Show Me the Money: The Cheapest Places to Exchange Currency in Tokyo

Greg Lane
Getting that cash money. - exchange currency in tokyo
Getting that cash money. | Photo by Stephen Kelly used under CC

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.

We've found 7-Eleven ATMs to be the easiest for withdrawals. - exchange currency in tokyo
We’ve found 7-Eleven ATMs to be the easiest for withdrawals. | Photo by fletcherjcm used under CC

The cheapest way to convert currency to Japanese Yen

For longer-term visitors and those who live in Japan and have a bank account here, 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.

Currency exchange in Tokyo can be pricey.
Currency exchange in Tokyo can be pricey. | Photo by SteFou! used under CC

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.


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21 Responses to “Show Me the Money: The Cheapest Places to Exchange Currency in Tokyo”

  1. Travellers cheques still have their use. But don’t expect shops or restaurants to cash them.

    I go to Japan often and always take Japan Yen travellers cheques with me for security.

    When I need real money, I either go to a big department store, where most of them will have a travellers cheque cashing facility. Or the best is a large Japan Post Office branch, with a JP Bank window (most of them do) where they will cash Travellers Cheques. Best of all, both the above options are fee free!

    And if you have bought the travellers cheques denominated in Yen, there is no currency exchange loss either.

    • CheapoGreg

      Thanks Richard – that’s a good tip. It’s amazing what you can do at a Japanese Post Office!

  2. Travellers cheques still have their use. But don’t expect shops or restaurants to cash them.

    I go to Japan often and always take Japan Yen travellers cheques with me for security.

    When I need real money, I either go to a big department store, where most of them will have a travellers cheque cashing facility. Or the best is a large Japan Post Office branch, with a JP Bank window (most of them do) where they will cash Travellers Cheques. Best of all, both the above options are fee free!

    And if you have bought the travellers cheques denominated in Yen, there is no currency exchange loss either.

    • CheapoGreg

      Thanks Richard – that’s a good tip. It’s amazing what you can do at a Japanese Post Office!

  3. Larry Laffer

    Wished I came across your blog earlier! Forex from CAD to JPY is very far from the actual rates. Finding out I should have converted to USD back home and then to yen afterwards.

  4. I’m wondering why people are exchanging cash? That’s surely one of the most expensive and inconvenient methods of getting JPY. Instead get a credit or debit card from your home country that does not charge for cash withdrawals at foreign ATMs in the local currency and charges at interbank exchange rates (at least in Europe such products are on the market, some even with zero annual fees). In Japan, you can use such Visa- or Mastercard-based cards at Japan Post Office ATMs, 7Eleven (7Bank) ATMs (so they should be available almost everywhere) plus at certain banks’ ATMs such as Citibank’s.
    This of course also comes handy when visiting other countries with at least some decent ATM infrastructure. In some of those countries (such as the US) you must make sure to select ATMs that do not charge extra (local) fees; most of the times ATMs at bank branch offices do not (this is not a problem in Japan though).

    • CheapoGreg

      Good advice. As I mention towards the end it’s best to avoid changing cash in Japan altogether. When withdrawing from ATMs, I know banks (which I’ve used) from my home country of NZ charge a fee of about $7.50 for any international withdrawal which is ridiculous as they make money on the exchange and the transaction doesn’t even use their infrastructure.

    • FalconHoof

      I just called my bank (Halifax UK) they charge 2.75% + £1.50 per transaction using ATM machines in a foreign country.

  5. Hi there! Do you have maybe some advice where to exchange yens for GBP before leaving Tokyo?
    Thanks,
    Alex

    • CheapoGreg

      Do you have to exchange it before you leave Tokyo? You’d be better to do it at your destination.

      • O really? I thought that it would be better to exchange it in Tokyo! Thanks for the answer!

  6. How did you make this table with different banks and exchange rate. I was looking for such information on Mitsubishi and Mizuho, but didn’t find anything on their websites.

  7. josh vergara

    for those looking for a good place to exchange money in tokyo, there is an office called tourex in shinjuku, 7mn from the station east exit, you might walk a little bit, but of you want to save yourself some cash you better give it a go. here is their address thank me later.
    3-14-22 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku,
    Ogawa Building 3F,
    160-0022

    • Lian Castillo

      Hey Josh, does this also apply when exchanging from Yen to another currency?

      • josh vergara

        I believe yes, it does apply but it depands on How much money(¥) you want to change !

        • Lian Castillo

          so if it’s a lot, would they still be the best option?

          • josh vergara

            In that case they absolutly can, yes 🙂

    • Barry

      Hi Josh, does Tourex give better exchange rates than the exchange rate at Tokyo Airports? Thanks!

      • josh vergara

        One hundred percent better option then the airport no question about it.

        • Barry

          Thanks so much Josh. Very helpful. I’ll check it out 🙂


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