6 Money Tips You Should Read Before Traveling to Japan

Should you take cash or cards? What about ATMs? Avoid being caught-out with no cash or access to money on your trip to Japan before you go, with these tips by our local insider, Pasqualina.


Japanese Yen Photo © iStock

Enjoy your time in Japan without worrying about cash or bank fees and remember these handy tips.


Japan is very much a cash-driven economy, with a lot of places still only accepting cash. 

The national currency in Japan is the Japanese Yen (¥). It's best to get some cash converted before you leave home so you have change to catch the train to your destination, otherwise you can access cash exchange places at the airport. 

Also keep in mind that while credit, debit and travel money cards are accepted by some larger companies in Japan, many places (including hostels and small restaurants), will still only accept cash.

Make sure you plan ahead so that you will have enough money on you for the day.

Using Cards on Your Japan Trip

There are 3 main options when it comes to cards in Japan – credit cards, debit cards, or travel money cards. Having at least one on you is essential for ease of access to your money.

It’s also an alternative to carrying wads of cash, which could easily be stolen, lost, or just spent too quickly.

Debit Cards

Debit cards from your home country generally aren't advised because of the fees – there are withdrawal fees, international ATM fees and, depending on your bank, you might get a bad conversion rate (plus more fees). They also can't be used over the counter in Japan.

Credit Cards

Credit and travel money cards are the most convenient options – research to find what cards are best for you, as many offer competitive benefits which differ depending on your needs.

Credit cards can be a good option too as some providers might offer perks like no transaction or currency conversion fees, frequent flyer, reward points and even emergency card replacements. 

On the downside, they may also come with a spending limit that is higher than what you may want, and you may be hit with expensive cash advance and withdrawal fees.

Travel Money Cards

Travel money cards are another option. These are handy as you can load Japanese Yen onto your card before you go, and transfer money electronically from other accounts while you are in Japan. Most also come with emergency back-up cards. Just be aware that if you are transferring money onto your travel money card, it may take a few days and you may also be charged local ATM withdrawal fees.

ATMs in Japan

The main places to get cash out of foreign cards are at ATMs located inside post offices and 7/11 stores, as other ATMs may not accept your card. Once you have inserted your card, you will usually be given the option to use the machine in English. 

These ATMs can be found fairly easily in many parts of Japan – particularly in large cities like Tokyo, where 7/11 stores are everywhere – and the cost of withdrawing money from these ATMs is decent. Just be aware that you may be charged international withdrawal fees from your bank at home, so it's best to check this before you leave.

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  • Steve said

    What denominations do the Yen come in ?
    Where can I see these as an example ?
    What price in Yen are some common items i.e.
    a pint of milk,
    a burger,
    a mid range meal,
    a beer / glass of wine ?

  • Emma said

    Thank you for the article about Japan and its customs of life especially out of town.

    To change cash, there is a new mobile application Fairswap (https://fairswap.co.uk). It is a collaborative platform for individuals where you can swap any currency anywhere at any time for free, using the official exchange rate or any rate of your choice.
    Broadly, we can exchange & convert cash currency in real-time by meeting with each other at a pre-agreed location.

    It is available on Google Playstore and should be soon on Apple.

  • antonio said

    I've been to Tokyo several times in the last year and rarely if ever encountered a place that couldn't take my American Express card. I don't know what the rest of the country is like but it's pretty convenient to just use credit cards in Tokyo.

  • Marianne said

    The info is not up to date. According people living in Japan now there are ATM's everywhere and many accept credit cards

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