Messaging app Line launches its own debit card

By Peter Rothenberg for techinAsia

Messaging app Line said yesterday it will launch a prepaid card – called Line Pay Card – for shoppers. The announcement was made by director Jun Masuda onstage at the Japan-based company’s Line Conference Tokyo 2016 event.

The Line Pay Card, made for Line’s 68 million Japanese users, is launched in partnership with credit card company JCB. JCB’s affiliation with American Express lets people use the card at 20 million merchant locations abroad in addition to about 9.6 million spots in Japan.

Messaging app Line launches its own debit card

The card will start with four designs, some featuring Line’s well-known characters. Image credit: Line.

The prepaid card ties into the Line Pay app for online and in-store payments using a smartphone, at selected locations. Line Pay first launched at the end of 2014 as a standalone mobile app.

Credit cards are under-used

Japan’s average credit card holder has more than three cards, with 86.8 percent of the eligible population owning at least one card, according to a survey by JCB. But among the nation’s twenty-somethings who are more than a quarter of Line’s users, credit card ownership is a lot lower. Only 73.8 percent of men and 79.3 percent of women aged 20 to 29 have cards.

Jun Masuda of Line announcing Line Pay Card at Line Conference Tokyo 2016.

Jun Masuda of Line announcing Line Pay Card. Photo credit: author

While so many people in Japan have credit cards, they’re not actually used all that often. A recent study by FairCard shows that credit and debit cards are still only used for 18 percent of purchases in Japan compared to 54 percent in America and 58 percent in neighboring South Korea. Line may be hoping to fill that gap.

The card will be linked to a new rewards service called Line Points.

Unlike credit cards, Line Pay Card will not involve any credit screening process or age restrictions. Users can apply for a card from within the Line Pay app.

Line chief strategist and marketing officer Jun Masuda says that you will be able to add money to your card online and receive details about your transactions via Line. Users will also be able to top-up the card offline through the convenient store chain Lawson starting in June.

The Line Pay Card will be linked to a new rewards service called Line Points, which was also announced at the event. Users will earn two percent of cash value in points for every purchase made. The current Line Free Coins reward program used in the messaging app will be merged with Line Points.

One point will be equivalent to one Japanese yen (slightly less than one cent). Starting in late April, users can earn more points for viewing advertisements or using other Line services such as the Line Mobile internet service that was also revealed yesterday at the event.

In addition to being able to purchase things with points through the Line Store, someone with over 1,000 points will be able to move those points to their Line Pay Card – essentially converting the points into cash.

The article first appeared in TechinAsia