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Using Credit Card In Japan – Payment, Cash Withdrawal and More

Japan is not really a friendly country for credit card users. However, you can’t carry a bag of Yen to every single place on your trip either. So let’s discover the secret of using a credit card in Japan in this location guide.

Credit Cards Usable in Japan

As a foreigner, you can use the international credit cards of some major companies like VISA, Mastercard, JCB, American Express, or Discover. These companies all have branches in Japan.

credit cards in japan,

International Credit Cards

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Reality check: Which one is more widely accepted in Japan?

Credit Card Merchant acceptance ATM acceptance
JCB High High
Visa High High
Mastercard High High
American Express Medium High
Discover High High

Source: Finder.com

It is understandable that JCB is highly usable in Japan because its issuing bank is Japan Credit Bureau. It is also Japan’s premier and only international payment brand. Nevertheless, outside of Japan, JCB is primarily accepted in businesses that are Japanese tourism-related. It has wider acceptance in Japan and Asia. But, you can easily use it in the US as well, since it maintained an alliance with the Discover Network. So, if you are American, you can definitely consider applying for one.

Well, the next brands are way too familiar to introduce. Like anywhere in the world, if a place in Japan takes credit card payment, it accepts VISA and MasterCard. Discover cards are widely accepted by merchants too.

AMEX card

There are stores where American Express can be accepted. But it is not out of the ordinary that these cards may be refused at … many stores due to the higher merchant fees. They can be used at most department stores of high-end products. Besides, if a shop accepts JCB, there is a higher chance that it also take AMEX.

To find out which exact card you should get, you can compare credit cards for use in Japan here, in Finder.com.

Using Credits Cards in Japan to pay for things/ make purchases

Restaurants

Commercial chains and Family-owned Restaurants

, can i use my debit card in japan

Family-run restaurants are common in Japan.

Of course, commercial chains will offer you paying by credit cards. But even family-owned restaurants in cosmopolitan cities such as Tokyo and Osaka may also welcome credit cards. You can identify these restaurants by looking for the credit card sticker displayed in the front door, the cash register, or asking the waiter after entering. The phrase to ask is “Kurejitto kādo wa tsukaemasu ka?” which means “Do you accept credit cards?

Yet, credit card payment may be refused at lunchtime, even if the place has a credit card sticker. And the unique restaurants using the ticket machines, that many of you are eager to visit, normally only take cash. Basically, you give the machine your cash, it gives you back your food tickets.

How to spot restaurants that accept credit cards payment in Japan

So it seems quite complicated to truly know which restaurants to go for credit card payment, right?

My advice is, as always, to do your research in advance. There are two super-convenient websites to find your restaurant online called Gurunavi or Savor Japan. The description of each restaurant, typically tell whether or not credit cards acceptable along with what kinds are usable

Hotels and other types of accommodations

Generally, credit cards can be used to pay for your stay at almost all business hotels, including hostels, guest houses, and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns). There will be a few exceptions, mostly in case the guest house is privately-run.

Ryokan in Japan

But, you can certainly use your cards to book any room through hotel reservation websites, whether the place normally accepts credit cards or not.

Train, Taxis and other types of transportation

Trains

JR Train

People in Japan get the train ticket from the ticket machine (found at all Japan Railway stations). Unfortunately, most of these machines will accept either cash or IC card. Well, IC card is Japanese rechargeable cards that pay fares on public transportation and help you purchase kinds of stuff from vending machines or shops. Otherwise, you must be quite lucky to find a ticket machine that lets you pay by credit cards. It has a credit card sticker outside as well.

So, please bring your cash. If you still need to pay by credit cards, another way is to visit the JR Ticket Office, which is located in large stations. For example, in Tokyo, there are JR Ticket Offices in Tokyo Station,  Ikebukuro Station, Shibuya Station, Shinjuku Station, and Ueno Station. For more information, please visit this page (Japanese).

Buses

Express Bus

Metropolitan buses usually only accept cash and IC card. But if you go on a longer distance, from a city to another, for instance, you can use credit cards for payment. This is called express buses. In particular, you must come to the bus companies or buy a ticket online at the reservation websites.

Taxis

Taxis in Japan

Almost all taxis of the major taxi companies accept credit cards and IC cards. On the window at the back of these vehicles, you will see a credit card logo. Furthermore, you may want to confirm with the driver using the phrases “Kurejitto kādo wa tsukaemasu ka?” before you enter the taxi.

Convenience, Retail  and Souvenir shop

Souvenirs

Souvenir shops

In souvenir shops situated in tourist areas, credit cards can definitely be in use. There will be a logo displayed at the front entrance. When there is none, don’t hesitate to ask the employee of the store.

Convenience and retail shop

Department stores

It is common to pay for food and other merchandise by credit cards in convenience stores, shopping centers, and department stores. These stores are nationwide chains in Japan ranging from clothes shops or electronic stores to drug stores. There would be no problem. But be aware of the small privately-run store which is not likely to accept your credit cards.

Using Credits Cards in Japan to withdraw money

You can realize that I repeatedly tell you to carry cash! I do it because it is really important. Unlike in the Western, cash dominates the spending in Japan. It doesn’t mean you have to put a lot of money in your purse, but just a decent amount. When needed, your credit cards can be used to withdraw more money from international ATMs.

For more information about money withdrawal in Japan, please read this article Using ATM In Japan – Accepted Card, Fees And More …

Important notes

Possible Fees

Even if you get credit cards accepted in Japan, you may face some fees below.

Foreign transaction fees

Transactions in the foreign countries come with these fees, imposed by your card issuers. While some are calculated in %, others might cost a flat fee. For instance, the American issuing bank normally asks for a fee of around 1% to 3% of your transaction. However, some cards customized for the travel charge no foreign transaction fees, for example, Visa Signature® Card. as well as the  Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. Therefore, researching credit cards fine print will not only prevent you from statement shock but also helo you save some money.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Currency conversion fees

You should also be conscious of the CC (currency conversion) fees. You have to handle this fee when paying in your country’s currency. In particular, Visa or Mastercard will charge 1% then the CC company can charge an extra 2-3%. So, instead, bill your credit card in yen if possible. Of course, some cards charge you nothing no matter what, including Captial one, 0% conversion on both debit/credit cards.

Safety

It is fair to say that Japan is a very safe country.  The highest risk is probably losing or forgetting your credit cards. Carrying a small amount of cash will solve the problems because you don’t need to take your credit cards out of your wallets too many times.

But if you want to be 100% sure, when using credits cards in Japan, just being as watchful that you would in your home country, including:

  • Don’t let people know your PIN. When inputting your PIN, cover it with your hand.
  • Be cautious when selecting ATMs. You’d better withdraw money in the post office or a busy street, rather than solitary places.
  • Take the credit card with you (maybe in your wallet) and always check your credit card after any use.
  • Notice credit card skimming. This is when a thief put a small device in the machine to read your information. Follow this below instruction to spot a skimmer.

Source: The balance

FAQs

+ What is the best credit card to use in Japan?

For short term visitors, you have no choice but to use your international credit cards. This is a policy of the Japanese government to prevent money laundering. So among them, VISA and Mastercard are the most favored. Following closely behind is American Express, but finding businesses that accept these cards will not be as easy.

But if you intend to stay in Japan for longer than 3 months, the best method is to get a Japanese credit card. Here is the list of some foreigner-friendly credit cards in Japan (we will go details later in another article).

  • Rakuten Card
  • Saison Card International
  • American Express Gold Card
  • EPOS Card
  • Sedina Card Jiyu!da!

+ How much cash should I bring to Japan?

It depends on the purpose of your trip, the budget, and how large your crew is. In case you are traveling, the common expense includes accommodation, sightseeing, eating, transport, shopping, which will cost you an average of 100$ a day per person.

Japan Yen

According to the US Department of State, the typical amount of money a person needs to travel in Japan is as below:

Length of stay Average expense (per person)
1-3 days 37,837 yen (358$)
4-6 days 98,403 yen (933$)
7-13 days 198,860 yen (1885$)
14-20 days 271,656 yen (2575$)

 

But keep in mind that there is no need to bring lots of Yen. As we mention, you can withdraw money from international ATMs all over Japan, from airport to convenience store, from postoffices to some shopping malls.

+ Is it better to take cash or card to Japan?

Japan is surprisingly a cash-driven country.  Even in a highly cosmopolitan city like Tokyo, cold hash cash is ideally the best way to spend money, especially for purchase at individual-run or small businesses. However, you can put your debit or credit card into use when it comes to large companies.

So the answer is both. You need some cash right after you land in Japan. But throughout your trip, you can easily get some cash from the ATMs, by using your cards. At some well-know retail chains, cards are also acceptable.

+ Can foreigners get a credit card in Japan?

YES, but there will be some conditions, of course. First, you need the residence card, which is only issued if you are living in Japan, to study or work, for instance. This will let you have your own bank account in Japan. Then, for credit card application, you would be required to provide some other documents like an ID card/ passport, your debit card, and a health insurance card. But please note that these documents will vary according to the credit card you are applying for.

In the worst scenario, you may get rejected. Then, you can always turn to the last resort option, which is the Vandle card. Thanks to the current cashless movement in Japan, Vandle is invented and it takes you no inspection to get one. Besides, The Vandle card doesn’t limit the age of cardholders. Therefore, if you are an under-aged foreign student, you can still apply for it.

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.