Banks, ATM's and Currency Exchange
When it comes to banks, ATMs and currency exchange in Japan, it's important to know that a lot of places won't accept card. Because of this, it's good to know where you can withdraw money to get you through your trip.
The official currency in Japan is the Japanese Yen (JPY). Japan is a popular destination, but it can be tricky to exchange Australian cash there, so consider exchanging money to Yen before you go.
Before you head to Japan, learn about:
- Changing money in Japan
- Using credit and debit cards in Japan
- ATMs in Japan
- Banks in Japan
- Travellers cheques (and why you shouldn't use them)
Changing Money in Japan
Changing money when you get to Japan can be a little bit complicated. It is possible, and there are a couple of different ways you can do it, but there are also some things you have to consider. To find the best places to buy JPY, you can read our guide here.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind if you are changing money in Japan:
- There is no limit on the amount of cash you can take into Japan but you must declare it if what you're bringing in exceeds ¥1,000,000 or another currency's equivalent. (At the time we wrote this, this was about $12,000AUD)
- Make yourself aware of what the exchange rate is before you make an exchange. This will help you get a fair exchange and make you aware of the fees they're charging you.
- While there are places in Japan that allow you to exchange currency, such as international hotels and airports, you will probably find it easier to exchange USD rather than AUD.
- Use our currency converter to find out what the current rate is between the AUD and JPY.
Using credit and debit cards in Japan
Interestingly, Japan is still a widely cashed based economy and you'll find that it is generally the preferred payment method. Here is some information if you would like to try and use card:
- Usually you'll find that MasterCard and Visa are accepted, where card is accepted. AMEX may be harder to use.
- Be careful of overseas ATM fees and currency conversion fees when you're making purchases and withdrawals.
- You will find that most Japanese ATMs won't accept foreign cards. 7-Eleven convenience stores have ATMs that will though.
- Bankwest Platinum Card and 28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard are examples of credit card accounts which waive the fee for currency conversion
- Citibank Plus Everyday Account has a debit card that isn't charged international ATM or transaction fees, and gives you the interbank rate for the exchange.
A couple of important things:
- If you're using your Australian card in Japan, make sure you're opting to be charged in JPY when you check out. You will generally be offered a very poor exchange rate if you opt to pay in AUD, so it's better to let your financial institution do the conversion.
- To find out the best travel cards to use in Japan, read our article here.
ATMs in Japan
While there are ATMs all over Japan, not all of them accept foreign cards which makes it sometimes hard to make withdrawals.
Also keep in mind that most banks will charge a foreign transaction fee if you're using your Australian debit card. And you might find there is an ATM access fee.
This means that if you are withdrawing cash from ATMs, plan ahead if you can. Instead of making multiple withdrawals, try and withdraw everything you need and minimise the times you do it.
There are some banks in Australia that let you withdraw money free of charge when you're overseas. Citibank and ING do this. If you travel frequently, it could be worth looking into opening an account with a bank like this.
ATM TIP: always choose to withdraw in Japanese Yen (JPY) to get the 'mid-market rate' which is the best exchange rate you can possibly get.
Banks in Japan
Let's have a look at banking in Japan. They have a central bank called the Bank of Japan and then a number of other banks available throughout the country.
You will generally find Japanese banks open between 9am and 3pm, Monday to Friday. Before you leave Australia it is worth asking your local bank if they have a partnership with a bank in Japan. You may find you can use their ATMs free of charge and avoid having to pay transaction fees!
The main banks in Japan are:
Thinking of using travellers cheques in Japan? Don't.
Travellers cheques are pretty outdated now, and it is rare to find places that will cash them. Having said that, if you already have some or are thinking of getting some for your trip to Japan, here are some important things to keep in mind:
- They're expensive, and it's rare that the rates offered are competitive.
- They're inconvenient because they are not accepted in most places, and it's hard to find a bank that will cash them.
- The main advantage of traveller’s cheques is they can be replaced if they’re lost or stolen, and only you can cash them. But all travel cards will generally have provisions for this as well if you don't want to carry cash.
- In Japan you can probably exchange them at some banks, at the airport and major post offices.
- We would suggest only using them if you really, really have to.