Comprehensive Money Saving Tips in Japan

What will this guide for money saving tips in Japan cover?

Money Saving Tips in JapanA lot of New Zealanders who travel to Japan, are surprised when they discover that it is largely a cash-driven culture. Their banking system, although secure, is not nearly as developed as other countries. However,  given Japan’s notoriously low crime-rate, travelling with more cash than usual isn’t so much of a concern. Whatever your reason for travelling, we’ve created this guide so you’re aware of all your options when it comes to taking money to Japan. We want to make sure you know all the money saving tips in Japan.

You can read our ultimate guide to currency exchange here.

Having said that, there are a number of travel cards, as well as your debit and credit cards (although perhaps not accepted everywhere in Japan) that support Japanese Yen (JPY), so to make things a little easier before your travels, we’ve drawn up a simple guide, without any of the jargon, that helps you make all of those important monetary decisions before you travel.

This guide will cover:

  • Buying Japanese Yen (JPY) for your travels
  • How much should I plan to take on my trip?
  • The best cards to use in Japan

Buying Japanese Yen (JPY) for your travels

There are a couple of ways to buy your currency before you travel, each with varying exchange rates and fees. It’s important to compare these rates before you buy your travel money. The best way to compare these rates is by using a currency comparison website, where you can find out which providers will charge higher fees and unfavourable exchange rates. Or if you’d like a more detailed look, then you can research into the cards or websites independently.

To compare the online rates and fees of currency exchange providers and banks, you can visit our comparison table page.

How much should I plan to take on my trip?

Whether you choose to buy your currency in cash, or your funds all on your debit, credit or travel card, it’s important to know how much to take on your trip. This is all dependent on how long you are travelling for, along with your itinerary.

We’ve put together a guide for you below:

  • TIP: We would recommend carrying cash more than a card in Japan, as a lot of their ATMs will not accept international cards, so you could find yourself without access if you do not have immediate cash funds.
Daily Budget Low Mid High

Dorm Beds (Hostels)

¥2800 per night

Double room in hotel

¥12,000 per night

4* hotel

From ¥35,000 per night




Dinner at an Izakaya

¥3000 per person

Top sushi restaurant

¥15,000 per person



¥240 (12-19km)


¥310 (28-40km)


¥20,340 (based on Narita Airport-Tokyo Station)

*All prices are in JPY and are an estimate

The best cards for taking money to Japan

When to travel to anywhere in the world, you generally tend to choose from three travel money cards:

  • Travel cards
  • Debit cards
  • Credit cards

The currency used in the Japan in the Japanese Yen. Although travel cards are a good option when travelling, it is important to check if they support this currency, as some do not.

Travel Cards

There are lots of benefits to using travel cards abroad – it’s simple, easy and convenient. All you have to do is pre-load your card before your travels with the amount you predict on spending, and use it just like a debit or credit card, but without the currency conversion fees. You can also lock in your exchange rate so you know exactly how much you’ve got to play with.

However, just because travels cards aim to merge the best features of both credit and debit cards, it doesn’t mean they are without flaws (and fees) in their own way. If your travel requires multiple ATM withdrawals, or reloads then do your research before purchasing a travel card, as some will incur higher costs than others – costing you a small fortune by the end of your trip.

We’ve put together a table of travel cards we think are best based on withdrawal fees, currency conversion (if your currency is not supported by the card), and other fees charged by your card issuer. Some travel cards will also vary in the number of currencies they support – this is particularly important to consider when travelling somewhere without a mainstream currency (like US dollar, or Euro).

We would recommend that you look for a travel card that support JPY, with a low re-load fee, as you never know when you will need to top up your funds and it can save you a lot if you have to re-load multiple times on your trip. We’ve put together a table of travel cards we would recommend and others we wouldn’t for Japan:


Good Bad
Commonwealth Bank Travel Money card Travelex Mutlicurrency Prepaid Mastercard
ANZ Travel Card Westpac Global Currency Card
Virgin Global Velocity Card Multicurrency Cash Passport


Some cards also offer reward points for the amount that you spend, so watch out for that if you are a frequent flyer, or enjoy dining out etc.

Debit cards

The major difference between debit and credit cards is that debit uses your own money, and credit cards are loans. Although you will avoid the cash advance fee by using your debit card, be aware that you will still attract other fees such as ATM withdrawal fees and currency conversion rates, so it is still important to check with your card issuer before you travel.

If you’re planning a trip to Japan and want to know more about fees and charges linked with either your travel, debit or credit card then call one of our experts at The Currency Shop.

Credit Cards

All major brands, such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express are accepted in many places in Japan. Like travel cards, credit cards will attract local ATM withdrawal fees. Unlike travel cards however, you will also be charged a currency conversion fee, and cash advance fee charged by the likes of Visa, Mastercard or Amex.

Case Study

Nick and his friend Jason have gone on their annual trip to Japan for skiing. As Nick tends to spend a fair amount of NZD whilst out there, he doesn’t look into travel money cards as he doesn’t want the hassle of re-loading his funds when he runs out. Instead he spends everything on his credit card throughout his holiday and decides to pay it back when he returns home. Nick doesn’t pay too much attention to the fees he is charged or the exchange rate, but when his friend Jason gets a better deal and saves up to $100 on fees over the course of the holiday, Nick is annoyed at his lack of attention to detail. He decides to look into getting a travel card when he returns home, or spending on his debit card abroad next year to reduce some of the fees he is charged.

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