Review: Marukai Premium JCB Card (Hawaii)

Marukai is a chain of Japanese supermarkets with 12 stores across the U.S. It has a partnership with JCB, a Japanese credit card company, and together, they released this card especially for the Hawaii and California markets. This is the best cash card you can get, period. And, lucky you, if you live in Hawaii (or California), you are eligible to receive it. It’s not all positives, but it’s essentially a 3% cash back card. And that’s the whole enchilada — or bento, if you will.

Marukai Premium JCB Card (Hawaii)

Marukai Premium JCB Card. Photo Credit: courtesy of JCB and Marukai.

Benefits:

  • Earn 1% cash back on the first $1,000 spent in a calendar year
  • Earn 2% cash back on the next $2,000 spent in a calendar year
  • Earn 3% cash back thereafter, for the remainder of the calendar year
  • Earn $15 bonus after first $1,000 spent in a calendar year, or $50 bonus after first $5,000 spent in a calendar year

Damage:

  • No Initial Bonus of any kind
  • $15 annual fee (plus $10 Marukai membership fee), both waived in the first year
  • 13.15% APR variable with Prime Rate
  • 1.1% foreign transaction fee
  • Must be a resident of Hawaii (or California, with the Marukai Premium JCB Card (California))
  • JCB conservative with credit limits

Analysis:

How this card exists, I don’t know. The typical interchange fee is 2% of the transaction value. And, as long as you spend $5,000 a year, this credit card pays you back 3%. Where they come up with the difference is the mystery. And don’t worry if you’re not familiar with JCB. Founded in 1961 as the Japan Credit Bureau, JCB is the dominant credit card issuer in Japan. The company signed a long term agreement with Discover, so wherever Discover is accepted, JCB is too. At least for physical locations. For Internet transactions, JCB must be explicitly accepted.

Cash Back Charts, Marukai Premium JCB Card. Image Credit: courtesy of JCB and Marukai.

The downside with JCB is that it’s a very conservative financial company with a very small footprint in the U.S. The credit lines they will extend will be small, and their automated transaction security tends to block transactions seemingly at random. Customer service is incredibly friendly (in English or Japanese), but they’re only open during regular business hours, and some transactions — like redeeming your cash back — must be done over the phone. It’s only been a few years since they went to electronic payments, too.

But it’s 3% cash back, man.

 

Questions, Comments or Criticisms?