How to: Japanese Monies

Before I came to Japan, I realised that most people didn’t actually know how to deal with a lot of aspects of Japan, or didn’t really know the best ways of handling things that are somewhat essential when you travel.

Like… how to get money once you get to Japan.

And once I got here, I found out why.  The banking and ATM systems here are terrible.  TERRIBLE.

For example, ATMs are usually timed, and anything outside of operational hours incurs a charge, provided that the ATM is still usable at the time you need money.  And since the most desperate times you need to take money out is usually in the wee hours of the morning, this is a massive problem.  How are you supposed to get home when you don’t even have money to pay the taxi driver?

But… how do you actually go about getting enough money to make it rain in Japan?

First, Japan is still very much cash-based.  Chains and department stores will have EFTPOS machines, but if you take out your card to use in a cafe to buy a coffee, heads will turn.  The easiest way is to exchange enough cash to last the duration of your trip before leaving for Japan.  A good base amount is ¥10000 a day (roughly AUD$112.37 or USD$81.29), which should be more than enough to cover for three meals, souvenirs, and transport costs.

If you are travelling for more than a week, or if you run out money halfway because you’re actually making it rain, you obviously should not be travelling around with almost AUD$1000 of cash on your person.  So how do you get more money out?

As I mentioned, ATMs have set hours of operation in Japan.  For foreign banks, 7/11 ATMs or the post office ATMs (ゆうちょ) accept foreign cards, and will only charge you the rate that your own bank charges you for foreign withdrawals during their hours of operation.  7/11 ATMs are open 24hrs, so they will not charge you on top of the original fee (thank goodness).  However, depending on where you’re travelling, they could be on every street corner or totally absent, so make sure you know how the ATM situation is before you land.  Post office ATMs usually have opening hours (9:00AM – 5:00PM), and outside of these hours, you will be charged an additional fee.  Keep in mind that there are also closing times for these ATMs, so you might not even be able to access the machine.

When I travel around, I usually withdraw a whole lot of money and slowly burn through that until I’m down to my last ¥20000, and then I start searching for ATMs.  Sometimes… you don’t find the ATM, and that is when you start to panic.

For banks, Citibank is the bank that I will always recommend anyone who is planning on travelling a lot, or is moving overseas for an extended period of time.  They are affiliated with several corporations, so depending on the country, you can find appropriate ATMs to withdraw money without fees.   Their multi-national nature also makes it easy to transfer money in and out of your home account and your Citibank account, and there’s a special account that has no rates or anything, and Citibank has the best exchange rate out of all the banks that I looked into.

In Japan, Citibank is affiliated with 7/11.  As long as you see 7/11, you are safe.

I think the most important thing is to be smart, and to remember that it is not easy to use your credit card in Japan.  As long as you keep an eye on your cash amount, and remember that you need cash, you should be okay.

Note: this was not sponsored by Citibank.  Although I wish it was.