Spend long enough in Japan and you may witness your wallet transform into a veritable library of point cards. From your local cafe or supermarket to your favorite hair salon or English pub, loyalty programs are a staple of Japanese retail. In fact, the loyalty point love is so strong in Japan that there is a word for the very act of point hunting: poi-katsu.
Towering over Japan’s vast landscape of loyalty schemes is the Rakuten Points program. Rakuten’s loyalty offering has been consistently voted consumers’ favorite*, in part thanks to the sheer freedom granted to shoppers in spending their points. The strength and versatility of the Rakuten Ecosystem sets Rakuten apart from other service providers. And with such a wide variety of services on offer, the Rakuten Points program is essential to keeping them all unified and incentivizing customers to use as many of those services as they can.
Now, spending points is all well and good, but for poi-katsu pros, earning is the name of the game. Thankfully this is another area where Rakuten’s program excels, having issued over 2.5 trillion points (equivalent to 2.5 trillion yen, or around $22 billion USD) as of summer 2021.
Regular usage of services like Rakuten Travel or Rakuten Card will net users a consistent stream of rewards, but if you’re a budding poi-katsu enthusiast, you might find yourself interested in some of the more unexpected ways to hunt down those extra points.
Simulate investing — but with points
Starting in 2018, Rakuten members have been able to invest Rakuten Points. The service offers users a low-risk “mock investing experience” without needing to sign up for a formal securities account. Users need only choose between a “balanced” or “active” course and allocate however many points they wish to invest.
Of course, whether you earn points depends entirely on the performance of the stock market, but the initiative is clearly popular: Since launch, it has attracted over six million point aficionados — more than half aged 30 or younger.
Wander into a store
Rakuten Check is an app that rewards users for visiting physical stores and checking in. For shoppers, the service is a great place to discover new locations around the neighborhood, while stores can use the app as a marketing tool to encourage more foot traffic.
Shoppers can, of course, check in and receive points for visiting stores they were planning to visit anyway — most of Japan’s major convenience stores and many other large franchises are already registered to the platform.
Go for a stroll (if you’re 65 or above)
This one is geared more towards Japan’s senior citizens: The folks behind Rakuten Senior are using point incentives to help combat elderly isolation by improving senior IT literacy and encouraging community interaction through local workshops and fitness classes. The app also serves as a pedometer, rewarding users with Rakuten Points for reaching their daily 4,000 steps goal and stopping by participating check-in facilities.
Answer a few questions
Over two million Rakuten members are signed up to consumer research unit Rakuten Insight. The service offers regular surveys on a broad range of topics from shoppers’ attitudes towards sustainability or lifestyle changes during the pandemic, to specific questions about a certain company’s products. Point hunters need only answer a few easy questions to add to their mountain of treasure.
Hunt for bargains with your receipt
The Japanese onomatopoeia pasha! denotes the sound of a camera shutter — very fitting for bargain-hunting app Rakuten Pasha. The service’s basic function is very simple: Shoppers can earn Rakuten Points just by taking a photo of a receipt from a retail purchase. Eager point hunters can earn even more points by getting a special Tokudane coupon prior to purchase.
The app works with products from all of Japan’s major supermarkets and convenience stores, as well as from thousands of other locations. At the same time, it differs from services like Rakuten Check, Rakuten Pay and Rakuten Point Card in that individual point amounts earned (even particularly generous ones) can be applied regardless of where the purchase was made, what type of payment was used, and whether or not Rakuten Point Card was involved.
Rack up some serious points on Rakuten Ichiba
One point for every 100 yen spent on Rakuten Ichiba — this maxim has served as the foundation of Rakuten’s loyalty program since its very inception. But in recent years, the poi-katsu potential of Rakuten’s e-commerce platform has exploded, thanks in part to the beloved Super Point Up (SPU) program.
SPU lets shoppers use a number of other Rakuten services such as Rakuten Card, Rakuten Bank and Rakuten Mobile to multiply their Rakuten Ichiba point discount rate up to 15 times, with each additional service used adding to the tally. During site-wide events and promotions, rates can exceed 45 points per 100 yen — a discount that applies to all 300 million+ items available on the platform.
Most of the services taking part in the SPU program also run their own point incentives separate from Rakuten Ichiba. For Japan’s diehard point aficionados, Rakuten’s SPU program may well be the Holy Grail of poi-katsu.
*Rakuten Points loyalty program named number one loyalty points program in Japan in overall customer satisfaction. Source: “Survey on Points Systems.” Valid responses: 1,000. Online survey conducted by MyVoice Communications, Inc. in October 2021.