Japan facing credit card number shortage


Amid a government effort to encourage electronic payments and a surge in online shopping due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan realized it’s running out of 16-digit credit card numbers.

Japan had approximately 283 million credit cards in March 2019, but the number has significantly increased due to the pandemic lockdown and a government point reward system for cashless transactions that was introduced last October, according to a report in Finextra.

On a credit card, the first six digits relate to country, brand and other information, and the final 10 are decided by the issuer. According to Japan’s newspaper, Mainichi Shimbun, card issuers are concerned that there could soon be a shortage of digit combinations beginning from the seventh digit onward.

The problem could be solved simply by adding a digit, but the cost would end up in the tens of billions of yen and cause significant disruption or purchases.

Although merchants would like to avoid adding digits, it may become inevitable and more than likely, the issuers would pay for the expense of increasing the digits.