Tokyo bound? A guide to using a credit card in Japan | November 2018
US dollars and credit card

Using a credit card in Japan

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Can you use a credit card in Japan? Yes, though a cash culture lingers.

Using a credit card in Japan isn’t as common as it is in most first-world countries. Despite an economy driven by technology, Japan remains a largely cash-based society. Credit and debit cards are becoming more popular, but if your card is issued by a bank outside of Japan, using it might not be as easy as you think.

If you’re traveling in a big city like Tokyo, Yokohama or Osaka, you can expect most big hotels and shops to accept credit cards. And with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games on the horizon, more businesses should start following suit.

Our pick for use in Japan: Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®

Enjoy 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

  • Recommended Credit Score: 720 or higher
  • Bonus sign-up points: 60,000, if you spend $5,000 in the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $89, waived the first year
  • Purchase APR: 17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99%
  • Intro balance transfer: 17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% for 12 months
Promoted

Compare credit cards for use in Japan

While traveling in Japan or anywhere overseas, you’ll want to be sure your credit card has no foreign transaction fees. Thankfully, this is a common feature of travel cards. Save yourself some money by ensuring that you won’t be racking up fees on every purchase during your trip.

Name Product Currency Conversion Fee Annual Fee APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable
Enjoy 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
None
$0
14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
None
$0
12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99% variable
An 18-month 0% Intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees
None
$195
16.99% variable
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
None
$495
16.99% variable
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
None
$995
16.99% variable
Earn points every time you spend. Luxury Card enhances your purchasing power by providing you with one (1) point for every one dollar ($1) you spend. Every purchase gets you closer to the rewards you want.
None
$0
8.90% to 25.90% variable
This card offers the same low rate for purchases, cash advances and balance transfers.
None
$0
13.99% variable
A low, variable APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.
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 from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
None
$450
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening - that's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Compare up to 4 providers

How to find restaurants that accept credit cards in Japan

Looking to eat out but want to make sure the restaurant you choose accepts credit cards? The easiest way to find out ahead of time is by checking online Japanese restaurant guides like Gurunavi or Savor Japan. These websites usually state whether or not credit cards are accepted as well as what kinds you can use.

If you want to be a bit more spontaneous, you can also just walk into a restaurant and inquire about whether they take cards. Most will have stickers of the credit cards they accept displayed by the cash register or near the front door. If you don’t see any, you can ask a server. However, restaurants that have ticket machines that you use to purchase food tickets usually only accept cash.

Potential credit card fees in Japan

When you find a merchant that accepts credit cards in Japan, you may face a handful of fees.

Foreign transaction fees

American credit card issuers typically charge a fee equal to 1% to 3% of your transaction, so carefully review your card’s fine print to avoid statement surprises. Some cards designed for travel come with no foreign transaction fees.

Currency conversion fees

If a retailer offers to bill your credit card in US dollars, dynamic currency conversion comes into play. While this might sound like a good deal, you’ll actually end up getting a less-than-favorable exchange rate. And you might also end up paying currency conversion fees. Whenever you’re presented with an option, choose to pay in yen.

Is it safe to use my credit card in Japan?

Crime levels in Japan are very low, and it’s typically safe to take public transportation or walk about after dark. However, you should maintain the same caution that you would in the US and use your credit card carefully.

  • Keep your PIN safe. When using the keypad, shield it with your hand to keep your PIN safe from curious eyes and hidden cameras.
  • Choose ATMs carefully. Don’t use an ATM in a secluded area, and ideally stick to ones found in crowded places or post offices.
  • Keep an eye for skimmers. If your card does not enter the ATM slot as smoothly as it usually does or if using the keypad feels unusual, cancel your transaction immediately. Someone might have installed a card skimmer on the ATM.

Keeping your credit card (physically) safe

Even though levels of crime in Japan are low, you wouldn’t want to become the victim of an isolated incident. Keep your credit cards with you at all times, and don’t let them out of your sight — even when paying bills at hotels, restaurants or bars. Using a neck pouch can help keep your cash, cards and travel documents close to you, no matter where you go.

ATMs in Japan

ATMs and “cash dispensers” are a common sight in big cities, but you’ll be hard pressed to find one that accepts international credit or debit cards. You can typically use your US cards at ATMs operated by Citibank, at post offices or at 7-Elevens.

Unlike in most countries, many Japanese ATMs don’t operate around the clock. Instead, they’re often switched off at night — typically at 7 p.m. on weekdays and 5 p.m. on weekends. Some 7-Eleven ATMs operate 24/7.

Should I use my card to get cash?

Using your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM may not make sense unless it’s a bona fide emergency. Each time you withdraw funds from an ATM, you’ll pay a cash advance fee. Your APR for cash advances is typically higher than your purchase APR, and you’ll often get no grace period on interest — instead, you start paying interest immediately.

The table below serves as an example of how much extra you’ll need to pay if you use your credit card for cash advances in Japan.

APR-for-cash-advances---using-your-credit-card-in-Japan

Fees---using-your-credit-card-in-Japan

What is a cash advance fee?

A cash advance fee is assessed when you withdraw cash from your credit card. It’s usually the greater of a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction. For example, the cash advance fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card is either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.

Magstripe and chip credit cards

Both magnetic-stripe and chip credit cards are common in Japan. An increasing number of Japanese banks are switching over to chip-enabled cards because they offer enhanced security. However, many places still use machines compatible with magstripes.

Can I use my chip-and-signature card in Japan?

If you have a chip-and-signature card, ask the person billing you to swipe the card instead of dipping it into the machine. This way, you can simply sign for your purchase. You may also need to sign for your purchase if the merchant does not have a credit card machine meant for chip enabled cards.

Cash in Japan

You’ll find that large shops, supermarkets and hotels accept credit and debit cards, as will most taxis. But smaller souvenir shops, neighborhood restaurants, local market stalls and traditional Japanese ryokan limit their transactions to cash. This is also the case for most guesthouses operated by private owners.

If you buy a low-cost item and pay with a large bill — such as a 10,000 yen note — you’ll typically have no problem receiving change. Whether you’re limiting your visit to a big city or plan to travel to rural areas, make sure you carry enough cash for your daily needs.

How to prepare before traveling to Japan

  1. Select Visa or Mastercard. Visa cards are the most commonly accepted, followed closely by Mastercard. American Express is next in line, but finding businesses that accept these cards will not be easy. Cirrus and Maestro cards find very few takers.
  2. Get a card with no foreign transaction fees. Depending on how much you plan to spend, you could save money by getting a card with no foreign transaction fees. Examples include the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card, the Barclaycard Ring® Mastercard® and the USAA® Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card.
  3. Inform your bank. If you haven’t used your card outside of the US in the past, let your bank know that you’re traveling to Japan. This way, your bank will not block your card because of suspicious activity when you use it overseas.
  4. Set up a PIN for ATMs. If you plan to use your credit card to withdraw money at an ATM while in Japan, you’ll probably need to set a PIN. It’s a lot easier to set up your PIN while you’re still in the states, since you might need to call your bank or access your online account. Some credit cards don’t let you set up a PIN instantly, and might mail your PIN to you after you request one.
  5. Keep emergency numbers handy. Find out what numbers you’ll need to call if you lose your card or end up needing an emergency replacement. Keep them accessible at all times.
  6. Identify where you’ll get money from. Given that you’ll need cash in different scenarios, find out where you can get some when you need it. If you plan to spend some time in the country, you can easily ensure that you have access to cash by opening a savings account with the post office.

Next steps

Before you travel to Japan, ask yourself these questions to make your stay stress free.

  • Which cards should I take? Go with either Visa or Mastercard, and consider taking two or more cards with you. Ideally, use cards with no foreign transaction fees.
  • Have I informed my bank? If you fail to inform your bank, you may have to deal with a blocked card during your travel.
  • What kind of fees am I looking at? A little information ahead of time can save you considerable strife later on.
  • What’s my source of cash? When in Japan, you cannot do without using cash unless you’re limiting your movement to the best places in town. So plan to keep your cash flow in place.

Once you’ve established where you can use your credit card and where you’ll need cash, your stay in Japan is bound to be easy.

How to use a credit card in …

Frequently asked questions

Adrienne Fuller

Adrienne Fuller leads the publishing team at finder.com. She has one goal: to deliver the accurate and transparent information she wishes she had when she made some of life's important financial decisions. When she's not helping folks save money, she's hiking with her two Catahoulas around her home in San Diego.

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Deserve® Classic Card
Deserve® Classic Card

APR

24.49
variable

Annual fee

0 For the first year
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Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™

APR

16.74
variable

Annual fee

995 For the first year
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First Access Visa Card®
First Access Visa Card®

APR

29.99
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75 For the first year
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Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card

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23.9
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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    bassuAugust 23, 2017

    which credit card is best to take in japan?
    JCB or VISA or Master card

    • finder Customer Care
      AnnaAugust 24, 2017Staff

      Hi Bassu,

      Thanks for the question! Since finder.com is a comparison site, we can’t tell you which card is better for your specific needs. You may want to take a card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, which you can compare here.

      I hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Anna

US Credit Card Offers

Important Information*
Deserve® Classic Card
Deserve® Classic Card

APR

24.49
variable

Annual fee

0 For the first year
More info
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™

APR

16.74
variable

Annual fee

995 For the first year
More info
First Access Visa Card®
First Access Visa Card®

APR

29.99
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card

APR

23.9
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info
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