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Travel money guide: Japan

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. Cash, credit and debit cards are all accepted, with credit cards and cash the most relevant.

Since a credit card is your best choice for a significant amount of your spending, a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees like the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card provides lots of value. Here we’ll look at the travel cards, credit cards and debit cards most suited to use in Japan.

Our picks for traveling to Japan

Travel rewards with no annual fee

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

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on Capital One's secure site

Rewards

Up to 1.25 x miles

Annual fee

$0

All-around travel value

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

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on Capital One's secure site

Rewards

Up to 5 x miles

Annual fee

$95

Cash back with no foreign fees

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

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on Capital One's secure site

Rewards

Up to 1.5 % cash back

Annual fee

$0

Travel card, debit card or credit card?

Japan is a cash society, but credit cards and debit cards are accepted in most places in Japanese cities. Establishments such as 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.

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.

These are your options for spending money in Japan

Using a credit card

All credit cards allow you to spend in a foreign currency and some are cheaper to use than others. 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 Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card does that plus offers some perks.

A good travel card can also offer the ability to earn miles on purchases, statement credits and even travel insurance. Before making your trip, compare travel credit cards to find one that best suits your spending habits.

Pros
  • Protected by PIN and 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
Cons
  • Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • International ATM fees and currency conversion fees

Which credit card issuers are accepted in Japan?

Visa and Mastercard are most widely accepted, but you can also find most merchants accepting Discover cards and American Express as well.

Merchant acceptanceATM acceptance
Visacheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh
Mastercardcheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh
American Expressexclamation point iconMediumcheck mark iconHigh
Discovercheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh

Compare travel credit cards

Narrow down top travel credit cards by welcome offers, rewards and annual fees to find the best for your budget and financial goals. Select Compare for up to four products to see their benefits side by side.

1 - 3 of 43
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Up to 1.25x miles
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first 6 months
Up to 4x points
$250

Rose Gold is here to stay. Card Members can choose between a Gold or Rose Gold Card.

Earn up to 4x points on select purchases and enjoy a bevy of travel perks with this upper-mid tier travel card. Terms apply, see rates & fees
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Up to 5x miles
$95
Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months ​from account opening.
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Compare up to 4 providers

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, such as Betterment Checking. 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.

Pros
  • Comes with a secure PIN and chip protection
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
Cons
  • Currency conversion and international ATM fees
  • No backup cards

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.

Pros
  • Protected by PIN and chip
  • Preload and secure your exchange rate in multiple foreign currencies
  • Accepted worldwide
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
Cons
  • Local ATM fee
  • Reloading time

Paying with cash in Japan

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.

Pros
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • Difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

Using traveler’s checks

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

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

Pros
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Photo ID needed to cash checks
Cons
  • Initial purchase charges
  • Not accepted everywhere
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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.
Japanese 1000-YenJpanese 2000-YenJapanese 5000-Yen
Japanese 10000-Yen

Live Rate

= ¥ 129.7635

Refreshing in: 60s | Fri, Jan 27, 11:16AM GMT

The main banks in Japan are:

  • Chiba Bank
  • Concordia Financial Group
  • Fukuoka Financial Group
  • Hokuhoku Financial Group
  • Japan Post Bank
  • Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group
  • Mizuho Financial Group
  • Norinchukin Bank
  • Resona Holdings
  • Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group

ATMs

Most ATMs in Japan don’t accept international cards. Look for ATMs inside Japanese Post Bank and Seven Bank, and try to use a card that doesn’t charge international ATM fees, like a card from Betterment Checking.

Citibank has a presence in major cities and airports. Visa and Mastercard have ATM location tools on their website you can find the closest ATM.

Find ATMs in Japan

How much yen do I need to bring?

All prices are in US dollars.

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

Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

Case study: Roslyn’s experience

profile pic

Roslyn McKenna
Assistant Publisher

I visited Japan with my husband in October 2017. We brought ourCapital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card credit card, because it offers no foreign transaction fees and a flat cashback rewards rate on everything. We also brought several hundred dollars in cash to exchange at the Tokyo airport at a fair exchange rate.

I love that I don’t need to notify Capital One before I go abroad. The last time I visited Japan, my Bank of America account was flagged and locked for fraud, even after notifying my bank before I left for my trip. With Capital One, I get an email asking if I recognize suspected purchases, but I can still access my money.

At one point I needed more cash, so I used my card to get a cash advance, despite the fees and high conversion costs. The problem is that most ATMs require a PIN to access cash, so I spent an hour on the phone with Capital One’s customer support. It would have been easier to access cash if we’d called our bank before we left to set up the PIN.

Cash is still the most convenient and widely accepted payment method in Japan. Plus, you’ll need lots of change for public transit and all the fabulous vending machines.

You might also want a backup method of getting money, like a debit card. And if you need a 24/7 ATM that accepts American credit cards, look for a 7-Eleven.

Case study: Luke's experience

Luke profile photo
Luke

Luke’s Tokyo Trip

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.

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 — 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
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