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Credit Cards or Cash in Japan

Credit Cards or Cash in Japan

Old Jul 16, 13, 10:16 pm
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Credit Cards or Cash in Japan

So after much planning, my trip to Japan is finalized and ready to go!

With a strong exchange rate, 1CDN:92Yen, it's a very good time to go and see the Land of the Rising Sun.

My question is, should I be leaning towards bringing more cash or just use my credit card for majority of purchases?

Usually, I bring cash>credit card because of bartering power but I read around that the Japanese aren't accustomed to bartering and consider it rude (verify?).

Thoughts?

Dōmo arigatō!
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Old Jul 17, 13, 12:16 am
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it's a shame that there are still many places where you can't use credit card
in Japan.
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Old Jul 17, 13, 12:29 am
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Tokyo should be no problem with card. Change like a 1000 CAD and bring your cards. It's quite easy to spend cash in Japan lol.
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Old Jul 17, 13, 1:09 am
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Oh sweet heavens no to CAD cash. The cash-exchange spread on CAD-JPY is horrendous (most Japanese sites I'm seeing are quoting a cash buy rate of 85-86 yen per CAD- pretty bad against a 92-yen mid-market rate). Put it all on an ATM card and withdraw on arrival. The only thing that might be an issue is that I only know of one bank in Canada that offers zero-forex-fee withdrawals (they still charge a flat $3) and they've only got branches in Vancouver and Toronto (the total number of which I can count on both hands).

Also, about bartering, if you mean bargaining for a lower price I've heard of it being "a thing" in Kansai but not elsewhere.
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Old Jul 17, 13, 2:33 am
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Seconded jamar's comment. There is no reason to bring cash to Japan. Get an ATM card in Canada that works internationally (Visa or Mastercard network) and use that to withdraw cash in Japan. You will definitely get a much better exchange rate and you won't have to worry about losing all that money.
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Old Jul 17, 13, 2:41 am
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Originally Posted by jamar View Post
Also, about bartering, if you mean bargaining for a lower price I've heard of it being "a thing" in Kansai but not elsewhere.
Even in stuffy Tokyo, you can bargain gently in a few places - with vendors at flea markets for example. But in most stores, the price is the price.
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Old Jul 17, 13, 6:07 am
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Usually I bring USD because of its purchasing power and its demand in forex kiosks and from what I can see, cash is king. Good thing I checked haha!

Withdrawing from ATMs is my last resort because of hefty bank fees.
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Old Jul 17, 13, 6:47 am
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Is there anything different about using CC terminals in Japan? Like some sort of credit/debit/cheque options showing up like in Australia for instance? Are we mostly looking at chip & PIN or signature based transactions?

What is the norm at restaurants, does the waiter disappear with your card like in Singapore or do they come to you with a wireless terminal like in Europe?
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Old Jul 17, 13, 9:00 am
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Originally Posted by aster View Post
Is there anything different about using CC terminals in Japan? Like some sort of credit/debit/cheque options showing up like in Australia for instance? Are we mostly looking at chip & PIN or signature based transactions?

What is the norm at restaurants, does the waiter disappear with your card like in Singapore or do they come to you with a wireless terminal like in Europe?
No, it's more like the States although many Japanese cards have a chip. I am not sure what happens if your card has a chip since my Japanese CC (Citi) is mag stripe. In stores they often run your card without signature. At my supermarket over 10,000 yen and no signature required, so not sure if there is a limit.

Self-service purchases like buying a train ticket with CC require a PIN.

The waiter will take your card. There is not much fraud in Japan. They do it at the table in Europe because of frequent fraud: skimming your card in the back of the restaurant.

US issued debit cards (MC or Visa) seem to have a problem at some locations in Japan. In 2+ years I have only had my US CC rejected once -- at a full service gas station.

Sometimes a Japanese issued CC is required. 7-11 and some online purchases come to mind.
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Old Jul 17, 13, 12:46 pm
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Originally Posted by joejones View Post
Seconded jamar's comment. There is no reason to bring cash to Japan. Get an ATM card in Canada that works internationally (Visa or Mastercard network) and use that to withdraw cash in Japan. You will definitely get a much better exchange rate and you won't have to worry about losing all that money.
The only thing I'd say about Canada is that most banks' ATM cards charge $5+2.5% for overseas withdrawals. The one bank card I have from there that doesn't charge the forex fee still charges a flat $3- that I would pay because it's UnionPay, resulting in wider acceptance.

Originally Posted by gnaget View Post
No, it's more like the States although many Japanese cards have a chip. I am not sure what happens if your card has a chip since my Japanese CC (Citi) is mag stripe. In stores they often run your card without signature. At my supermarket over 10,000 yen and no signature required, so not sure if there is a limit.

Self-service purchases like buying a train ticket with CC require a PIN.

The waiter will take your card. There is not much fraud in Japan. They do it at the table in Europe because of frequent fraud: skimming your card in the back of the restaurant.

US issued debit cards (MC or Visa) seem to have a problem at some locations in Japan. In 2+ years I have only had my US CC rejected once -- at a full service gas station.

Sometimes a Japanese issued CC is required. 7-11 and some online purchases come to mind.
About having chip cards:

My experience with my BA Visa was fairly straightforward- if there's a PIN pad, the slot is somewhere on the PIN pad. Stick it in (on some machines you have to push until it clicks into place) and wait until the receipt prints out on the merchant terminal (if you had to make the card click into place, the spring-loaded slot will now pop out the card, otherwise just pull). But, I've had to sign no matter how small the purchase- the smallest being 250 yen. Some merchants are still swipe-only. Hand them the card and they do the rest. I still have to sign for those.

About the Japan-issued card requirement:

This is avoided if you have AmEx or JCB. For some reason, they treat all cards the same on their network, and my Bluebird works just fine at 7-11 Japan. Online is a maybe; iTunes can tell, some others can't.
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Old Jul 17, 13, 11:19 pm
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Originally Posted by jamar View Post
About the Japan-issued card requirement:

This is avoided if you have AmEx or JCB. For some reason, they treat all cards the same on their network, and my Bluebird works just fine at 7-11 Japan. Online is a maybe; iTunes can tell, some others can't.
Interesting, so to make sure a card doesn't get rejected for being a foreign one I just need to bring along my Amex card and then it will work everywhere?
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Old Jul 18, 13, 1:23 am
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Yep. 7-11 was like that- when I tried to use my CSP it always gets declined, but if I try with my Costco AmEx it works fine. Same with the regular prepaid AmEx and the Bluebird. Pretty much any physical shop that normally takes AmEx will take a foreign one.
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Old Jul 18, 13, 4:22 am
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Thanks, that's very welcome news indeed. I take it those Amex transactions are all signature based or do I need to dig out and remember my PIN for the first time ever with this card?
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Old Jul 18, 13, 7:39 am
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Signature -- then again, I don't have a chip & pin AMEX card. If it's small enough they may just waive it.
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Old Jul 18, 13, 10:26 am
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A lot of restaurants don't take plastic, if you don't have cash I'd ask before chowing down.
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