In the UK JCB means one thing to most people, giant dumper trucks and heavy machinery. However, in large parts of the world (especially Asia), JCB, the Japan Credit Bureau, is synonymous with card payments. You may have even noticed their branding in UK shops, alongside American Express, Diners, MasterCard & Visa.
History of JCB
JCB was founded in Tokyo in 1961, the same year as its main domestic competitor, Osaka Credit Bureau. Two months later JCB launched the first credit card in Japan (two years after BankAmericard, the first modern credit card launched in the USA), and within seven years JCB had acquired the Osaka Credit Bureau, to become the dominant Japanese payment processor.
The launch of Japan's first reward credit card, combined with the rapid post-war growth of the Japanese economy, fuelled JCB's expansion. However, whilst it dominated its domestic market, it was not until the early 1980's that JCB struck out internationally.
As the new-found wealth of the Japanese middle-class fed a desire for global travel, JCB (unlike domestic competitors who forged alliances with US payment processors) started the process of establishing international partnerships with merchants which enabled existing cardholders to use their cards overseas. Starting in Hong Kong in 1981, and following into the US in the same year, JCB focused on the destinations preferred by Japanese tourists.
Alongside their merchant relationships, JCB also forged licencing agreements with international banks, and in 1984 the first JCB card issued outside of Japan launched in Hong Kong.
From the mid to late 1980's JCB established international offices in Europe (London) and US (Los Angeles), starting a card with their first US partner bank in 1989. In the following years, JCB cards were issued in Australia, Germany, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and the UK.
The expansion continued, and JCB cards are now issued in over 20 countries and can be used for payment in nearly 200 countries. Much of the increased acceptance of JCB was the result of a deal they struck with Discover in the mid-2000's, which enabled cards to be used reciprocally wherever one or other brand was accepted from 2011.
Which UK credit card issuers offer JCB cards?
Unfortunately, no UK card issuers currently offer JCB branded cards. However, if you want a JCB card, there are options (albeit inconvenient ones) available.
For instance, some Asian banks (e.g. UOB, Singapore) allow foreigners to apply for their JCB cards. To be eligible, applicants must meet the required age and annual income thresholds (currently 21 years old, and with income over $40,000, for the UOB card), pay an annual fee, and provide the necessary fixed deposit collateral.
Can I use a JCB credit card in the UK?
Leading supermarkets like Sainsbury's accept JCB, as do many shops and restaurants in London, like the East India Company, Emma Bridgewater, Ichiryu, Hawes & Curtis & Neal’s Yard.
Many UK based online retailers also accept JCB payment via Adyen. Elavon, SagePay, Wirecard, and Worldpay, as do merchants using mobile payment technology (like beauticians, builder, hairdressers, etc.) through iZettle.
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