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How to handle cash in Japan

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Mar 13th, 2015, 09:23 AM
  #1
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How to handle cash in Japan

We're planning to use mainly cash for our upcoming two week trip in April.

How do you experienced Japan travelers get and use cash? Should we bring dollars with us to use or try to use ATMs to get cash? We have a Schwab checking account with no foreign transaction fees. I've read that finding ATMs is not as easy in Japan as it is in Europe. True?

Should we change some dollars to yen at the airport when we arrive? We're heading straight to Hotel Nikko at Kansai airport the first night.

Thanks for the help
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Mar 13th, 2015, 09:35 AM
  #2
 
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I have never had a problem finding ATMs in Japan but I have been in major cities. I prefer not to carry lots of cash so I use a card tied to an account with no foreign transaction fees to pay for most of the major expenses.
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Mar 13th, 2015, 10:12 AM
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The ATMs in any Post Office and any 7-11 will work with US cards, as will most at the airport. Random bank ATMs will not work.

US dollars will be very hard to change except maybe at the airport.
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Mar 13th, 2015, 11:12 AM
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Forget taking dollars. Use your ATM card. As others have said, look for ATMs in 7-11s and post offices. Any difficulties you've heard about in getting ATMs to work came from people who didn't know where to find ATMs that work with foreign cards.

You will find ATMs at the airport that will work with your cards.
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Mar 13th, 2015, 05:44 PM
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I always use the post office ATM's. In a small town they might only be open during regular business hours but more and more are open even when the PO is closed....
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Mar 13th, 2015, 05:51 PM
  #6
kja
 
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More info:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2208.html
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Mar 13th, 2015, 07:43 PM
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I just returned from three weeks in Kyushu and Honshu, and I think getting cash in Japan with a foreign ATM card is a pain. You have to go to a JT Bank machine, and they are only open for a few hours a day. I managed by always having enough cash for a couple of days, and each time I got to a new city, I found the JT Bank ATM machine and noted the hours. The JT Bank machines are typically near the train stations.

Japan is probably the most honest country on earth, so it's fine to carry some extra cash. If you left your wallet in a restaurant, for example, you would definitely get it back.
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Mar 13th, 2015, 07:48 PM
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CaliforniaLady, what is the JT Bank? Do you mean JP - Japan Post? In my travels including many parts of Honshu as well as Shikoku and Kyushu I found the Post Offices usually open from 9 to 5 weekdays at least and sometimes half a day Saturday....and more and more seem to have little separate enclosures for ATM machines that are open even more....
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Mar 13th, 2015, 07:54 PM
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JT Bank is an ATM kiosk (green colored sign), and I was told repeatedly during my trip that they were the only ones taking my foreign ATM card. I was unable to use my Schwab card at a 7/11, and the one post office that I tried did not have a machine.

The JT Bank ATM kiosk only had limited hours, and the glass doors would "lock" during closed hours.

The moral of the story is that you have to plan ahead to get cash in Japan.
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Mar 13th, 2015, 08:03 PM
  #10
kja
 
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@ CaliforniaLady -- I think you must have had a very unusual ATM card or some VERY bad advice. With the help of the above link, the OP should be able to identify options. And if nothing else, one should be able to use google to identify all post offices within Japan, their locations, the exact times during which the ATM machines are accessible, and whether they can be used for one's own ATM card -- I did so for my 2006 trip and had NO trouble.
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Mar 13th, 2015, 08:16 PM
  #11
 
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KJA, you missed my point. The fact that the machines are only open during limited hours, and you have to find where they are means that you have to plan in advance. I have a Schwab card, as I mentioned, and it is a fact that not all ATM machines take foreign cards.

I think it is time to put this topic to rest. The OP gets the idea.
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Mar 13th, 2015, 08:27 PM
  #12
kja
 
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I agree that planning in advance! is a good thing -- especially because it is reasonably easy to do.
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Mar 13th, 2015, 10:26 PM
  #13
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Most excellent advice everyone, just what I was looking for. I should have looked at the Japan Guide (thanks again, kja) as it sure has everything else! Also, had not thought of being able to Google Post Offices and 7-11s. Who would have thought a 7-11 would be important in Japan? I stay away from them at home in California...!

All the advice above is really appreciated. We might bring some initial cash and change at the airport and then look for ATMs at the locations suggested. At least you don't have to worry about carrying extra cash in Japan as it seems theft outside of some specific areas in large cities is very rare.

Thanks so much, everyone.
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Mar 14th, 2015, 12:46 AM
  #14
kja
 
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What is your arrival airport? There are probably maps online with complete details about available airports. There were in 2006....

(I didn't google 7-11s in Japan-- I don't think that was an option when I was there. But the Post Offices all were online, and every one would be found, complete with local map, hours, etc.)
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Mar 14th, 2015, 01:17 AM
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In most places, we assume we'll a) be able to easily get cash from cash machines and b) be able to pay on credit card for most things anyway.

On our first trip to Japan we discovered that Japan is more of a cash society than we expected and there were quite a few instances where we needed to pay in cash.

We found our (UK) credit cards worked fine in post offices, though we did find them a little tricky to find sometimes, and with limited opening hours. But we managed OK. Both of us got cash out on two cards each when we did find cash machines, so we didn't need to waste time on this too often.

For the second trip, we took pretty much enough cash for the entire trip and carried it with us and never felt unsafe doing so. I'm not sure there are many other countries I'd contemplate doing that.
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Mar 14th, 2015, 09:01 AM
  #16
 
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Kavey,
I have a Schwab card, just like you, and here is what I did: Narita airport has plenty of ATM's that will take your card. At that point, you should get about $200 in yen. After that, you will find ATM machines in various cities that will take your Schwab card, but it will take time to find them. Do not bring a bunch of US dollars, it will be a project trying to exchange them. My son did exactly that recently, and it took a long time at a bank to change them into yen. Just use your Schwab card every couple of days. You will find ATM machines that take it, but you shouldn't wait until the last minute like you can in other countries.
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Mar 14th, 2015, 12:32 PM
  #17
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Almost all of our accommodations (combo of apartment, ryokans, small hotel, guesthouses) require cash payments. We're going to need a lot of cash!

Our US credit card is Capital One and debit card Schwab. Used both successfully in Italy and France.

Now getting somewhat conflicting advice about bringing cash vs relying entirely on ATMs...

Kavey - where did you exchange your cash for yen? Can you do that at post offices, or did you rely on banks and airports?

We've managed to squirrel away a bunch of US dollars in cash and were planning to bring a larger amount than we normally travel with as Japan seems so safe and we need cash to pay for lodging.

Thanks, Kavey and CaliforniaLady (I'm one, too!)

kja - we arrive at Kansai airport around 7 pm and are walking over to Hotel Nikko there for the first night. Will need cash to pay for two nights at a guesthouse in Nara as our next stop and then the monastery at Koyasan the next night.
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Mar 14th, 2015, 12:34 PM
  #18
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One more thing...you can pay for train travel via credit card, right? Hope so.
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Mar 14th, 2015, 01:03 PM
  #19
 
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Hi Fellow Californian Leslieq,

I have been to Japan several times, and here is what you should do. Don't bring US dollars with you, except maybe $50 in small bills for tips, etc. Japan is very "provincial," and they will not want your dollars. I would go to an ATM machine at Kansai airport and get enough cash for the next few days. Nara is pretty isolated, and there may or may not be an ATM machine there that takes foreign currency.

Next, I would get a credit card, such as a Chase Sapphire that has no foreign transaction fee. I hope you have time do do this before you leave. In that way, you can use the card at most hotels, and you don't have to worry about credit card fraud in Japan. I even use my Chase card for souvenir purchases so I don't have to use up my cash.

And yes, every train station, even in the countryside, will take your credit card. Only small hotels and guesthouses insist on cash. Earlier posters have disagreed with me, but I found foreign-accepting ATM machines near the train stations.

Have a good time and try not to worry. Every person in Japan, even if they speak little English, will knock themselves out to help you. You may find yourself on a street corner with several people crowded around you, drawing maps. Enjoy your trip!
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Mar 14th, 2015, 01:03 PM
  #20
 
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Imagine trying to change Yen for Dollars in San Francisco.

Mutatis mutandis in Nara.

Really, this is not difficult. Put your ATM card in the right kind of cash machine (Post Office, 7-11, airport) and take out 45,000Y. Study the portraits on the bills and learn something about Japanese history.

Credit cards work for hotels, trains, rental cars. Not so much for ryokan, meals, minor purchases.
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