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The Working Group for the Standardization of Credit Card Data Compiled a Report

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has been working toward the effective use of consumption data which will be acquired along with the expansion of a cashless society. To achieve the goal, it decided to establish a Working Group (WG) for the Standardization of Credit Card Data to standardize necessary data involved in credit card settlements. The WG held eight meetings from July 2016, and finally compiled the discussion results into a report.

1. Background

As the initiatives for further developing a cashless society are being advanced to stimulate the demand of overseas visitors to Japan, the effective use of consumption data accumulated through cashless settlements is expected to contribute to the creation of new industries and business and the vitalization of consumption in regional areas by overseas visitors to Japan.

Having raised awareness of this challenge, METI discussed related issues at the meetings of the Study Group on the Credit Card Industry and Big Data in FY2015. Based on the results of the discussion, the government of Japan decided to include a policy for promoting the standardization of necessary data involving credit card settlements and purchase information as a goal that Japan should start by the end of 2016 in the Japan Revitalization Strategy 2016, which was approved by the Cabinet in June 2016.

In response, METI established a WG for the Standardization of Credit Card Data consisting of credit card businesses, aiming to standardize data in the areas expected to be utilized in broad fields. The WG held meetings and made discussions on the issue.

2. Key points of the report

1) Significance of data standardization

  • Utilization of consumption data is advancing in a variety of entities and fields, such as: strategy formulation for developing stores and products, attracting customers, and promoting sales by manufacturers and retailers (credit-card affiliated stores); lifelog services on the consumer side; and preparing statistics in the public sector.
  • The WG discussed approaches to standardization of credit card data for the purpose of developing a foundation on which data users are able to utilize data for a variety of uses.

2) Directions of data standardization concerning credit cards

  • In keeping the consistency with the intentions of Item 1), data standardization needs to be conducted to contribute to specific data utilization in a limited period of time for a short-term perspective and to enable entities that utilize such data to find advantages.
  • As an immediate output, the WG decided to set the goal of ascertaining trends in consumption by overseas visitors to Japan. As a specific use of the data, it decided to improve the accuracy of public analysis of data, including enhancing the quality of credit card data involved in trends in consumption by overseas visitors to Japan, which is stored in the Regional Economy Society Analyzing System (RESAS) provided by the government of Japan.
  • Among a variety of data traded in credit card settlements, the WG mentioned sales data sent from acquirers to international credit-card brands, i.e., so-called “off-us transaction,” and among the data, it discussed the standardization of information on locations and sectors of credit-card affiliated stores whose data formats are not organized.

3) Specific actions

[i] Standardization of information on locations of credit-card affiliated stores

  • Streamlining information on zip codes among data concerning locations of credit-card affiliated stores contained in sales data
  • Concerning Visa Worldwide Japan, a data format provides an information column for a five-digit zip code, but such information is not input by or sent from acquirers. In data standardization efforts, the WG members will consider how they can best implement policies for inputting the first five digits of zip codes in the column. Furthermore, Visa Worldwide Japan will request stakeholders, including those who are not WG members, to address this effort.
  • Concerning MasterCard International Incorporated, information on seven-digit zip codes has already been input by and sent from acquirers, and thus the WG will continue current measures.

[ii] Standardization of information on sectors of credit-card affiliated stores

  • Sector codes are sent from acquirers to international credit-card brands based on the respective operations of these acquirers. As a result of this practice, a variety of approaches are seen, e.g., cases where sector codes of acquirers in the same affiliated store are converted to different codes and where specific sectors, e.g., tenants in shopping centers or outlet shopping malls, are not categorized in sector codes of international credit-card brands and this causes the sector codes for these sectors to be unorganized.
Store name Acquirer Information on sectors stored in master database in credit-card affiliated stores (on the acquirer side) Sector codes in terms of data sent to international credit-card brands
Cafe A Acquirer A Coffee shop 5812 (Eating Places and Restaurants)
Acquirer B Coffee shop 5814 (Fast Food Restaurants)
Clothing store A Acquirer A Men’s clothing store 5611 (Men’s and Boys’ Clothing and Accessories Stores)
Acquirer C Women’s clothing store 5621 (Women’s Ready-To-Wear Stores)
Clothing store B at Shopping Center A* Acquirer B Shopping center 5311 (Department Stores)
Acquirer C Shopping center 5399 (Miscellaneous General Merchandise)

*Note: A case where a shopping center has concluded a contract with an acquirer by batch as a representative of tenants in the facilities of the shopping center

  • The WG formulated guidelines of sector codes by type of credit-card affiliated stores to stipulate the codes that are desirable to be sent to international credit-card brands.

4) Future prospects

  • This standardization of data items is the first step toward the achievement of the nation-wide big goal of promoting utilization of big data gained along with cashless settlements.
  • This effort will achieve not only the ascertaining of trends in consumption by overseas visitors to Japan but also the development of off-us transactions in domestic trade. In addition to the data aggregated at Visa Worldwide Japan and MasterCard International Incorporated, which were targets of this effort, a variety of data patterns could become new targets, including data sent through other international credit-card brands, on-us transactions, collaboration with consumption data other than credit-card data. It is important to discuss the development of efforts as the next step from this perspective.


Release date

December 26, 2016

Division in Charge

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Policy Division, Commerce, Distribution and Industrial Safety Policy Group

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry1-3-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8901, Japan Tel: +81-(0)3-3501-1511
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