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I'm planning how I'll be bringing my money in my future Japan trip, and I was wondering if I could use a mix of cash and credit cards. Sadly, as of the moment, I only have an Amex credit card.

Also, if I could, would you recommend it? (in regards to additional fees or anything)

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    Without knowing where you are from ... you might check with your bank to see if they have any relationships with a Japanese bank. If your bank does have a relationship then there is a chance that a Visa or MasterCard debit card from your bank will work in the ATMs of the corresponding Japanese bank. Unfortunately there are not huge numbers of banks with this in place, but worth asking about. – user13044 Feb 12 '15 at 6:36
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Credit cards are definitely NOT widely accepted in Japan. It was slightly better than I'd heard - I'd heard not at all, but I went last year (including Osaka).

Essentially, it was easiest to take some cash (As much as you're willing to have on your person), and then go to either a post office or 7-Eleven shops - they have ATMs that allow you to use foreign credit cards or debit cards, including American Express (Source: personal experience, and another source online).

I found that the most convenient, I just accept the fees and get a decent chunk out at the time, while my travelling friends exchanged a much larger amount in Australia and brought the cash with them.

Each to their own. I dislike having large sums of cash on me :/ Note that several banks allow you to get fee-free cards for travel. I also used the Qantas Cash credit card - it's a Visa card, but allows you to pre-load it with foreign currencies (like yen) and then draw on that (earning airpoints at the same time).

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    (+1) Similar to your story, I was the one carrying cash with me and exchanging to Yens when running out of local currency in my wallet, whereas my travel mate relied on a credit card to get money from the ATMs. To our experience, in Tokyo it was very difficult to find a place with European cards being accepted, took us an hour or two at a time asking people around, and in smaller towns it was simply impossible. – downhand Feb 12 '15 at 8:47
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    @downhand I went to Japan in July 2014 and I had no problems using my UK credit and debit cards in the 7-Eleven ATMs. These were VISA and MasterCard. I was able to use my card in most shops too (I think we only had a problem once when the shop took cards but mine didn't work). – emmalgale Feb 17 '15 at 16:54
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Qualifier: I live in Tokyo.

All the large stores, especially the major electronics retailers and any international-level hotel, will accept most credit cards. American Express is certainly the least popular, if you can obtain a Visa you'd have very few problems.

Smaller stores, almost all restaurants under $50/plate (and some that are over), and the smaller non-chain hotels are cash only.

On the positive side, withdrawing cash from an ATM is much easier than only a few years ago. 7-11 convenience store ATMs accept Plus-network bank cards, so if it has the Plus logo on the back you just need to find a 7-11, and that won't be a problem.

Fees are $2 per transaction over whatever your bank charges, so don't go in for an extra $20. I usually withdraw Y50,000 - Y90,000 at a time.

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    The Cirrus logo'd cards also work at 7-11 but there have been periods in recent years where they did not! Other convenience stores not though so specifically 7-11. Most post offices have one or several ATMs but in small post offices they'll be inside not accessible outside PO hours. CitiBank ATMs always seems to work too if all else fails. – hippietrail Feb 16 '15 at 15:19
  • Amex is more popular than Diners and UnionPay. – Blaszard Mar 27 '17 at 9:36
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Mark's answer is generally correct -- Japan is still a cash society and it is generally far more convenient (and reliable) to carry a wad of cash easily withdrawn from a 7-11 or Japan Post Office ATM -- yet credit card acceptance is far far better than the dire picture he paints.

Places that almost universally (90%+) accept credit cards:

  • Hotels
  • Trains (for charging a prepaid card, not sure about individual tickets)
  • Department Stores
  • Electronics Stores
  • Convenient Stores
  • Larger chain shops (Uni-qlo, etc.)

Places that generally (50%+) accept credit cards:

  • Restaurants with average dishes over ¥1,000
  • Taxis
  • Supermarkets
  • Bars that do not bill by the drink

Of the places that do accept credit cards, Amex is definitely lowest on the list. Visa and Mastercard are almost universally accepted. Japan Diner's Club or something of the sort (you likely don't have one) are less accepted. American Express probably runs around 50% of Visa/MC.

So if you're planning on paying for everything with your Amex, you're going to run in to some trouble. If you are planning to use it in the first list of places (mostly for larger purchases), you'll have better luck, but will probably run in to somewhere that doesn't accept them.

The above is my experience living in urban/semi-urban Western Japan for the past decade and change. Your mileage may vary if you go out to the countryside.

  • Trains (for charging a prepaid card, not sure about individual tickets) More specifically? Credit cards are certainly not accepted by JR East to charge a Suica. – fkraiem Jun 20 '15 at 7:38
  • And not by JR West either for Icoca. jr-odekake.net/icoca/guide/charge/icoca/payment.html. – fkraiem Jun 20 '15 at 7:45
  • Diners Club has an arrangement with Discover. An American Discover card carries a small Diners Club logo on the back. I've found acceptance in Europe hit-or-miss, never tried in Asia. – Andrew Lazarus Aug 30 '16 at 19:31

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