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I know that Japan is primarily a cash society but I've heard that they've become more accepting of credit cards lately. Question is 3 parts:

  1. How common is credit card acceptance in major cities?
  2. What cards are more accepted?
  3. When they are accepted, do they use the stripe or do they use EMV and pin?
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    @JonathanReez Thanks, I did read that but I was hoping for more recent information. – Daxxcat Aug 30 '16 at 19:33
  • 7-11 has no problem with my Amex, just swipe (no signature). Smaller stores are a different matter. – Calchas Aug 30 '16 at 19:45
  • 7-11 ATMs accept most foreign cards so you will have no problems getting money out. However when using a card to pay bills at the register, there are some places that will not accept them. Due to the local abundance of credit cards, most of the time you will be able to pay by card. The most common are MasterCard, Visa, JCB. Amex and American Express and the places you are most able to use them are, family restaurants, supermarkets and large stores. – The Wandering Coder Aug 31 '16 at 0:09
  • Also of note: Discover and JCB partnered a few years ago to accept each other's cards, so you can use Discover anywhere in Japan that accepts JCB (if you can convince the cashier that the card will work). – josh3736 Aug 31 '16 at 17:06
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  1. The credit card acceptance is generally bad compared to other major cities in North America, Europe, South Korea, and Australia. It is slightly worse than in Hong Kong and Singapore, but I don't think it makes a much difference here.

  2. As to the brand of cards, the order of prevalence is Visa, MasterCard, JCB/Amex (both in partnership), Diners, and UnionPay. However, the prevalence gap between MasterCard and JCB/Amex is quite large. So if you are concerned, carry either Visa or MasterCard (Visa is more widely used only slightly).

    UnionPay is rarely used here, but with the rise of the number of tourists from China, some department stores started to accept it.

  3. More and more stores are making a transition to EMV due to the potential scamming but there are still many places that use the stripe only. I don't know if there are any places that only accept EMV in my experience, so it is unlikely that you get denied by handing in a card without EMV chip.

    Also, most stores don't require you to enter PIN, especially for a small amount of purchase. The threshold is somewhere around 5,000 ~ 10,000 JPY. But it depends on each store, I think.

    Also, if you don't know or forget your PIN, they will kindly accept a signature.

If you are not sure what kind of stores accept it or not, here is a general standard:

  • Accept: department stores, large electronic shops (e.g. Yodobashi, Bic Camera), +3 star or above hotels, restaurants that cost 3,000 JPY or above per person, starbucks, leading convenience stores (7-11, Lawson), large supermarkets

  • Rarely accept: cheap, chained-cafe (except Starbucks), McDonalds, fast foods, cheap restaurants (mostly not chained), cheap local food shops

  • Never accept: small hospitals, a post office, transportation card (e.g. Suica, except those that are issued as a credit card, which foreign travelers should see it near impossible to create as a tourist)

Also, some restaurants and cafes only accept a card if you pay enough, around 2,000 ~ 3,000 JPY.

  • You CAN charge your IC card with a credit card at an ATM... – The Wandering Coder Sep 1 '16 at 0:20
  • @TheWanderingCoder What are you talking about? Siuca? I don't know any Suica (or equivalent cards) that can be charged via a credit card except one that is issued by JR East. – Blaszard Sep 1 '16 at 13:52
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    Best answer thus far, very detailed and very true! – Creative Magic Sep 2 '16 at 0:57
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    Nimoca: Nimoca Credit Cards (Standard cannot be charged by credit card but can be charged with usage points); JMB Nimoca, Arekore Nimoca, All in One Nimoca. Sugoca: Sugoca Credit Card (Standard cannot be charged by credit card); JQ Card. Sapica: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, JCB, Tokyu Card, Nissenren Card Hokusen Card, S Cort Card, Sapporo Hokuyo Card, Clover Card. Nice Pass: Entetsu Card. The Hokkaido / Sapporo Sapica card is about the only travel card in the country that accepts any type of credit card, whereas the other companies lock charges to their specific credit cards only. – The Wandering Coder Sep 2 '16 at 1:07
  • @TheWanderingCoder you ARE right, there are terminals that allow charging IC cards with a credit card as well as cash, but not all of the terminals. I wouldn't be surprised to see a person not knowing that. – Creative Magic Sep 2 '16 at 4:09
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  1. Card acceptance in major cities is generally good. All department stores (like Yodobashi) will take credit cards and most small shops will take them as well, no issues here. I still suggest keeping cash on you as you could get surprised.
  2. I had no issues using my MasterCard, I do not know about the others.
  3. In my experience, the stripe is used much more.
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    In particular, surprisingly many hotels and restaurants, even fancy ones, are cash only. – jpatokal Aug 30 '16 at 21:53
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  1. Credit cards are accepted in almost every large shop and restaurants. But you will find that many smaller shops, Mc Donalds and some other fast food chains, sale locations ( e.g. large shop puts up a sale in the subway area ) - all these places do not accept credit cards.

  2. Having to make a credit card myself - Visa and Master Card cards are most popular here. But as far as I could see - all cards are accepted. I wouldn't worry about that.

  3. In grocery shops and convenience stores they just swipe, all other places uses either a PIN or your signature. They'll ask which you prefer, although very-very often only in Japanese but they'll try to make an effort and explain using hands :)

Japan is NOT a primarily a "cash-society", it's just that it costs a lot of money to make a contract with the credit-card company and every transition will cost ~3% for fees, so smaller businesses just don't want to do it.

Additional tip: keep a 10 000 yen bill with you ( around 100$ ), you will not easily find a place to spend it, because expensive places will have credit-card support and places where you'll need cash won't cost you that much.

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    Having just had my credit card wielding grandfather over, I realised he (well I) was having to pay in cash about 40% of the time. Last I checked, McDonalds did have support for credit cards (at least in Central Tokyo). – The Wandering Coder Aug 31 '16 at 4:08
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    I live in Tokyo for over 4 years now and I have a different experience - buying clothes, groceries, going to restaurants are all handled by a credit card. McDonald's, Subway and kiosks-sized shops are cash-only most of the time. Japan widely uses a cash-card with a commuter pass function called Suica, Pasmo and other,- these are sometimes accepted in places where credit cards aren't. But I doubt many people without experience would know to make a Suica (or similar) card. – Creative Magic Aug 31 '16 at 4:19
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    I have lived in Tokyo for 3 years and elsewhere in Japan for 3 years as well and we seem to have had very different experiences. I am fully aware of the payment methods in Japan (inc. 携帯お財布 etc.), however at least the McDonalds near my house and the 2 near work take credit cards. I ended up getting my grandfather a Suica card for the very reason that it was accepted where credit cards weren't, however even then there were cash-only situations. Some Subway stores (those in or around Osaka) accepted credit cards the last time I paid there however they are franchises so that could be why. – The Wandering Coder Aug 31 '16 at 5:20
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    Why keep a 10K bill if you're never going to get to use it? – Lilienthal Aug 31 '16 at 8:26
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    @CreativeMagic Ah, so you're using the size of the bill as a mental barrier to prevent spending it unless you really have to. That's fair, but consider adding your comment to your answer to make it clear there as well. – Lilienthal Aug 31 '16 at 8:56
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Acceptance

Places expects foreigners paying a large amount are more likely to accept credit cards, such as:

  1. Ticket office (but not vending machines) in major railway stations, e.g. JR West "Green Window".
  2. Convenience stores, e.g. FamilyMart, LAWSON, 7-11.
  3. Department stores.
  4. Amusement parks, e.g. Universal Studio Japan (USJ in Osaka).
  5. Taxis in major cities / urban areas.

However, you still need cash for having ramen, entering parks and temples, riding buses and for a lot of things. Make sure always have a good amount of cash with you. :)

Cards accepted

  1. JCB (Japan Credit Bureau)
  2. MasterCard
  3. VISA
  4. American Express

Other cards such as Diners Club and China UnionPay are accepted, but not as widely accepted as the aboves. For instance, ticket office of JR West and bag drop counters of Peach Aviatvion does not accept China UnionPay.

Using credit card in Japan

Usually stripe, some new terminals use EMVs. For some places like convenience stores, no signature is required for purchase under ¥10,000. Yet, I did not find any terminals accepts VISA payWave or MasterCard Contactless.

  • You can buy certain tickets through vending machines with a card. Visa and MasterCard Touch Payments are available in some places however it is still somewhat patchy as to where they are installed.. – The Wandering Coder Sep 1 '16 at 0:18
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Good answers already, but just to add my 2 yen:

  1. To withdraw money, the best ATMs are at Japan Post offices. Convenience stores ATMs do not always accept withdrawals, Japan Post ATMs always do, according to my experience. Japan Post offices are open less often, though.
  2. Some places take a fee for credit card (see my picture below). It is quite rare though.

Different price for credit card

Wikivoyage has a list of banks and ATMs showing what cards they accept and how much they charge in fees (yes some are free).

  • Where is the picture from? I'm highly certain that it is a tourist scam, given that it shows English only and charges so much. – Blaszard Aug 31 '16 at 10:25
  • Agree with @Blaszard. I have actually never seen this so it will be interesting to know where to avoid in future. – The Wandering Coder Sep 1 '16 at 0:20
  • @Blaszard: Might be! By "charging so much", you are talking about the 200 yen fee, right, not the total price of the out-of-picture item? I took this picture in Kappabashi, at a shop selling Kyocera ceramic kitchen knives. Kitchen knives are the last item I would put in my suitcase, but indeed the Wikivoyage article cites them as an article worth buying there. – nic Sep 1 '16 at 1:49
  • Ahhhh. That makes sense. Kyocera knives are among the most expensive ceramic knives in Japan. Also, it is Asakusa - one of the most touristy places in Tokyo. – The Wandering Coder Sep 1 '16 at 4:17
  • @nic I see. I have never visited Asakusa so I don't know how items are sold there in general, but would like to visit it at some time or another. – Blaszard Sep 1 '16 at 13:58
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I had no major problems with MasterCard for larger purchases in department stores, although lots of smaller places would not accept anything other than cash. Visa only works to get cash at 7-11, I've found no other place that accepts it.

  • Post offices ATMs and CitiBank ATMs. Most other ATMs only take Japanese cards and are horribly complicated. 7-11 has had at least one period in recent years when their ATMs did not accept foreign ATMs for a time. You never know if it might happen again. – hippietrail Sep 1 '16 at 14:52

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