Cash, Credit, or Debit? Payment Options in Japan

  • HOW TO
  • All countries in the world have different kinds of payment methods. When you are coming to a new country, whether it be for staying long-term or just for traveling, it can be a little problematic for you to get used to the new payment system. If you are wondering how to pay in Japan in the most convenient way, whether it is cash, credit or debit card, the following information might help you during your stay.

    1. Cash is the number one option

    Japan is still a cash-based society. Don’t be shocked when you see how much cash Japanese people are carrying in their wallet. In Japan, it is very common to keep tens of thousands of yen in your wallet. The main reason is because most shops in Japan do not accept credit or debit cards. Paying with cash (Japanese yen) is the first option. Even when you go to a big restaurant, club, public service, shopping center, it is better to prepare a lot of cash to pay because not all stores indicate whether they accepting only cash or cards as well. Fortunately, Japan is safer than most other countries. Carrying a lot of cash will not be risky even if you are a foreigner. In addition, while in some countries the cashier will refuse to accept your money if the amount is too big and they need to give you a lot of change, in Japan, you need not worry about those things because you could really pay for a bottle of 100 yen mineral water using 10,000 Japanese yen bill in a convenience store.

    2. Cash cards or debit cards are not acceptable

    In some countries people commonly use debit cards as a form of payment, where in Japan it is usually called the “cash card”. In Japan, cash card issued by Japanese bank is only used to take money from your bank account directly from the ATM and also it is used to authorize scheduled payments (for example: phone or internet billings) during your first time when signing the contract. Similarly, foreign debit cards are also not accepted in most Japanese shops, but some debit cards may be useful to withdraw cash from ATMs.

    3. Credit cards

    While credit cards are becoming popular, there is an increased acceptance of credit cards, especially in big cities. Most hotels and department stores, mid to high-end restaurants, supermarkets, and even convenience stores and taxi drivers do accept payments by credit cards (VISA or Mastercard). Although some shops display the logos of credit card brands they accept, some accept credit cards without such signs, but feel free to ask store staff if they take credit card payments. However, foreigners should not expect to have much luck outside of big cities. Another thing to be noted before you fly to Japan if you are planning to use foreign credit cards for payments, make sure you contact your issuing bank to approve international use of your credit card.

    While credit card payments are becoming more prevalent, they are still not as helpful as cash. Having seen the facts, you should have a basic idea of how much money you should prepare for your stay. Cash is handy because it is accepted everywhere, but credit cards can also be reliable as an alternative to be used at appropriate locations. If you need to get Japanese yen in cash when you are in Japan, it will not be a problem since you would find many places that handle currency exchange and ATMs that allow withdrawal from international cards (try convenience store ATMs).

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