Is It Better To Use Cash Or Card In Japan? The Final Verdict

There are many things that you need to take into account when travelling over to Tokyo or anywhere else in Japan. Not only is it important to know how much money you should take, but it is also extremely important to know what form of currency you should make purchases with. Using cards to pay for things is standard practice in almost anywhere in the world nowadays, but, should you use cash or card when it comes to travelling to Japan?

When in Japan, the primary form of payment should be cash. This is because many local businesses only accept cash as a form of payment, due to them not wanting to or being able to afford the fees included with cards. While it is good to have an amount of money in both cash and card, the majority of it should be cash-in-hand.

Knowing exactly when to use cash or card in Japan can be difficult. However, in this article, I aim to give you all the information you need, so that you know exactly when and when not to use each form of payment. The Japanese as we already know can be unique in the way they do things. Although they are a well-developed country, the majority of its residents and business owners still prefer hard, physical cash. But, why?

Is It Better To Have Cash Or Card In Japan?

You may be asking yourself “why should I carry cash in Japan when I can just use my card?” 

And, this makes sense. Most countries and cities take card payments nowadays. After all, we are in the 21st century! However, the Japanese love their traditions and this even includes payments.

When shopping around Tokyo, or any other major city in Japan, you’d be surprised at the sheer amount of places that would prefer and actually expect you to pay with physical cash. Despite the country being well-developed and known as having one of the most technological and futuristic cities in the world; Japanese business owners simply prefer to receive cash.

So, this may lead to your next question…“So, should I only use cash in Japan?”

The answer to this is, no. Credit and debit cards definitely have their use in Japan, and it is important that you bring one with you on your travels if you can. There is a maximum amount of cash that you can bring with you on your travels to Japan, and this may not be enough for the duration of your stay. 

Bringing your card with you will allow you to withdraw more cash, should you need to. However, cards are not only good for withdrawing cash, they can also be used at some places to make purchases. It is just that cash is more oftenly used!

Why Do Japanese Prefer Cash?

Japanese people can be old fashioned when it comes to certain traditions that they still carry out day by day. There is nothing wrong with this, why fix or change something that doesn’t need fixing or changing?

This is exactly the mindset of the business owners of Japan! For them, accepting cash is so much easier. To accept card payments, you need a card reader, which usually comes with payment fees. Not only that but there is always a chance of technical errors or difficulties occurring within the payment system, causing massive pains for the owner and their business. 

Therefore, the most simple solution would be to just simply keep accepting cash, as there are minimal problems that occur with this method of payment. 

While there are some larger businesses that accept card payments, the majority of small business owners just simply prefer to take cash. It’s as plain and simple as that!

What Places Accept Card In Japan?

As mentioned, there is a minority of places within Tokyo and Japan that do actually accept card payments. What are these places, and how do you know where to find places that take card payments?

The majority of larger general stores, restaurants and hotels will actually accept card payments. Just be sure to check before visiting via the website, or looking for in-store clues near the checkouts. 

For example, a popular method of card payment in Japan is an app called ‘PayPay’, which usually comes with large red signs out the front of shops where it is used. This app works by transferring money to it via bank transfer, and then accepting and purchasing items through the use of QR codes. Obviously, it is not as efficient as a simple contactless payment, but it is good to have the option, rather than no option to use a card at all!

How Much Cash Can I Bring To Japan?

As previously mentioned, there is in fact, a maximum amount of cash you can bring with you into Japan. The maximum amount of cash you can bring into Japan when visiting is around 1 million Japanese Yen.  This is equivalent to around $9000USD or around 6000GBP, so it is a relatively fair and high amount. However, for much longer stays where you may need more money than this, ATM withdrawals will be your best bet at receiving more cash.

How To Withdraw Cash In Japan

When using your card to withdraw money in Japan, you have two main options. One of them is withdrawing at an ATM like you usually would, and the other is visiting a currency exchange business. 

The most obvious option would be to use an ATM as it is quick and easy. Although they include a small withdrawal fee, the fees are much smaller compared to the ones that come with using a currency exchange business. The best ATM to use would be inside any 7-11 within Tokyo or the country, as they accept the most foreign cards.


When visiting Tokyo, it is important to take into account how you will be making payments. The traditional approach of exchange within Japan is still going strong to this day, therefore, it is important that you bring a decent percentage of your money in cash form.

There are obvious risks with carrying cash, but with careful precautions being taken you should have no issues whatsoever!

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