Using Money in Japan: An Australian Guide

How to Pay for Things in Japan

Japan, where tradition meets modernity, presents a unique landscape for handling money. As an Australian traveler, being well-prepared to manage your finances efficiently while exploring this fascinating country is essential. While Japan is technologically advanced, cash remains a predominant mode of payment.


Here's a comprehensive guide to ensure you have a smooth and enjoyable trip, covering cash, money exchange, ATMs, and various travel cards.


Cash in Japan

hand full of currency


Do You Need Cash in Japan?

Absolutely. Despite the growing acceptance of cards, many establishments prefer or only accept cash. Here are some situations where having cash on hand is indispensable:

  • Markets: Traditional markets, local food stalls, and flea markets typically operate on a cash-only basis.
  • Tips: While tipping isn't customary in Japan, it's always done in cash if you choose to tip.
  • Free Walking Tours: Guides often appreciate cash tips.
  • Tourist Tax: Some accommodations may require a small tax payable in cash.
  • Some Public Transport: Rural buses and local train lines may only accept cash.
  • Toilets: Certain public restrooms may charge a small fee, and cash is the only accepted payment.


Carrying Cash

In Japan, carrying cash is common and quite safe due to the country's low crime rate. However, using a money belt or a secure wallet is always a good idea to keep your cash safe. The Japanese yen is available in both coins and banknotes, so it's helpful to have a coin purse as well.

Yen Denominations: Yen banknotes are available in 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, and 10,000 yen, and coins come in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 yen. It's wise to carry smaller denominations for convenience in everyday transactions.


Cash Etiquette

Japan has specific etiquette when it comes to handling cash. Here's what you need to know:

  • Using Trays: In many stores and restaurants, small trays are available at the cash register. Instead of handing your cash or card directly to the cashier, place it on the tray.
  • Respecting the Yen: Keep your bills neat and avoid crumpling them. It's common to see people using a wallet designed to keep bills flat.


Do They Accept Australian Dollars in Japan?

As an Australian traveler, you might wonder if you can use your home currency in Japan. Here's what you need to know:

Limited Acceptance: Australian dollars are not widely accepted in Japan. Unlike some countries that might take major foreign currencies in tourist-heavy areas, Japan typically requires transactions to be conducted in Japanese yen. This applies to everything from hotel stays to restaurant bills and shopping.

Using ATMs in Japan

Japan has an extensive network of ATMs, but not all accept foreign cards. Here are some reliable options:

  • 7-Eleven: ATMs in these convenience stores accept most foreign cards and are available 24/7.
  • Post Offices: Many post offices have ATMs that cater to international cards.
  • Major Banks: Banks like SMBC and Citibank offer ATMs that accept foreign cards.
  • Airports: ATMs at major airports generally accept foreign cards.

Tips for Using ATMs

  • Check Fees: Know any international transaction fees your home bank may charge.
  • Withdrawal Limits: Note that ATMs may have daily withdrawal limits.
  • Language Options: Most ATMs offer multiple language options, including English.

Avoiding ATM Pitfalls

While using ATMs in Japan is generally straightforward, here are a few tips to avoid common pitfalls:

  • Plan Withdrawals: Withdraw larger amounts less frequently to minimize ATM fees.
  • Timing: Some ATMs in Japan may not operate 24/7, especially in rural areas or smaller banks. Plan your withdrawals during business hours.
  • Bank Partnerships: Check if your Australian bank has partnerships with Japanese banks. This can sometimes result in reduced or waived ATM fees.

Using Cards in Japan

Debit Cards

Using your Australian debit card in Japan is possible, but check with your bank about international transaction fees and ensure your card has a chip and PIN. Some places might not accept swipe cards, so having a card compatible with local systems is crucial.

You’ll probably want a debit card if you plan to withdraw money from an ATM. While you may also be able to pay with a debit card in some businesses in the major destinations, you might discover some hefty fees on your account summary.

Depending on your bank, you could be hit with fees for foreign ATM withdrawals or currency conversions. But some banks are better than others; we recommend checking out Wise, ING and Revolut, all of which have travel-friendly debit cards that waive these charges.



Credit Cards

Using a Credit Card

Credit cards are widely accepted in urban areas, particularly at hotels, department stores, and upscale restaurants. Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are the most commonly accepted. However, cash should always be carried to smaller shops and rural areas where cards might not be accepted.

Credit cards can come with some enticing perks, including added security, loyalty programs, and even free travel insurance.

But are they worth it?

Just be aware of additional charges you may incur for foreign transactions. These could include:

  • International transaction fees
  • High exchange rate margins
  • ATM fees
  • Potential ‘cash advance fees’ if you use an ATM

If you still prefer credit cards over any other payment, consider going with a company that offers cards that waive certain travel fees. Bankwest Platinum and 28 Degrees both have travel-friendly cards.

Prepaid Travel Cards

The biggest advantages of prepaid travel cards are that you can lock in a favourable exchange rate. You also get a handy back-up card.

Just remember that while they are convenient, you could end up paying a long list of hidden fees. Many travel cards still impose:

  • Currency conversion fees
  • Uncompetitive exchange rates
  • International ATM withdrawal fees
  • Initial load fees
  • Reload fees
  • Inactivity fees

Virtual Cards

Virtual cards linked to your smartphone, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and local options like Suica and Pasmo, are increasingly popular. They can be used for a variety of transactions, including public transportation and convenience store purchases.

Travel Cards

Travel cards are essential for navigating Japan’s extensive public transportation network. These rechargeable smart cards can be used for trains, buses, and even purchases at vending machines and convenience stores. They are available for purchase and top-up at most train stations and major transport hubs.

Card Acceptance in Japan

While the use of cards is on the rise, it’s important to note the following:

  • Limited Acceptance: Smaller businesses, local restaurants, and rural shops may not accept cards. Always have cash as a backup.
  • Minimum Spend: Some establishments may require a minimum purchase amount to use a card.
  • No Contactless: While Japan is embracing technology, contactless payments are not as widespread as in Australia. Ensure your card has a chip and PIN functionality.

Budgeting for Japan

                                                                                                                     Budgeting for Your Trip

Understanding the cost of living and typical expenses in Japan will help you budget effectively. Here are some average costs you can expect:

  • Accommodation: Budget hotels and hostels range from ¥3,000 to ¥8,000 per night. Mid-range hotels cost between ¥10,000 and ¥20,000, while luxury hotels start at ¥30,000 per night.
  • Food: A meal at a budget restaurant costs around ¥1,000, while mid-range dining will set you back ¥2,000 to ¥5,000 per meal. High-end restaurants can cost ¥10,000 or more.
  • Transportation: A single ride on the subway or bus costs about ¥200 to ¥500. Japan Rail Passes are available for tourists, offering unlimited travel on JR trains for a set period.
  • Attractions: Entry fees for popular attractions range from ¥500 to ¥2,000.

                                                                                                               Safety Tips for Handling Money in Japan

While Japan is known for its low crime rate, it’s still important to be cautious when handling money:

  • Use ATMs in Safe Locations: Stick to ATMs in well-lit, busy areas such as convenience stores and major train stations.
  • Avoid Flashing Cash: Be discreet when handling cash in public places.
  • Keep Valuables Secure: Use a money belt or a secure wallet, especially in crowded areas.
  • Stay Alert: While pickpocketing is rare, it’s always good to stay vigilant, especially in tourist hotspots.

Exchanging Australian Dollars for Japanese Yen

Where to Exchange Money

Japan offers several options for exchanging money, each with its own advantages:

  • Airports: Convenient for immediate needs, though exchange rates may not be the best.
  • Banks: Provide competitive rates but may have limited operating hours.
  • Post Offices: Widely available and offer reasonable rates.
  • Authorized Money Changers: These are found in major cities and tourist areas and often offer good rates.
  • Hotels: Convenient but typically have higher fees and less favorable rates.


Is It Better to Exchange Money in Japan or Before You Go?

It's advisable to exchange a small amount of money before you travel to cover immediate expenses upon arrival. Avoid exchanging large amounts at airports if possible, as they offer less favorable rates.


Tips for Exchanging Money

  • Check Rates and Fees: Always compare exchange rates and fees before exchanging money. Rates can vary significantly between different providers.
  • Keep Receipts: When exchanging money, keep your receipt. Some places offer better rates for re-exchanging yen back to your home currency if you show the original receipt.
  • Avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion: Some ATMs and card terminals offer the option to charge in your home currency. This can result in unfavorable exchange rates and additional fees. Always choose to be charged in yen.

Buying Japanese yen before you leave Australian shores can also save you money. But it all depends on where you get your Yen in Australia. There are three main options:

  • Buy Yen online and have it delivered, or collect it in-store
  • Buy from a money changer
  • Buy at your home airport

Currency exchange offices at Australian airports are notorious for their poor rates and commissions, so we recommend avoiding that option entirely.

Online orders are often the best value, especially if you go with S Money, which offers the same rates listed on Google and

Track the best time to buy Japanese Yen

We match the currency exchange rate with the rate shown on Google or Xe. In real time.

This means you never pay over-inflated rates and can be 100% positive you are getting the most competitive rate for currency exchange.

  • Check out the daily rates:
Updated: Posted on