and medium-sized enterprises looking to expand their customer base.

JCB's security measures

JCB uses the following security measures to keep sensitive cardholder and business information confidential:

  • J/Secure™ authentication programme
    Since 2004, JCB has utilised its J/Secure™ programme for card-not-present (CNP) transactions. This programme enhances online commerce security by adding another step to verify identity, allowing cardholders to authenticate their card directly with the issuer.

  • J/Smart™ card
    As part of its global security initiative, JCB developed the J/Smart™ EMV-compliant card for its issuing partners worldwide. This smart card is embedded with an IC (integrated circuit) chip that provides added security and multifunctionality.

  • Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC)
    JCB founded the PCI SSC in 2006 along with other major payment brands. This council sets global standards for payment security, protection of customer information and prevention of card fraud.

  • Holographic magnetic stripe cards
    The holographic magnetic stripe card feature, introduced worldwide in 2012, combines a magnetic stripe with a hologram, enhancing the security of JCB cards and helping prevent counterfeiting.

  • Regulatory compliance
    JCB operates in compliance with all credit transaction mandates from the Japan Consumer Credit Association, including encouraging affiliated stores not to retain credit card information, implementing security against vulnerabilities and viruses, and managing device and administrator rights. JCB also acts in compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and adheres to EMV specifications – a global standard for secure payment transactions.

  • E-commerce security
    To address risks of unauthorised use in e-commerce, JCB has put in place measures including user verification protocols, such as EMV 3D Secure, security codes, fraud detection systems and verification using unauthorised recipient databases.

How to accept JCB payments

Businesses that want to accept JCB payments must meet certain requirements. JCB does not work with certain business categories, including businesses in the gambling or lottery industries or those operating pornographic or sexual chat services. The steps required to start working with JCB as a business are outlined below:

  • Choose a payment service provider (PSP)
    To accept JCB payments, businesses must partner with a PSP that supports JCB transactions. Mastercard and Visa have a wider range of PSP options than JCB, but PSPs that support JCB payments include AllSecure, Elavon Europe, Adyen, Unlimint, Mangopay, Stripe, Alto Global Processing and These providers manage online payment processing, fraud prevention and integration with e-commerce platforms.

  • Integrate JCB as a payment option
    Businesses must integrate JCB as a payment option online, setting up a payment gateway that supports JCB transactions on their e-commerce platform. This allows the business's system to communicate with JCB for authorisation and payment processing during the online checkout process. On the customer side, checking out with JCB is identical to checking out with other credit cards online and requires the person to enter card details, such as the card number, expiry date and CAV2 (JCB's version of a security code).

  • Ensure security compliance
    Businesses working with JCB must comply with standard security measures. Their obligations include using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and proper firewalls. JCB transactions are further secured by JCB's J/Secure™ authentication programme, which adds an extra layer of identification and is especially useful for card-not-present transactions.

Alternatives to JCB

Businesses that accept JCB can choose from several alternative payment methods. The key features of JCB's main competitors are outlined below:

  • Visa
    Visa is one of the largest and most widespread payment technology companies. Visa has a range of credit, debit and prepaid cards and is known for its extensive network and global acceptance. Its reach and strong brand reputation make it a major competitor to JCB, especially in international markets.

  • Mastercard
    Similar to Visa, Mastercard is a widely recognised global payment processing network. It provides various products, such as credit, debit and prepaid cards, and is known for its innovative payment solutions. Mastercard presents a similar market threat to JCB as Visa.

  • American Express
    American Express is another major player in the credit card industry that differs slightly from Visa and Mastercard in issuing its own cards. American Express is particularly known for its premium services and customer loyalty programmes and competes with JCB in higher-end market segments.

  • Discover Financial Services
    Although Discover Financial Service is more US-centric, it also has competing credit card services and operates the Discover and Pulse networks. It's known for its customer-friendly policies, such as no annual fees and cashback rewards, and is stiff competition to JCB in markets where both are present.

  • China UnionPay
    UnionPay is a major competitor to JCB in Asia – particularly in China. UnionPay is the only domestic bank card organisation in China and is used extensively in the Asian market.

  • PayPal
    PayPal is primarily an online payment system, but it also has credit products and competes with traditional credit card companies like JCB in the digital payment space. It's especially popular for online transactions and has a broad global user base.

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