So you think you don’t need cash when you come to Tokyo? If Tokyo was the city from Blade Runner and the replicants were real, they’d be walking around with big wads of cash in their wallets. While it is getting easier to go cashless, a surprisingly large number of establishments, from convenience stores to fast food joints and even a few restaurants still accept cash only. Added to this, there is still occasional incompatibility with credit cards issued outside Japan—oh, and traveler’s checks are next to useless. That’s why it’s important to exchange currency in Tokyo, or before you get here, to ensure smooth travels.
If it’s your first time in Japan, it’s probably hard enough to find your way back to the low-budget hotel after a short stroll, let alone locate the money-changing place that will give you the best deal. So we thought we’d help. Here are your top options to exchange currency in Tokyo.
ATMs at convenience stores, post offices, etc
For short-term visitors, withdrawing cash from an ATM in Japan is probably the easiest choice. JP Post ATMs and many convenience store ATMs accept VISA bank cards. Of the latter, 7-Eleven ATMS are probably the easiest to work, in our opinion.
The costs you pay will depend on your own bank, as usually there’s no fee to use the ATM itself. Be aware that not all ATMs are online 24/7—so draw during the daytime to be safe. Also, note that you may be limited to between 20,000 and 50,000 yen per transaction, so if you want to withdraw stacks of cash, you’ll need to stagger it.
The cheapest way to convert currency to Japanese Yen
For people not residing long-term in Japan, the cheapest way we have found to send money to Japan is using OFX currency exchange. They offer the closest rates we’ve seen to the inter-bank rate, they are very quick and simple to use, plus you can do the entire process online. You create an account with them (they give special discounts to cheapos), place a currency order e.g. buying $xxxx worth of yen, transfer them the money, and then they transfer the yen to your bank account in Japan. It usually takes just 1-2 days.
For more information on the various ways to send money to Japan, take a look at this article. And if you’re wanting to send your hard-earned yen out of the country, give our article on the cheapest way to transfer money out of Japan a read.
Other options to exchange currency in Tokyo
If you don’t have a VISA card or a Japanese bank account, what are your other currency exchange options?
Travelex and Daikokuya have multiple branches across Tokyo, which makes exchange easy, though their commission can be quite steep. Big banks like SMBC, MUFG and Mizuho also offer currency exchange services, but they are only open from 9am to 3pm on weekdays. None of these options will give you super awesome rates; we compared purchasing 500 US dollars’ worth of yen by taking a look at the daily rates (follow the links above) of these five money exchangers, and found them to be a) low, and b) almost the same—differing by less than a yen.
Warning: You might see some shifty-looking no-name currency exchange shops on your meanderings—steer clear of these if you don’t want to get ripped off!
Our advice—if your own bank doesn’t charge (much) for overseas withdrawals, use an ATM here. Otherwise, change your money to yen before you leave your own country—you’ll probably get a much better deal. At the very least, use the links above to compare the rates before you fly.
This post was updated in December 2016.
Escape Tokyo for the day, see mountains, hot springs, the modern, the traditional, the old and the ancient!