How To Get Cash in Japan
Unlike what many people would expect from a modern country like Japan, cash, as opposed to credit cards or other electronic means of payment, is still quite essential. There are quite a few shops, restaurants, and sightseeing places that don’t accept cards and they are not all tiny mom and pop stores. In order to travel without worries in Japan, it is important to always have a good amount of cash on you. Don’t worry, Japan is also one of the safest countries in the world, so the chance you will get mugged is extremely small.
It is important to note that not all ATMs in Japan accept foreign-issued debit cards or credit cards. There are only two types of ATMs that are widely spread in Japan, especially in larger cities. You should be looking for 7/11 convenience stores or affiliated 7Bank ATMs, the ATMs that are run by Japan Post Bank, or the ATMs at the Lawson convenience stores.
The convenience stores are open 24/7, so those are usually your best bet. Japan Post Bank has limited opening hours, and their ATMs close after hours as well.
Please note that there is a limit of 50,000 yen per withdrawal. Currency is withdrawn in multiples of 10,000 yen. Service and use charges vary according to the card and bank(s) used. There may be additional fees charged by your card issuer. Some cards may not be used even if bearing the above marks. ATMs will be unavailable for fifteen minutes between 3:00 AM and 4:00 AM, for maintenance.
Use and Limitations
To use an ATM you have to go to the main screen and select the desired language, then press the button to withdraw money and do the procedure as you would do abroad. Keep in mind that Japanese ATMs only give money in yen, therefore the exchange rate must be taken into account before withdrawing money.
Please note that MASTERCARD and MAESTRO cards are more complicated to use in Japanese ATMs. The first is now denied in Seven-Eleven, as well as Maestro, and the latest is also banned from post offices.
Fees are often charged by international banks (a commission for withdrawing abroad, and in most cases, a percentage based on the amount withdrawn). These amounts vary considerably depending on your bank, so be sure to check before your trip. Please remember to inform your bank in advance that you are going abroad and will be making withdrawals so that your account is not locked due to suspicious activity. And please do not forget to ask the withdrawal limit.
You can also bring cash from your home country and exchange it to yen while in Japan. The cheapest place to do so would be the airport, especially the unmanned cash exchange machines have better rates than average. If you need to exchange cash after leaving the airport, your best bet is to go to very touristy areas, they often have multiple exchange offices so you can compare rates. Some hotels also have a convenient cash exchange machine in their lobby, but the rates usually aren’t that great.