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In Japan at train stations, you can very easily buy a ticket, shinkansen or other service, at the ticket machines just by the gate.

There are (A) "credit card only" machines and (B) machines that take either cash (ie, notes/coins) or credit card.

All machines have an English button /often other languages too and you can easily select the train, seat etc if relevant, and pay.

HOWEVER I was astonished to see that very simply, it seems foreign credit cards, foreign cards of any type, are just not accepted.

As a curiosity I tried this extensively at many stations and many ticket machines, and indeed where the staff / locals etc spoke enough English, as best as I could understand indeed, amazingly, that's the case.

If you need a train ticket and you particularly want to pay using credit card, you have to stand in line (allow minimum one hour in almost all cases, since tourists flock to the ticket counter) at the ticket office;

or simply get cash from an ATM and use cash in the ticket machines, which is dead easy.

(Just TBC ordinary foreign credit cards work completely normally as anywhere in the world and are accepted everywhere in Japan for everything, in my experience. (Shops, restaurants, etc etc.))

Somewhat surprisingly, I thought there would be 100 million web pages where Otaku travellers yell about how ah hah! surprisingly! no foreign cards at Japanese train ticket machines! But no, I really can't see any solid info on it.

Does anyone decisively know if it's a plain fact that JR ticket machines simply do not accept foreign credit cards?

It could be I'm missing something or making some sort of mistake.


Related footnote - it's funny we live in an era when the internet has been around long enough that info on the net goes out of date really quickly. There are a million posts on the internet that JAPAN IS A CASH SOCIETY YOU CAN'T USE CARDS TOURIST BEWARE CARRY ONLY CASH IN JAPAN etc. Of course, this is absolutely wrong and ancient history now, you use normal international cards everywhere and always in Japan these days. This question is only about the weird curiosity of JR ticket machines!

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  • 2
    Just a quick note that the pandemic seems to have had a big effect on the "cash society" thing. I was here six months before the pandemic and have been back for over two months and in many situations, but not all, when cash was the only way before, I've been able to use my card now. Some places even preferred card. (The same happened in Australia but to a less noticeable extent, places that had $10 minimum for card purchase dropped the minimum.) Mar 30, 2023 at 3:34
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    as anywhere in the world — that's a bit of an overstatement. The world is a big place.
    – gerrit
    Mar 30, 2023 at 7:25
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    @jwenting my EU debit card works just fine in every store in the US.
    – JonathanReez
    Jun 29, 2023 at 2:45
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    @Fattie Are you sure that a, say, EU-issued VISA credit card works in Japan differently than an EU-issued VISA debit card? I can't believe that. Jun 29, 2023 at 8:05
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    @Fattie I'm not convinced. The payment processing infrastructure must be the same, why would VISA have multiple independent systems? Judging by the answers to your question, other users also report different experiences. Jun 29, 2023 at 11:59

3 Answers 3

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This is absolutely not true. I have used various foreign-issued cards at ticket vending machines operated by various JR companies and I have rarely had an issue. However, be well aware that not all cards would work. If your card is issued by Visa, MasterCard or American Express (or JCB, but that is very rare outside of East and Southeast Asia) and carries a chip, there is a good chance it would work. Amex cards seem to have the best chance of working, quite ironically.

Regardless, it's still a bad idea to go around Japan without carrying cash. Many places are still cash only; some have gone cashless recently but accept only QR codes, and yet others may accept cards but yours might not work.

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  • This is great information - just TBC were your cards USA cards? Below, someone mentioned using UK cards which worked. (I have only Visa and MC, and I have about 5 of each, all with chip, and I tried every single one and not one worked, at five different stations.) (March 2023)
    – Fattie
    Apr 3, 2023 at 21:48
  • @Fattie Yes, several US cards worked. Visa and Amex. It seems that Amex has the best chance of working.
    – xuq01
    Apr 4, 2023 at 4:09
  • @Fattie It's not too late to get an Amex card I guess! They've nerfed the benefits significantly though.
    – xuq01
    Apr 4, 2023 at 4:10
  • I'm wondering was this to buy shinkansen tickets (shinkansen machines), or to buy subway and other JR tickets ?
    – Fattie
    Apr 4, 2023 at 19:40
  • Was this within the last year or so? When did this happen? Before covid?
    – Fattie
    Apr 4, 2023 at 19:46
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I've been in Japan in November/December 2022, and bought tickets from JR machines at Kyoto station (and other places) using a UK MasterCard issued by Starling bank. I think I also used another card successfully, but I'm not sure about that.

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  • Thanks .. as you recall, was that to buy a shinkansen ticket, or, to buy perhaps a metro or similar ticket or pass? (I was literally just in Kyoto last week, and tried to buy a shinkansen ticket back to osaka (20 bucks) and I absolutely couldn't, trying many both MC / Visa (US banks, not UK banks), and indeed a staffer said to me "no foreign card, no foreign card" -! heh)
    – Fattie
    Mar 30, 2023 at 0:51
  • For all I know I've just been using totally the wrong slot, or something, all along :) Anything's possible ..
    – Fattie
    Mar 30, 2023 at 0:57
  • @Fattie Does your credit card have a microchip or magnetic stripe? In the past this was a problem with cards without a microchip. Mar 30, 2023 at 4:10
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    Mark, I have 11 (wth!) different USA credit cards with me. (they are all chip-n-pin, and I think most are tap these days also) Just as you say "chip problems" are often an issue. That does not seem to be the issue; they all read perfectly. (Also again as mentioned, the cards of mine work completely perfectly at the ordinary visa/mc card reader in the "walk up" shinkansen ticket shop at JR stations.) It's a mystery!
    – Fattie
    Mar 30, 2023 at 4:40
  • @Fattie This article implies that there is no general local cards only policy. They may be in transition in the implementation of general credit card usage. 2023-03-30: Japanese transportation companies look to credit cards as cheaper payment option - Asia News NetworkAsia News Network Paying for public transportation by credit card is expected to spread further when more overseas tourists come to Japan in the near future. Mar 30, 2023 at 4:48
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Note that if you want to use an IC card (Suica/pasmo etc) rather than paper ticket then these cannot be topped up with any credit/debit card whatsoever.

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  • This is incorrect as of 2024. You can install the Suica app on your phone, add the card to your phone wallet, and top it up easily with Apple or Google Pay. Feb 8 at 10:48

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