Business / Economy

Japan plans supplementary funding as cashless payment reward program takes off

JIJI

The government is considering additional funding of more than ¥100 billion ($920 million) in the supplementary budget to finance a popular rewards program for shoppers making cashless payments, Jiji Press has learned.

The program was launched last month to cushion the impact of the Oct. 1 consumption tax hike from 8 to 10 percent and has been used more widely than initially expected, sources said Friday.

The supplementary budget for the fiscal year ending in March is slated to be drawn up late next month. A plan to consider earmarking the additional funds will be included in an economic stimulus package to be compiled by the government shortly, the sources said.

Under the state-funded program, consumers receive points worth up to 5 percent of the value of purchases made with cashless payment methods at smaller shops.

The government provides subsidies to credit card firms and other cashless payment service operators to cover the value of the reward points. Under its fiscal 2019 initial budget, the government has earmarked a total of ¥280 billion for the program, of which some ¥180 billion is for covering reward points.

According to the industry ministry, the number of participating stores is expected to total 860,000 by Dec. 1, up from 500,000 at the beginning of the program.

The average value of reward points given per day has increased to ¥1.2 billion from ¥1 billion at the start. The amount is projected to increase further toward the year-end and New Year’s shopping season, the sources said.

Cashless payment services are less common in Japan than overseas. The government aims to promote them for the convenience of foreign tourists, whose numbers will swell during the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

At a news conference on Friday, industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said it is possible to add funds to the program, which will be in place until the end of June in the run-up to the Olympics and Paralympics.

Funding for the program from April through June is planned for the main 2020 budget.