ATMs in Japan

The Secret to Getting Yen in Japan

by Robert Schrader on October 29, 2020

Let’s be honest: The topic of ATMs in Japan is not a sexy one. When I created this site many years ago, I never thought I would want to write an article about it!

On the other hand, many ingredients of the sexiest Japan trips are the least sexy (and certainly, the most sterile). The reality is that without a pocket full of yen in this surprisingly cash-centric country, you simply won’t get very far.

The bad news, historically, was that foreigners had limited options for withdrawing cash in Japan. The good news? That’s changing, although you still can’t insert your card into any old ATM machine.

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My Crash Course in Japanese ATM Insanity

Picture it: JR Tottori Station, mid-April 2014. I know nothing about ATMs in Japan—it’s my first trip to the country, after all—and I plunge my foreign card into a strange-looking machine whose menu is completely in Japanese. I knew almost immediately that I wouldn’t be getting any cash out; it was nothing short of a miracle that I was able to get my card back, given my utter ignorance of the Japanese language at the time.

It was only upon Googling what had just befallen me minutes later that I realized how fundamental my mistake had been: Most Japanese ATMs don’t accept foreign cards. This was especially true back in 2014, when foreign tourism had only just begun the dramatic rise that reached its pre-pandemic crescendo in 2019. Thankfully, the number of Japanese ATMs accepting international cards has greatly increased since then.

Japanese ATMs That Accept Foreign Cards

7-11

Specifically, only two types of ATMs reliably accepted foreign cards in the mid-2010s. The first were ones inside 7/11 stores, which are thankfully everywhere in Japan. These days, you can actually find standalone 7/11 ATMs (which sometimes say “7&i Holdings” instead of “7/11,” which is good considering I’m always tempted to break my first ¥10,000 bill when I get cash inside a kombini.

Japan Post

The second place where foreigners were guaranteed to be able to use ATMs in Japan was the Japan Post. Although these outlets aren’t quite as widespread as 7/11 in Japan, there’s at least one in every city, even small towns on random islands far offshore. With this being said, I haven’t gotten cash from a Japan Post ATM probably since my first trip.

Lawson

During my first of two 2017 trips to the Kansai region, I stopped in a Lawson store not far from Kyoto’s Ginkaku-ji temple, and was shocked to see a sign above the ATM inviting foreigners to use their cards in it. Since then, I’ve gotten cash at ATMs in several Lawson locations, although I have come across certain ATMs that don’t accept foreign cards.

FamilyMart

Another relatively surefire place foreigners can use ATMs in Japan these days is FamilyMart, although the chance of these machines not working is greater than in Lawson (and, certainly, 7/11). As a general rule, FamilyMart tends not to be my favorite Japanese convenience store, so I’ve never actually tried to withdraw yen in one!

AEON

I first encountered the Japanese banking brand AEON in Thailand in 2012, when a random machine of theirs at Bangkok’s MBK Center Mall was the only one in the city not to charge the exorbitant transaction fee of 150 baht, which has since risen to 220. I’ve never used an AOEN ATM in Japan, although they have apparently accepted foreign cards for around the past year or so.

Automated Foreign Exchange Machines in Japan

Having cash is essential when traveling in Japan, but you don’t necessarily need to get it at an ATM. Nor do you need to fill out tons of paperwork at the “official” airport exchange counter, as I’ve made the mistake of doing on one too many occasions. These days, automated currency exchange machines are popping up all over Japan at a rapid rate, not only in airports and transport hubs, but also even in certain hotels and tourist attractions.

In some ways these are more foolproof than ATMs in Japan, since the only reason for denial would be damaged or counterfeit foreign currency, or a lack of Japanese currency available to dispense. Additionally, these machines tend not to charge fees and offer up-to-the-minute market exchange rates, which means that they end up constituting the best bang for your buck, which will be especially important if the yen remains strong when we all visit Japan after Covid-19.

Other FAQ About ATMs in Japan

Which ATMs in Japan accept foreign cards?

Foreigners can reliably withdraw cash from ATMs inside 7/11 and Japan Post outlets; these machines always accept foreign cards. Increasingly, other ATMs accept foreign cards, namely those in other convenience stores, such as Lawson and FamilyMart.

How much does it cost to withdraw money in Japan?

ATM fees in Japan are relatively low, given the relatively high cost of traveling in the country. The base fee is ¥108 (around 1 USD), though certain ATMs charge multiples of this, most commonly ¥216 or ¥432, and usually due to extremely large amounts being withdrawn.

Should I carry cash in Japan?

You absolutely need to carry cash in Japan! While many hotels and some restaurants accept credit cards, it’s not uncommon to have to pay cash for bills as high as ¥10,000 or even more. In general, I recommend withdrawing no less than ¥50,000 each time you visit the ATM, and re-upping when you have less than ¥20,000 on your person.

The Bottom Line

The topic of ATMs in Japan is much less confusing and contentious today than it was when I first visited the country, but you should still be aware of certain limitations and constraints. Beyond the issue of ATMs themselves, it’s essential to realize the extent to which Japan is still a cash-centric country, which belies its reputation as someplace futuristic or even forward thinking. For more information about the topic of money in Japan, be sure to read the article where I address the question “is Japan expensive?” (and answer it in great detail) ; leave no stone unturned on your next trip when you hire me to plan it!

About The Author

is the author of 170 posts on Japan Starts Here. Robert created Japan Starts Here so the web would have a beautiful hub of Japan travel information and inspiration. He also runs the popular website Leave Your Daily Hell.

 
 

Japan Starts Here is information—and inspiration—for all your trips to Japan. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 
 

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