Acquiring an Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) card in Japan is essential for foreigners who plan to drive on expressways frequently. ETC cards offer a cashless payment method for tolls, enabling faster travel through expressways, especially with dedicated ETC lanes. They also provide discounts like the Late Night discount on certain highways between midnight and 4:00 a.m. and the Holiday discount active during weekends and holidays.
As a foreigner in Japan, you have three main avenues to obtain an ETC card, provided you have a valid Japanese driver’s license and potentially need to be registered as a user of the vehicle:
Credit Card Companies
You can get an ETC card through credit card companies like Orico, JCB, Rakuten, Saison, EPOS, Amazon Mastercard, and SMBC Prestia. However, dealing with Japanese bank bureaucracy can be challenging due to complex rules and long processing times. Banks like Japan Post Bank, Seven Bank, and Shinsei Bank are more foreigner-friendly. A certificate of employment might be required for opening a bank account.
If you plan to use a credit card company for your ETC card, you may have to deal with the bureaucracy of Japanese banks. This can be a challenging experience, especially if you have already applied for a bank account or credit card. The rules are complex, processing times are long, and there are numerous fees that you need to avoid. Therefore, choosing a bank that caters to foreigners is advisable instead of a local bank. Your top choices are:
Japan ETC Card Website
This service, dedicated to helping foreigners obtain ETC cards, offers online applications in English with customer support in both English and Japanese. A 40,000 yen security deposit is required as the card functions on a credit line, with toll payments billed two months later. Documentation for vehicle registration is necessary. The card can be shipped or picked up at the Yokosuka ETC office and quickly canceled online without needing to return it.
After submitting the form and user agreement, you must provide documentation to register the ETC for your vehicle. You have three options to do this. The easiest option is to upload the documents directly to the form. Alternatively, you can scan or take a photo of the documents and email them to email@example.com. The final option is to bring your documents to the Yokosuka ETC office.
Personal Card Applications
This involves applying in person at expressway service areas or calling the ETC Personal Card Issuing Office. Japanese language skills are essential for this method. Proof of residence and a deposit (minimum of 40,000 yen) are required. You have two options if you want to apply for a personal card for the expressways. The first option is to apply in person by visiting an information or concierge desk at any expressway service area. However, remember that you must pass through a toll to reach these service areas. Before making the trip, check that the service area will be open. Most service areas operate between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., seven days a week.
The second option is to apply without leaving your home. You can do this by calling the ETC Personal Card Issuing Office at 044-870-7333 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. Alternatively, you can visit their website, but you will need browser translations or Japanese skills to navigate it.
To use the ETC card, your car must be equipped with an in-vehicle ETC device, available at car accessory stores and auto shops. The card should be inserted at the start of the journey for safety reasons and removed when leaving the car. Some rental cars come with ETC devices, but usually not with the card, which you may need to purchase or rent separately.
In summary, while obtaining an ETC card in Japan can be a bit complex for foreigners, understanding these options and preparing the necessary documents can simplify the process, making your driving experience in Japan more convenient, cost-effective, and fun.