Getting Japanese yen to spend while traveling in Japan is amazingly easy. Here’s how to get cash to fund your fun while in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Close-up of a 7-11 ATM Screen - image © Chris Rowthorn
- In Japan, you’ll use a Suica (or Icoca) card for local transport and most small purchases, and a credit card for big purchases (hotels etc). But you still need Japanese cash for places that don’t take cards.
- The best way to get Japanese cash is from an ATM in Japan (do not buy yen before coming to Japan as the rate will be terrible).
- You can use your home bank card with many Japanese ATMs.
- 7-11 ATMs are the easiest to use and accept the most foreign cards. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Japanese postal ATMs accept most foreign cards and can be found almost everywhere. However, most postal ATMs are only open during post office opening hours.
- ATMs in other conveniences store accept some foreign cards, but not all.
- ATMs in most Japanese banks will NOT accept your home bank card.
- You can get cash right after you arrive at an ATM in Narita, Haneda, or Kansai (Osaka) airports, and most other international airports in Japan.
- A credit card is a good backup to your bank card (sometimes your bank card is your credit card, other times it’s separate, in which case bring both).
- See below for all the details.
Japanese banknotes © 68532869@N08
The Best Way to Get Japanese Cash
Yes, you can go to a bank in your home country and buy some Japanese yen, but the exchange rates will be awful. Yes, you can bring travelers checks to Japan, but do you really want to spend a few hours sitting in a bank? And yes, you can bring your home currency and exchange it for yen cash in Japan, but do you really want to carry that much cash?
Don’t waste your time and your money!! The best way to get Japanese cash is from an ATM in Japan after you arrive!
You Can Use Your Home Bank Card in Japanese ATMs
These days, many Japanese ATMs are linked to international cash networks, and your home bank card is almost certainly a member of these networks. The catch is figuring out which ATMs will accept your card. To make things simple, here is the general rule: 7-11 convenience stores and post office ATMs will likely accept your card, while Japanese bank ATMs will not.
Bank card © 89228431@N06
Quick Clarification: Bank Cards vs Credit Cards
For many people, their daily bank card is also their credit card. For other people, their credit card is a separate card. If your cards are separate, bring both your bank card and credit card. And it helps to bring a backup bank and credit card if you have them, in case there’s a problem with one of your cards, or if one account gets maxed out. When you withdraw money from an ATM with a credit card, you are essentially charging the purchase of cash, and it will go onto your account balance like any other credit card purchase. Finally, in Japan, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted, while American Express is not accepted at many places.
7-11 ATMs Are the Best ATMs in Japan
The best ATMs for foreigners are 7-11 ATMs. Actually, they’re called 7 Bank ATMs. Most are found in 7-11 convenience stores, which are everywhere, but you can also find standalone 7 Bank ATMs in places like international airports, including the arrivals halls of Narita, Haneda, and Kansai (Osaka) airports. These ATMs work with almost all foreign cards and have clear English (and Chinese) instructions. They also allow you to choose to withdraw from current (checking) or savings accounts, something other ATMs do not allow you to do. The best thing about 7-11 ATMs is that they are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
A pair of 7-11 ATM - image © Chris Rowthorn
Japan Post Office ATMs Are Also Great
Japan postal ATMs, which are found in Japanese post offices, are almost as good as 7 Bank ATMs. They have good, clear English instructions (just hit the “English Guide” and you’re away). You can find post offices in even the smallest villages and on the smallest islands. The catch is that postal ATMs are usually only open when the post office itself is open (sometimes, they stay open a little longer and sometimes on Saturdays). However, in larger cities, there is usually a central post office that has ATMs that are open ALMOST 24 hours a day. See our Getting Money in Kyoto page for the opening hours of the Kyoto Central Post Office, which are typical.
Postal ATM Close-up - image © Chris Rowthorn
Other Convenience Store ATMs May Work With Your Card
ATMs in other convenience stores like Lawson, Family Mart, Circle K and Daily Yamazaki may work with your card. In my experience, Lawson and Family Mart ATMs work with most foreign cards. It’s always worth a try if you cannot find a 7-11 or a post office. If they do work with foreign cards, they will have English instructions.
Lawson ATM sign - image © Chris Rowthorn
Japanese Bank ATMs Will Not Usually Accept Foreign Cards
Travelers will often be tempted by the rows of lovely ATMs in the lobbies of Japanese banks. But these are like mirages to thirsty men in a desert. Japan’s banks are notoriously insular and few of them have linked their ATMs to international networks. The only exceptions that I know of are the ATMs of SMBC Bank (which used to be Citibank). These ATMs generally work with foreign cards and have English instructions.
There Are 7-11 ATMs in Narita, Haneda, and Kansai International Airports
You can get Japanese cash in the arrivals halls in Narita, Haneda, and Kansai airports, and in most other Japanese international airports. The ATMs are usually located right in the arrivals hall or nearby. Just follow the signs.
7-11 ATMs in the Arrivals Hall of Narita Airport - image © Chris Rowthorn
Bring At Least One Credit Card as a Backup
As noted above, if your bank (debit) and credit cards are separate, it’s a good idea to bring at least one credit card as a backup. A credit card can be used to do a cash advance if the account your bank card draws off runs dry. Credit cards are also very handy for paying for hotels, rental cars and fancy restaurants. Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted in Japan, while American Express is often not accepted.
Credit cards © smemon
A Few Final Notes and Links
- While credit cards are become more widely accepted in Japan, cash is still king in Japan. Don’t assume that you can use a credit card in small stores, restaurants and accommodations, particularly “mom and pop” places. Always carry sufficient Japanese cash as a backup.
- For more details on getting money in Japan, see the Getting Money in Kyoto page. Some of the information is a little dated, but it’s still useful.
- For an idea of how much money you need to travel in Japan, see How Much Money Do I Need For Kyoto?
Tokyo Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Tokyo guide
- Check Tokyo accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Tokyo
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online for collection on arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda airports. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare airline flight prices and timings for the best Japan flight deals. Check my guides to arriving at Narita Airport and at Haneda Airport.
- If you're visiting more than one city, you might save money with a Japan Rail Pass – see if it's worth it for you
- A prepaid Suica card makes travelling around Tokyo much easier - here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world