A shopper uses an Edy card to make a purchase at a convenience store.

A shopper uses an Edy card to make a purchase at a convenience store. (Photo courtesy of BitWallet)

TOKYO — Sick of carrying coins or mixing up yen at the register?

Prepaid electronic money cards may save you the headaches.

Sony Corp. subsidiary BitWallet unveiled Edy e-money cards in November 2001, and they are catching on.

More than 2.7 million cards were in circulation by the end of August, and more than 2,700 restaurants and stores accept them.

“When you travel overseas, the coins can become confusing,” said Tomohiko Yamasaki with BitWallet’s Business Planning Department. “But with the card, there is no need to carry coins.”

Edy cards — similar to prepaid telephone and debit cards — can be purchased at am/pm convenience stores near military bases and in other locations for 315 yen, or about $2.80, plus the initial prepayment establishing value.

Edy cards have an embedded contact-free computer chip containing basic prepayment and balance information.

“Charged” amounts are deducted from the card value, Yamasaki said. Remaining value can be checked at the register and printed on receipts.

When a card is low, a user can simply “recharge” it by making a prepayment, he said.

The maximum per prepayment amount is 25,000 yen, or about $224. But Edy card values can be charged up to 50,000 yen, or about $448.

Prepayments can be made at participating businesses and Edy charging machines.

There are no fees when adding value or making purchases with the card.

Edy cards can be used at all am/pm convenience stores as well as at many other businesses in the redeveloped Shinagawa and Shiodome areas of Tokyo, Yamasaki said.

They also can be used at All Nippon Airways’ souvenir shops, ANA FESTA, at airports and selected PRONTO coffee shops.

Businesses accepting the card will display the Edy symbol — three ovals with different shades of blue and the word “Edy” underneath them.

author picture
Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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