Exchanging Money in Japan
Exchanging money in Japan has become a lot easier with the acceptance of international ATM cards and credit cards. However, Japan is still very much a cash-based society, so it’s best to do research and make preparations before you go.
Useful Tips for Exchanging Money in Japan
Exchange at the Airport
Plan to exchange your money at the airport when you arrive. The rates are the same as at the banks, and you want to have Japanese yen once you leave the airport. It is possible to exchange money at major hotels, but the rates are usually not as good.
Depending on where you are traveling from, it might be beneficial to exchange money before arriving. For instance, you will get a better exchange rate for yen in Southeast Asian countries than in Japan. But if you are traveling from the United States, definitely wait to exchange your money. You will get a much better rate in Japan for your dollars than in the US.
Exchange All Your Cash
Exchange any and all cash that you are planning to use while in Japan at the airport. This is the most convenient option because it is difficult to exchange cash once you leave the airport.
Large banks and post offices have money exchange counters, but the process can take a long time and you are subject to banking hours.
Be sure to exchange enough cash to cover incidentals (i.e., meals, vending machines, taxis, entrance fees). Many small shops and restaurants, especially in rural areas, may not accept credit cards.
Theft is not so much an issue. In Japan, it is not uncommon for people to carry 100,000 yen (equivalent to $1,000) in their wallets. And, it is perfectly acceptable to pay for a low-cost item with a 10,000 yen bill (equivalent to $100).
ATM Cards Get a Better Rate than Cash
Exchanging cash is convenient and does not incur any fees, but you get a lower rate of exchange than withdrawing money from an ATM.
Photo by Kerb / CC BY-NC-ND
International ATM cards only work on select machines in Japan. You can use international ATM cards at Seven Bank ATMs (at 7-Eleven convenience stores) and Japan Post ATMs.
- Japan Post ATMs: 30,000 machines all across Japan at Japan Post offices. 50,000 yen limit per transaction/day.
- Seven Bank ATMs: 25,000 machines all across Japan at 7-Eleven convenience stores. Open 24 hours. 100,000 yen limit per transaction/day.
The ATMs in Japan have fees depending on the time and day of the week, so take note before withdrawing money. The fees can range from 0 yen to 220 yen.
Also, check with your bank regarding foreign transaction fees, maximum withdrawal limits, and other ATM fees.
For example, my bank has a maximum withdrawal limit of $600 per day and charges a 1% transaction fee and a $1 ATM fee.
Use Credit Cards for Larger Purchases
Credit cards get the best exchange rates and are accepted at most major hotels, department stores, restaurants, and convenience stores.
It’s always good to have cash on hand, but use a credit card when you are making a large purchase because you will get a much better rate of exchange.
Before your trip, inquire to make sure your credit card does not have foreign transaction fees. These are often around 3% of the amount charged, which can add up!
Don’t Bother with Traveler’s Checks
Traveler’s checks used to be the best method of exchange because they offer a better rate than cash. However, they are difficult to get in the US, can incur fees, and cost money to exchange. With the acceptance of international ATM cards and credit cards in Japan, they are no longer necessary.
If getting traveler’s checks is the better option for you, then treat them like cash and exchange all of them at the airport. They will be difficult to exchange once you leave the airport.
Update: We’ve recently started using the WISE card for transferring funds into foreign currency. It’s a convenient and safe way to exchange, withdraw, and spend money while traveling.
You can use your WISE card anywhere MasterCard is accepted, and you can withdraw money from ATMs with minimal fees. You can read more about it in our Wise Card article.
Ready for the Trip of a Lifetime?
Experience Japanese culture, travel like a local and get to know the real Japan on one of our Small Group Tours.
More Travel Tips You Might Like
Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this article. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We have no association with the companies or the products reviewed. These are our own opinions of top travel products.
Becki and Shawn
Japan Travel Specialists
Hi, we’re Becki and Shawn! We love Japan and are truly passionate about Japan and Japan travel.
We’ve lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for 20+ years, so we know where to go, what to see, and how to get there. Join us in Japan for an adventure of a lifetime!