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We are planning a trip to Japan in Q1 of 2023.

We posses European Visa debit cards and pay almost everything with them at home. We have heard, that card payments are much less prevalent in Japan. We have heard that there seems to be a problem with Visa card payments in Japan at the moment.

This question answers most of our concerns, but is 5 years old.

What is the current situation with Visa debit card payments in Japan? We are going to spend most of our time in large cities.

Is it possible to buy and recharge PASMO/SUICA cards using Visa debit cards?

Should we get a credit card issued? Would the support be better, or would there be no significant difference?

Thank you for your answers.

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    The last time I was there, rather few places accepted Visa (only the ATM at 7-11), and I had more luck with MasterCard. Dec 31, 2022 at 15:31
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    I've been in Japan last week and saw that cash is still used a lot there. I tried to use my cards in a 7-11 store: Visa didn't work (tried contactless, swipe and chip, all failed), Mastercard worked. After that I didn't try again, as the Visa card was locked and I had to unlock it (fortunately it could be done by the card issuer app). After unlocking, I could withdraw cash with that card, and didn't try to use any card for the rest of the trip.
    – hkotsubo
    Apr 20 at 19:50

4 Answers 4

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Not much has changed, although COVID has sped up the transition away from cash a bit and these days you can withdraw cash from almost any major Japanese bank ATM. But the short answer is, you will need to carry cash (Japanese yen), many restaurants, shops, taxis etc still accept nothing else and credit cards will not solve this problem.

PASMO/Suica can generally speaking only be topped up with cash, although there are various tourist versions with preloaded value that you can pay for with cards at the airport and major train stations, and residents can recharge automatically from Japanese bank accounts etc.

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The linked question and its answer are still relevant. Cash is the most prevalent payment method. I have just spend a month in Japan, and have not encountered anything where paying by cash was impossible or even discouraged. The Covid-related push for less cash usage in Europe seems to have led to automated tills instead, where you put your cash into the machine, rather than hand it to the cashier.

You can get cash with a European debit card by using one of the ubiquitous 7-11 ATMs. Other ATMs may work or may not, but in a large city you are probably never more than 500m from the nearest 7-11 anyway.

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    7Eleven is the only ATM in Japan that has consistently worked for me. Dec 29, 2022 at 23:16
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Even in Tokyo, carry cash. Use credit cards and mobile payments when you can, but don't expect it. In Japan, 76% of transactions are made in cash.

Avoid debit cards use credit cards if possible (credit cards offer more protection).

Train passes can be easily recharged with credit cards (at least, in Tokyo).

Mobile payment systems seem more widely accepted than credit cards. As of 2022, you can use them at a lot of locations - at least in Tokyo; however, some of the most popular mobile payment systems here seem to be restricted to Japanese mobile numbers and bank accounts at the moment, which is a real shame.

You should be able to use Apple Pay or Google Pay at some locations, but these seem less common that the native systems.

Japan payment stats:

Most Popular Mobile Payment Services in Japan

  • PayPay
  • LINE Pay
  • Rakuten Pay (楽天ペイ)
  • Origami Pay
  • D-barai (D払い)
  • merPay
  • Pixiv PAY
  • pring
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay

A good example of a Japanese service is PayPay (Blog). It offers English support, but you need a Japanese phone number and bank account to use the service.

So carry cash, try to use mobile payment systems or a credit card when you can.

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im currently in the process of talking to google pay/google wallet japanese customer service regarding this exact issue. I am heading the japan 2023 and want to buy a physical card and add it to my google wallet for the specific reason of recharging it with my Visa credit/debit card(so I don't have to use up my cash), while still using the physical card for all the tap & pay transactions during the trip. I have been told this is impossible as the pasmo/suica card can only be recharged in the wallet with a japanese card.

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    Correct, you need a mobile phone with Osaifu-Keitai support. While all modern iPhones have this, Androids not specifically designed for the Japanese market typically do not: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osaifu-Keitai Jan 2, 2023 at 20:20

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