For all the modernity of Japan, this is still primarily a cash society. While you can prebook and prepay for activities, transport and events, there are many areas of Japan in which you must pay cash. This guide aims to cover where you’re likely to have to pay cash, and how to navigate Japanese ATMs, how to withdraw money in Japan, currency exchanges in Japan and everything you need to know about Japan ATM fees.
We’ll cover how to reduce your banking fees and keep the costs of obtaining cash to a minimum as well as how you can plan ahead to reduce your dependency on using cash in Japan.
Key Things to Know About Japan, ATM and Yen
- The Japanese currency is called the Yen.
- Yen symbols are JPY, ¥, 円
- Japanese Yen Notes come in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000
- Japanese Yen coins come in the following denominations – 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 Yen.
- ATM Fees in Japan vary depending on the ATM used and the time of day
- ATM withdrawals are usually capped at 100,000 yen per transaction regardless of what your personal limits are.
The Currency in Japan
The Yen is the Japanese Currency. It is the third most traded currency in the world. The smallest yen coin is the 1, the largest yen note is the 10,000. The coins are very different from each other and this is deliberate to make them easily distinguishable from each other. Some coins have holes in, some have smooth edges, and others have rough edges.
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Exchanging Currency in Japan
Avoid exchanges at Hotels and Airports
While you may need cash on arrival in Japan you should avoid changing large amounts of cash at the airport or your hotel. Exchanges rates in these places are usually not as good as those where there is more competition.
Many of the international airports in Japan have ATMs and this is likely to give you a better exchange rate than a currency exchange.
Bring Clean, Undamaged Notes
If you bring cash from home to change in Japan you should make sure that the notes that you bring are clean and undamaged. Damaged or dirty notes are likely to be rejected by the currency exchange, even though you might use them normally at home.
Check the Midmarket Rate Before you Exchange Cash
Before you change money you should review what is called the “mid-market rate” to ensure that what you’re being offered is fair. This is also known as the “interbank rate” – it varies all the time, so just because you checked it last night doesn’t mean it will be the same this morning.
The best way of checking this is via a currency converter app like XE – you can download XE here
Using a device like SkyRoam gives you access to the internet in 130 countries –at a daily rate – you can connect up to 5 devices and get internet access on the move – so check your rates on the fly if you’re changing currency – check out SkyRoam here
Exchange Money at a Bank in Japan
There are 3 main banks in Japan. They have branches throughout the country and are good places to exchange currency. The 3 major retail banks in Japan are MUFG, Mizuho and SMBC. You will also find the following international banks in Japan; Barclays, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Royal Bank of Canada. If you bank with one of these banks it is worth checking to see if any international ATM fees are removed if you use your ATM card in these banks in Japan.
How to Pay in Japan
Increasingly it is possible to pay with a credit or debit card in Japan, depending on the type of business that you transact with. Credit and debit cards that do not charge a foreign transaction fee are imperative, as is a card that has a low or zero fees for foreign ATM withdrawals.
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Using Credit Cards in Japan
While you will be able to use your credit card at large hotels, restaurants and in retail outlets, many smaller organisations do not accept credit cards. Smaller hotels and ryokans in towns might not accept cards and you should check when you make a booking. Find out all you need to know about Ryokans here.
You may be offered, when using a credit card in Japan to have the amount charged in your local currency. This is known as Dynamic Currency Conversion or DCC. It is rarely a good idea. You should always select the option to pay in local currency and your bank, the one that your card is will, will apply the exchange rate.
Most international ATMs and the cash machines at 7-elevens will accept all major international credit cards.
Using Debit Cards in Japan
It’s easy enough to advise your bank where and when you are travelling abroad and it’s worth doing in case your card is stopped for what the bank might believe to be fraudulent activity.
Most international ATMs and the 7-Eleven ATMs accept major international debit cards. If you use a Maestro card with a chip it will only be accepted at the 7-Eleven ATMs and Aeon Bank.
Using Cash in Japan
Unlike in many other Asian countries, foreign currency is not readily accepted in Japan, so while you may wish to take a stash of dollars, pounds or Euros from home, you’ll need to change them at a currency exchange or bank.
This doesn’t necessarily mean carrying around a lot of cash – just finding the right ATMs to use. However, we always travel with a Pacsafe portable safe to secure our valuables in when we’re not with them. Check out Pacsafes here.
ATMs in Japan
There are tens of thousands of ATMs in Japan, they are widely used and easy to find. However, not all of them accept foreign cards. There are ATMs in more than 20,000 Japanese post offices and 25,000 7-Eleven stores throughout Japan.
ATMs that can be used by foreign cards have the logos of usable cards on the machine
Where to Find ATMs in Japan
You can use the Amex, Mastercard and Visa ATM locator websites to find ATMs in Japan.
You can also use Seven Bank’s International ATM website to find Seven Bank (operated in 7-Eleven stores) ATMs. There are 25,000 of these throughout Japan.
These following sites also provide map locators for ATMs in Japan.
Opening Times of ATMs in Japan
Many ATMs are available 24/7 in Japan. Where ATMs are located in smaller post offices they are not available on Sundays and public holidays. They are also closed between 2000 and 0000 (midnight). There are also some locations that close on Saturdays at 1700 and have shorter operating hours for public holidays. If you are heading somewhere more off the beaten track, check ahead of time that you have enough cash and the opening times of an ATM if you need one.
ATM Fees in Japan – ATM Transaction Limits in Japan
Most Japan ATMs charge small fees. These usually depend on the time of day and the day of the week. In order to save money on ATM fees in Japan, you should plan ahead. Seven Bank has a 100,000 Yen limit and zero fees for foreign cards. Japan Post has a 50,000 yen limit and charges up to 216 yen per transaction.
How to Use an ATM in Japan
Many of the ATMs in Japan will have English language instructions. These may not appear or give you a language option until you insert your card. The usual way that Japanese ATMs work is as follows
- Insert your ATM card (usually with the magnetic stripe downwards)
- Your card will remain in the machine for the duration of the transaction
- Select the language
- Select withdraw
- Select which account you are withdrawing from
- Enter your PIN number
- Select the amount of Japanese Yen you wish to withdraw
- Take the cash from the ATM
- Take your card from the machine
- Take your receipt.
You will need to be aware of two different ATM limits in Japan. The first is the limit that the machine will allow you to withdraw in a single transaction. The second is your daily limit applied by your bank. We recommend that you make a note of how much this is in Yen before you attempt a transaction.
- ATM withdrawal fees in Japan for foreign cards vary but are 100,000 yen at 711 ATMs.
- If your card only has a magnetic stripe and no chip, then this limit is reduced to 30,000 yen
- American Express cards have a 30,000 yen per withdrawal limit.
If you need to make a second transaction you should remove and reinsert your card.
Always put your card and your money away, zipped back into your wallet and bag before leaving the ATM.
PIN FOR LATER
Using your Cash Card or ATM Card the Most Cost-Effective Way in Japan
There are two types of fees charged on the use of a foreign ATM card (whether it is credit or debit).
- The fees charged by your bank or card provider for taking cash out in a foreign currency. You have COMPLETE control over this. If your provider currently levies a charge on taking cash out of your account in a foreign currency then you should get a new account ASAP. It will save you a FORTUNE in fees.
- The fees charged by the foreign bank either because they levy a fee on non-in country cards or because they charge a fee to non-client cards. You have a MEASURE of control over this and that’s what this article is about – how to reduce the cost of using ATMs in Japan
Many ATMs will offer to charge you in your home currency. This is called dynamic currency conversion or DCC. This means that the ATM provider decides the rate at which your currency will be converted it is usually best to refuse this.
We paid for most of our transactions in Japan with cash, including our trip to the amazing ryokan in Kinosaki onsen town. We use a Transferwise borderless account to get the best rates for our foreign currency and we always travel with a portable safe from PacSafe, to secure our cash, electronics and passports in our room, or even attached to a tree when we’re snorkelling.
We hope you’ve found this guide to ATM fees in Japan useful – let us know if you have any questions or updates!ASocialNomad is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates..