Debit cards make Japanese debut

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TOKYO--Japanese consumers kicked off the new year with a new way to pay for purchases as debit cards made their debut in the country.

Seven financial institutions and the postal savings systems are offering consumers the ability to make payments with their ATM (automated teller) cards when purchasing goods and services. The seven financial institutions are Fuji Bank, Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, Sanwa Bank, Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank, Towa Bank, Tokyo Sowa Bank and Johnan Shinkin Bank. The cashless shopping concept via debit cards is backed by Japan's Post and Telecommunications Ministry.

Currently, about 10,000 retail outlets run by eight companies allow consumers to use ATM cards for purchases. The number of companies participating in the debit card system is expected to grow to 112 in November with the number of sales outlets growing to 120,000.

The debit card system works by allowing consumers to use ATM cards to make purchases. After the card is swiped in a computerized payment machine and the card holder enters his or her personal identification number (PIN), money is automatically deducted from the savings account without a transaction fee being charged.

ATM cards from overseas banks cannot be used as debit cards in Japan.

Copyright January 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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