If you’re taking a trip to Japan, before you leave, it’s important to plan your finances well in advance. This is particularly true of using ATMs. Unfortunately, very few kiosks will accept foreign ATM, credit, or debit cards. You have to go to specific places such as the post office or a 7-Eleven convenience store.
While it isn’t difficult to find an ATM where you can obtain money, you do need to use some foresight.
In addition, you’ll have to expect to pay a few usage fees; either from your own bank or from the ATM in question.
Preplanning Your Finances
So, before you go, plan out where you’re going to be and what locations will have an ATM that will accept cards issued outside of Japan.
This includes ensuring your particular card is acceptable in Japan along with what kind of fees or limits you have for out-of-country use.
Then, determine your card’s pin and memorize it; don’t write it down. Finally, notify your bank or financial institution that you’re going to Japan and will need to use your card there.
If you don’t, they may automatically freeze access and suspect fraud.
Obtaining; Cashing Coins
When you use an ATM, you will receive paper currency, not coinage. For certain services, you will have to use coins.
You can either change paper money at your hotel, a convenience store, or a local bank. You can only get coins from an ATM located inside a bank or other financial institution.
Consider Using Travelers’ Checks
Japan is still a cash-based society and they hold strong to it. This means a few places don’t accept debit or credit cards. So, it’s a good idea to bring travelers’ checks with you issued by the bank.
Not only will you have an easier time trying to cash these into Yen whenever you need them, but it will also provide a little security. This is because if your travelers’ checks get stolen or lost, you won’t be without money that can be replaced.
Exchanging Western Currency
Yet, it stands to note that one of the safest and most convenient places to obtain cash and exchange your American or Canadian money is at the World Currency Shop. This is at the Keio Mall Annex right next to the Shinjuku Station.
It belongs to Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and they are one of the most trusted exchanges in Japan.
They will have English-speaking staff who are friendly and very helpful. Plus their rates are reasonable and equivalent to North American banks.
They can also handle a range of amounts, whether you require 100 or 1,000 yen. They process your exchange quickly and provide the most hassle-free experience.
They are only open until 8 pm, so you will have to plan accordingly.
Limited Hours of Access
You must take into consideration the hours of operation of any given facility. Certainly, 7-Eleven will be available 24 hours a day. But, the ones at the post office have limited availability.
In general, the post office closes by 11 pm and doesn’t reopen until 7 am. Smaller venues in rural areas close much earlier and may be unavailable on the weekends.
In addition to convenience stores in Japan post offices also contain ATMs and with over 20,000 locations, one can even find them in small towns and villages.
However, there are some Lawson and Family Mart convenience stores with international ATMs, but not all of them.
Some major department stores, Aeon Malls, certain branches of major banks, and international airports have ATM kiosks accepting foreign-issue cards.
Withdrawal; Card Limits
Another thing to note about ATMs in Japan is that there is a limit to how much you can have of your own money. This is usually ¥300,000 ($2,460 USD).
While it may seem like plenty of money, remember that certain things in Japan do cost considerably more and, in some cases, are much more expensive than in the US.
Plus, there are specific types of cards allowed in these sparse places. So, you must have MasterCard, Visa, Pulse, Maestro, Cirrus, American Express, Union Pay, or JCB. Only a few places accept Diners Club or Discover.
The following table details the main ATMs accepting international cards, what their withdrawal limit is if there are any charges/fees, and what types of cards they allow.
|Japan Post Bank
(JP Bank; post office)
|¥50,000 ($410 USD)
|¥216 ($1.77 USD)
|Visa, Pulse, Electron, MasterCard, Cirrus, Maestro, JCB, American Express, and Discover
|Seven Bank ATMs (found at 7-Eleven)
|¥100,000 ($820 USD) ¥30,000 for cards with only magnetic strips or American Express ($246 USD)
|Different locations have fees and some do not
|Visa, Visa Plus, Maestro, Cirrus, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, Diners Club, and Discover
|¥50,000 ($410 USD)
|Fees may come from your financial institution
|Discover, Cirrus, Visa, Visa Plus, Maestro, MasterCard, American Express, and JCB
How to Use an ATM in Japan
Using an ATM in Japan is very much akin to how you would use one in Canada or the United States. While each will be individual to the institution they belong to, the following steps indicate the general process:
- Put the card into the assigned slot; there’s usually a light to indicate the location and orientation.
- You will receive a prompt to select your language of preference.
- There will be a button indicating “withdrawal” or “get money.”
- The screen then takes you to a list of accounts from which you can select an option.
- Enter your pin number or other access code.
- Enter the amount of money you want and confirm it.
- Retrieve the cash, your card, and your receipt.
A Note about Using an ATM in Japan
Just as in the US or Canada, ensure you employ situational awareness in your surroundings when obtaining money from an ATM.
Tourists and foreigners tend to be targeted from people looking to make some money in an unscrupulous way.
Be sure you look around, move quickly, and keep your guard up. This means paying attention to people staring at you from a distance for a considerable period of time.