Japan travel money guide | finder.com

Travel money guide: Japan

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Despite living in a world where everyone is paying with credit or debit cards, Japan is still very much a cash society.

Whether you’re visiting the islands of Japan for business or pleasure, you can save money by using travel-friendly plastic while you’re there. Here we’ll look at the travel cards, credit cards and debit cards most suited to use in Japan.

Our pick for travel

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3x points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit
  • 3x points on dining at restaurants and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
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Compare travel cards for Japan

It’s a good idea to bring a combination of travel money options on your trip to Japan. When choosing cards, be sure to look for those that don’t charge foreign transaction fees. Most strong travel cards waive these fees while also offering rewards and perks when you use them to pay for travel.

Updated December 18th, 2018
Name Product Currency Conversion Fee Annual Fee APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$450
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.74% to 26.74% variable
30,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
None
$250
See Rates & Fees
50,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months Rates & Fees
None
$0
17.74% to 26.74% variable
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & Fees

Compare up to 4 providers

Promoted
Travelex Money Card

Why we like: Travelex Money Card

Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% Foreign Exchange Fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    How much ¥en do I need to bring?

    Budget (Cheap) Mid-range Luxury (High-end)
    to-sleep Dorm bed
    $25
    Double room at a business hotel
    $110
    Double room at an upscale hotel
    $600+
    food Set meal at casual restaurant
    $8
    Dinner at an izakaya (Japanese-style pub)
    $40
    Meal at a good sushi restaurant
    $150
    camera One temple or museum entry
    $10
    Half day sightseeing tour
    $45
    Private seven day tour of Japan: Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Kyoto, Osaka
    $10,300

    *Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

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    What is the best travel money card to take to Japan?

    Best is a subjective term, but the travel money product you use should have one of these features:

    • No currency conversion fee
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • Either no international or local ATM operator fee
    • Travel extras: insurance, airport lounges, worldwide concierge service, etc

    Next, you need to have an idea about how you plan to spend in Japan. While Japan is very much a cash society, there are times when you’ll need to use your card, for example when booking a hotel.
    How to use a credit card in Japan

    A quick summary of travel money options for Japan

    Travel money option Pros Cons
    Debit cards for travel
    • Comes with a secure PIN & chip protection
    • Ideal for managing your travel budget
    • Currency conversion and international ATM fees
    • No backup cards
    Prepaid travel money cards
    • Protected by PIN & chip
    • Pre-load and secure your exchange rate in multiple foreign currencies
    • Accepted worldwide
    • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
    • Local ATM fee
    • Reloading time
    Credit cards for travel
    • Protected by PIN & chip
    • Access to funds up to your credit limit
    • Accepted worldwide
    • Perks like rewards points on spending, 0% purchases, frequent flyer program
    • Emergency card replacement
    • Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
    • International ATM fees and currency conversion fees
    Traveler’s checks
    • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
    • Photo ID needed to cash checks
    • Initial purchase charges
    • Not accepted everywhere
    Cash
    • Greater payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • Difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft
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    How the different travel money products work in Japan

    Japan is a cash society; however, credit cards and debit cards are accepted in most places in Japanese cities. Establishments such local restaurants, markets and rural inns (ryokans) are cash only. In the places where you can use your card, you may have issues if your card doesn’t have your name on the front.

    Using a debit card

    The majority of debit card issuers charge you a fee when you make a purchase in a foreign currency, but there are a few who will let you slide. Look for a debit card that waives the foreign transaction fee and the international ATM fee as well – like a Discover Bank debit card. If you have an account with Citibank, locate and use a Citibank ATM in Japan and you’ll pay nothing.

    Using a prepaid travel card

    A travel card lets you dollars and convert the funds to yen (along with a number of other currencies). The main advantage to these cards are they allow you to spend without paying extra for currency conversion.

    These products require a little more management than debit and credit cards, as you’re responsible for reloading the card before you run out of money. Remember it can take up to three business days for funds clear or even longer if it’s a public holiday or weekend.

    Using a credit card

    All credit cards allow you to spend in a foreign currency and some are cheaper to use than others. It’s smart to compare credit cards that don’t charge a fee for foreign transaction so you don’t have to worry about this pesky fee when you’re on vacation – the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard does just that and offers some perks.

    The majority of credit card issuers charge a fee to use international ATMs, but the are some on the market that waive the fee. Keep in mind when using your credit card that cash advances will be subject to hefty fees and interest charges

    Traveler’s checks

    Although traveler’s checks are becoming a dated form of travel money, they are still used by people who are looking to take a bulk of money safely to Japan. The traveler’s checks widely accepted in Japan are Visa, American Express and Thomas Cook.

    To get the best rates, you can redeem them at banks and post offices. Redeeming the check at stores or hotels will attract fees and commissions. In Japan, the traveler’s checks attract a relatively better exchange rate than bank notes.

    Using cash

    If you plan on indulging in Japanese culture — think tea ceremonies, guided tours in Sakura season, entry to the Emperor’s Palace and small cafeterias and eateries — you’ll need cash. The cost of ATM withdrawals should be a factor in your comparison when looking for cards.

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    Luke's Tokyo Trip


    man
    Luke spent two weeks exploring in Tokyo.

    What cards did you take with you?

    • Bank of America Debit Card
    • Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

    Why did you take these cards with you?

    Luke says he used the Bank of America debit card to withdrawal money as soon as he arrived at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. He used his Bank of America debit card throughout Tokyo because it is part of the Global ATM Alliance.

    Luke took his Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard as a backup and saw an instant perk when he purchased his airfare with the card and received complimentary insurance for the duration of his trip. He used this card when he shopped because of the points he could earn and the lack of a foreign transaction fee.

    How did you find withdrawing from ATMs?
    Luke definitely advises that anyone visiting Japan should familiarize themselves with Post Bank and Seven Bank (inside 7/11) ATMs in the area. Luke withdrew up to the ATM limit each time: 60,000 to 80,000 yen (about $500 to $700). It should be noted that his cards wouldn’t work at other ATMs attached to Japanese banks.

    Were there any places where you had trouble using your card?
    Luke says it should be pretty obvious whether a place takes plastic or not. Most places he could tell by the look of the establishment, but he always made sure to ask. Luke points out in Tokyo there are a lot of good “hole-in-the-wall” places to eat, and these establishments were mostly cash only.

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    A guide to the Japanese Yen

    Since the introduction of the yen, the denominations have ranged from 10 yen to 10,000 yen. The following is a brief description of the ¥1000, ¥2000, ¥5000, and ¥10,000.

    • 1,000 Yen note. This note has been in use since 1945 and it is currently the lowest value Yen banknote. The front side of the note bears the image of the legendary regent and politician under Empress Suiko, Prince Shōtoku. The reverse side bears a drawing of Mt. Fuji and cherry blossoms.
    • 2,000 Yen note. This banknote was issued in July 19, 2000. The front side of the note bears a serial number and portrays Shureimon, a 16th-century gate at Shuri Castle in Naha, in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. The reverse side portrays a scene from “The Tale of Genji'” and a portrait of Murasaki Shikibu, the noblewoman to whom this work of literature has been attributed.
    • 5,000 Yen note. The front side of the 5,000 note has a portrait of Ichiyo Higuchi, a Meiji era writer and poet. The reverse side depicts “Kakitsubata Flowers”, from a folding screen by Korin Ogata.
    • 10,000 Yen note. The front side of this note has a portrait of Yukichi Fukuzawa, a Meiji era philosopher and founder of Keio University. The reverse side has a drawing of the hoo (Chinese phoenix) in the Hall of the Phoenix, Byodoin temple.

    ATMs

    Most ATMs in Japan do not accept international cards. Look for ATMs inside Japanese Post Bank and Seven Bank. Citibank have a presence in major cities and airports. Visa and Mastercard have ATM location tools on their website you can find the closest ATM.

    This may change in the future. Tokyo is host the 2020 Olympic Games. The government is pushing Japan’s national banks to connect to the international ATM network. As the Olympics approach, expect more and more Japanese banks begin to accept international credit, debit and travel cards.

    Get travel insurance quotes for your vacation in Japan

    There are many types of travel insurance out there, ranging from basic to comprehensive and additional coverage options such as winter sports insurance – which if you’re planning on taking on the powder in Japan, it’s a must.

    Japan travel insurance cover situations such as:

    • Cancellations
    • Emergency medical and dental
    • Personal liability
    • Lost or damaged luggage
    • Lost or stolen travel documents
    Details Features
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Comprehensive coverage with higher limits and a range of additional benefits.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $400
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    The most comprehensive protection plan offered by Travelex. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $2,500
    • Trip delay: $1,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    Coverage includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $15,000
    • Baggage coverage: $750
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $500
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Affordable coverage for the essentials needed when traveling outside of your home country.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: $25,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $250,000
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $250
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    Increased limits of coverage, plus trip interruption insurance worth 150% of the trip cost.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Not 100% sure you're going to make your trip? Cancel For Any Reason upgrade is available with the Travel Select plan.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • Must cancel within 48 hours before scheduled departure
    • Offered on trips with a maximum value of $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Customizable policy that balances between the basic essentials and premium coverage.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $500
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Comprehensive coverage for the cost of your trip, your medical expenses and your belongings.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $250,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Choose the coverage amount that meets your needs. Baggage and trip delay protection included.
    • Flight accident AD&D: Up to $1,000,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: $10,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $100,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Premiere coverage for a range of travel mishaps with additional riders for sports and other leisure activities.
    • Trip cancellation: $3,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $500/item up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Make sure you're covered in case your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $25,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $1,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Customizable coverage that can give you peace of mind when traveling to popular or remote destinations.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
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    You might also be interested in:

    Japan offers so much for tourists to do and see. From the world-famous Cherry Blossom festival to the Ski fields of Nagano, Japan is fast becoming favorite destination for travelers. Compare your travel money options and make your dollar go further in The Land of the Rising Sun.

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