ATMs and Credit Cards in Japan

Jan 6th, 2011, 06:23 PM
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ATMs and Credit Cards in Japan

We will be spending 2 weeks in Japan in May, and I'm trying to get a feel for the availability and acceptance of ATM for cash withdrawals, and credit cards for purchases, meals and other transient costs. Some of the forum discusions I recall indicated that ATMs are not very available throughout Japan, and raises the question about carrying large amounts of cash vice relying on plastic.

Similarly, people have mentioned that credit cards are not universally accepted in Japan, eg, when going into a restaurant .

As one who has traveled extensively throughout the world, I find that hard to believe in a modern country like Japan you have to rely on cash. VISA cards have been good all over, and ATMs are ubiquitous.

Can anyone please provide the current situation, and how does one make sure they are covered financially when traveling throughout Japan.

Thanks in advance for any advice/recommenations you can provide.

richard58 is offline  
Jan 6th, 2011, 07:01 PM
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I think your information is fairly accurate. ATM's that accept "western" cards are available, but not abundant. If you can find a post office, they usually have them...look for the ones with the green clover. The airports have them also, but you just need to keep trying each one until you find one that works. 7-11 stores are a good bet also.

I have been stuck with a restaurant bill for more cash than I had in my wallet and they didn't accept credit cards. All part of the fun learning experience!

If you want to be conservative, just exchange a couple hundred US$ at the airport and live off that until you can locate an ATM.
deptrai is offline  
Jan 6th, 2011, 07:16 PM
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ATMs at post office machines accept most international cards. Check to make sure your card uses one of the networks indicated.
Also familiarize yourself with the logo. There are postal ATMs in every poet office, as well as in many shopping centers. I can walk to 6 different places with postal ATMs in 10 minutes or less from my house. In the countryside, every town has a post office. Honestly, if you can't find a post office ATM you aren't looking or you don't know what you are looking for. Do keep in mind, though, that ATMs are not open 24 hours. Most are 9 - 5. Citibank and 7-11 stores also have ATMs that accept foreign cards. Most banks do not.

Credit cards - most places except souvenir stands and small cheap restaurants now accept credit cards. I regularly use a visa card for groceries, gas, coffee, most everything really, because we get points. Just ask before ordering if you aren't sure.

We pretty routing carry ¥30,000 or so, but it lasts me a while because mostly I use a card. No problem carrying cash though. It's normal.
KimJapan is offline  
Jan 6th, 2011, 07:24 PM
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Also small inns, ryokan, often do not accept credit cards. I have stayed at several like that - they are small family businesses for the most part so I guess cc's are too much trouble. They always tell you in advance if it's cash only.
I've always been able to find PO's or 7-11 stores. I try to stock up when I arrive at the airport as well.
Mara is online now  
Jan 6th, 2011, 07:46 PM
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How old is your info? What does "credit cards" not "universally accepted" mean?

ATMs are NOT ubiquitous in Japan as other places but (1) there is little petty theft, (2) they are certainly relatively easy to find, especially in major train stations (JR trains, not local metros).

Small mom and pop restaurants may not take cards, and your amex will be less useful than mastercard or visa, but restaurants in large cities and busy areas will accept your plastic.
BigRuss is offline  
Jan 7th, 2011, 10:00 AM
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I no longer have the link, but before I went to Japan I found a web-site that listed the hours of all post offices in Japan and, I believe, the hours during which one could access the post office ATMs. It might be worth looking for that web site if you're going to be outside of major cities on weekends, when post offices might not be open (as KimJapan noted).
kja is offline  
Jan 7th, 2011, 11:31 AM
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Here's the PO site in Japanese - depending on your Japanese ability you can click on the ATM tab and check out locations and hours.....
Mara is online now  
Jan 7th, 2011, 11:34 AM
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That's it! You can use babel fish to translate.
kja is offline  
Jan 7th, 2011, 12:14 PM
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there is an English link on the upper right

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jan 7th, 2011, 12:16 PM
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oh I see now....
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jan 7th, 2011, 12:58 PM
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Relying on ATMs for cash is fine in Tokyo, as there is a 24-hour 7-Eleven convenience shop at just about every street corner, and their ATMs take foreign cards. Similar in other major cities, but beware in smaller places (even if full of tourists) and rural parts. There post office is often the only means of accessing cash (there are some parts of Japan, esp in Northern Tohoku, where 7-Eleven are few and far between - definitely Lawson territory). For example, the famous Kamikochi in Japan Alps, mobbed with tourists, has no ATMs (there is a small post office but without ATM). So always head out of major cities with enough cash to last (I typically carry 50,000 to 100,000 yen in rural Japan), and check the operating hours of Japan Post ATM you hope to use. Typical hours at rural branches are 9-5 M-F and 9-1 Sat, closed Sundays and holidays.
Even in towns, a good rule of thumb is to stock up on yen whenever you see a useable ATM, and don't start looking for one when you are running short, esp in evenings and at weekends and holidays (of which there are many).
Alec is offline  
Jan 7th, 2011, 05:51 PM
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ht, I don't believe the English link goes to the detailed listings of ATMs - maybe I'm wrong but I can't find it - with the Japanese site you need to know the prefecture, city, etc in Kanji - then you can click on a map and see the local POs and see the hours of service with a little figuring out of the Japanese - really not terribly hard....I usually write all the names of the towns I will visit and pass through in both Kanji and hiragana....
I agree that the small towns might not have POs with ATMs open other than regular M-F business hours, Alec.
Mara is online now  
Jan 7th, 2011, 08:40 PM
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ATMs are available everywhere in Japan. It is that the ones that take western cards are few. While 7-Eleven and Post Office ATMs do take ATM cards, they are still a small fraction of all ATMs.

As Alec indicated, stock up on yens when you see an ATM that takes your card and don't wait until getting low on cash. Surprising places didn't take credit cards. I bought 6,000 yen worth of bus passes and the transit office did not take credit cards, ouch. After a few days I realized I needed to carry 50,000 to 100,000 yen in cash when traveling with my family especially in rural areas.

It is not just the tourists who carry cash. At a department store, I saw a business man pulling out 40,000 yen in cash for a purchase. When I tried to use my CC to buy 30,000 yen worth of goods at the same store, the store accepted it but the sales lady spent about 30min working with the business office to find out just what she was supposed to do.

Also don't run out of 1,000 yen bills. Not all the vending machines take larger bills.
nickn is offline  
Jan 14th, 2011, 07:46 AM
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Thanks to all who have provided infornmation. Forewarned is forearmed, we will be spending some time in rural areas, Takayama and Kanazawa, and this will help with planning.

Best to all and thanks again,

richard58 is offline  
Jan 26th, 2011, 09:01 AM
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I just received a new Bank of America ATM checkcard. Unlike my previous card, this one did not indicate participation with the international PLUS program. 7-Eleven and Japanese post office ATMs are supposed to accept PLUS linked cards. Does anyone have experience with the new BoA card?
wcroom is offline  
Jan 26th, 2011, 09:29 AM
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That's what I meant by "oh I see now"

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jan 26th, 2011, 09:43 AM
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ht: like the blind carpenter ... he picked up his hammer and saw.

DonTopaz is offline  
Jan 26th, 2011, 02:14 PM
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We were there last year and found that ATM machines which accept VISA were everywhere in Tokyo but with MC you have to go to Post Offices.
Cilla_Tey is offline  
Jan 26th, 2011, 02:31 PM
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Takayama and Kanazawa are not exactly rural. Small cities. Plenty of post offices. Within ten minutes of my house in Kanazawa I can walk to no fewer than five post offices with ATMs that take int'l cards. Familiarize yourself with the logo and you'll find them all over the place. Shopping centers also almost always have postal ATMs in the cash corner, usually a collection of 6 or more machines from various banks including the post office.
KimJapan is offline  
Jan 27th, 2011, 03:54 PM
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When you arrive, try your cards at any seven Eleven convenience store. They are in operation 24 hours and take, among others, Citibank cards.

Many ATMs in Japan shut down at night - or they are programmed not to take other bank cards after certain hours.

As a rule, though, ATMs are reasonably convenient here.

Some places do NOT accept major US credit cards, however. American Express seems the most respected among those accepted.
Chamade is offline  

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