We don't use cash these days as much as before. The most common cashless payment method is a credit card, such as VISA and MASTER, and a debit card isn't popular in Japan. In a big city, the most prevalent one is a prepaid e-money card, such as SUICA, PASMO, ICOCA, because we use them as IC passenger cards for public transportation. If you would be working or living in a bigger city, you would be holding at least one IC passenger card when you settled. These passenger cards can be really useful for your everyday life, like using them at convenience stores as well.
Many cashless apps have emerged in recent 1 or 2 years
PayPay, LINE Pay, R Pay, au PAY, Origami Pay, FamiPay, merpay, and so on are big cashless apps in Japan, currently. They have been competing to be de facto standard in Japan, so every one of them has planed huge cashback campaigns to acquire new customers. Yes, I like it. But I actually got the weird feeling with these cashback campaigns of cashless apps. The reasons are: it is simply too much and the cashback rule doesn't feel right.
For example, au PAY has been doing 20% point back campaigns for every purchase. This company has prepared about 10 million dollars to fund this campaign for 1 week, and has been continuing this every week past few months with the aim that the benefits to be shared by new users thinly and broadly. At the beginning of this campaign, partial users could get benefits. They bought many stamps at the post office. Why stamps? Some say in internet, the stamps can be sold to a ticket broker who buys them at 90-95% rate of the original price. Which means, people who bought a bunch of stamps using au PAY could sell them to the broker, and gained 15% of profits! Personally I am not certain if this was the true or not, but au PAY excluded the use of the post office from their campaign.
Cashless app vs Prepaid e-money card
A smartphone is essential to use cashless apps. Which means, you can't use the apps if your device runs out of battery charge or has trouble connecting internet. I have experiences with both cases. On top of that, I have to search and launch them and show my barcode to a cashier in order to make a payment. I don't get familiar with this entire operation. Especially, when you are lining up for the cashier with hands full of goods to buy, this could be the tough to do instantly. On the other hand, prepaid e-money cards don't require smartphone, internet, and the vexing operation. I have no trouble using it.
What is a merit of the cashless apps? The point back ratio is a little bit higher than the prepaid e-money card. And attempting coupons, I think.
It's said that the surface of the cash is dirty. Have you heard some senior count cash using their licked fingers in Japan? I dare not to touch cash under current Coronavirus spreading situation if I have an alternative measure. I don't know whether currency plays a role in spreading the virus but most people feel uncomfortable to touch cash, I guess. In other words, I believe, COVID-19 will stimulate society to be cashless.