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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 provides lots of value. Here we’ll look at the travel cards, credit cards and debit cards most suited to use in Japan.
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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:
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.
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 VentureOne 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.
Visa and Mastercard are most widely accepted, but you can also find most merchants accepting Discover cards and American Express as well.
|Merchant acceptance||ATM acceptance|
Explore top debit cards with no foreign transaction fees and travel credit cards by using the tabs to narrow down your options. Select Compare for up to four products to see their benefits side by side.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
All prices are in US dollars.
|Budget (Cheap)||Midrange||Luxury (High-end)|
|Meals||Set meal at casual restaurant|
|Dinner at an izakaya (Japanese-style pub)|
|Meal at a good sushi restaurant|
|Activities||One temple or museum entry|
|Half day sightseeing tour|
|Private seven day tour of Japan: Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Kyoto, Osaka|
|Double room at a business hotel|
|Double room at an upscale hotel|
Prices are approximate and are subject to change.
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.
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:
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