Does Japan Accept US Dollars? Your Guide to Currency in Japan

You’re packing your bags and visiting Japan for the trip of a lifetime. As you go through your checklist, you wonder, should I bring US dollars or exchange everything for yen before I go? What can I pay for in dollars versus yen when I’m there?

Don’t stress! This handy guide will give you the lowdown on using currency in Japan. We’ll cover whether places accept dollars, the best ways to get yen, average exchange rates, and tips to save money.

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With this advice, you’ll breeze through money matters on your vacation and avoid currency confusion. Read on for the inside scoop that will make your travels easier.

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Exchanging USD to Yen

Dollars to Yen using ATMs in Japan

Like most southeast asian countries, Japan does not officially accept US dollars. The currency used in Japan is the Japanese Yen. While some places may accept dollars, it is not recommended to rely on that.

ATMs are ubiquitous in Japan, especially in cities, and are available 24 hours.

Japan posts ATMs that accept foreign bank cards in MUFG and 7-Eleven convenience stores. You’ll also find ATMs in international airports like the ones in Osaka. Most ATMs accept cards from extensive international networks like Global ATM Alliance, Plus, Cirrus, and Maestro.

You can make withdrawals at these machines at any time. ATMs will dispense yen bills in 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 denominations. However, take note of the transaction fees for withdrawing yen using ATMs.

However, some smaller regional banks don’t participate in these networks, so there’s a chance your card may not work at every ATM. Look for ATMs with “International ATM Service” or the Global ATM Alliance logo to ensure compatibility and minimal fees.

While Japan’s ATM fees are often lower than in other countries, you can still get hit with charges from Japanese banks and your bank at home.

The 7-Eleven and Japan Post Bank ATMs tend to have low fees for international cards. Whenever possible, withdraw bigger amounts at once to minimize fees. And, of course, notify your bank of your travel plans to avoid fraud alerts when using ATMs in Japan.

Money Changer

The best way to get Japanese currency is to exchange your foreign currency at money exchange offices known as ryogaejo. You can find money exchangers in airports, train stations, and city centers. You’ll typically get the best rates in Japan rather than exchange in your home country.

Compare rates between different offices to get the best deal. They typically charge a small handling fee for cash exchanges. Offices are open weekdays and weekends, as well as evenings and holidays. 

Banks

Major banks like SMBC, Mizuho, and MUFG offer currency exchange services. Their rates may be slightly better than those of exchange offices.

However, bank branches usually keep shorter hours and are closed on weekends and holidays. It’s best to go during the week if exchanging at a bank.  

Some tips: Bring clean, undamaged bills, as banks and exchange offices cannot exchange torn or marked bills.

Expect to receive a mixture of bills and coins for your exchange. Also, check current exchange rates online to ensure you’re getting a fair deal.

With some shopping around at different locations, you can avoid paying high exchange fees and get the most yen for your dollars.

Tipping in Japan

Tipping in restaurants, hotels, or taxis is not customary in Japan. So you don’t need money in Japan just for it. Bills will include any applicable taxes and service charges.

Tipping is only expected when hotel porters help carry heavy luggage to your room. In that case, a tip of 500 yen up to a thousand per bag is typical.

While US dollars can be a backup, rely primarily on yen during your trip to Japan. With some yen and an understanding of tipping and payment norms in Japan, you’ll feel comfortable navigating the country in no time!

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Payment Method

Japan is primarily a cash-based society, but that doesn’t mean you have to carry wads of yen with you everywhere.

These days, credit cards are accepted in many stores, hotels, and restaurants in major cities and popular tourist destinations. Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners Club, and JCB are mostly accepted.

However, some smaller shops, especially in rural areas, still prefer cash. It is a good practice to inquire about a store’s payment policy before shopping or dining.

Accepted Credit and Debit Cards 

The most commonly accepted cards are Visa and Mastercard. American Express and Diners Club are widely accepted at larger establishments but less at smaller shops. 

Check with your card issuer for foreign transaction fees before using it abroad. Also, notify them of your travel plans so they don’t flag your Japan charges as fraudulent. 

Exchanging USD for Yen: Insights from Seasoned Travelers

As you prepare for your journey to Japan, one of the crucial aspects to consider is how to manage your currency needs effectively.

While Japan is renowned for its efficiency and convenience, understanding the nuances of currency exchange can enhance your travel experience significantly.

We contacted seasoned travelers and expatriates to gather valuable insights and practical advice on using dollars in the Land of the Rising Sun.

1. Plan Ahead

Many experienced travelers emphasize the importance of planning regarding exchanging dollars for yen. 

“Before departing for Japan, I always exchange some dollars for Japanese yen at my local bank,” shares Jessica, a frequent visitor to Japan.

“Having local currency on hand upon arrival makes things smoother, especially for immediate expenses like transportation, visiting shrines, or paying for meals.”

2. Utilize ATMs Wisely

ATMs are widely available in Japan, allowing travelers to withdraw cash conveniently. However, selecting the right ATMs can save you from unnecessary fees. 

“I recommend using ATMs found in post offices or convenience stores like 7-Eleven,” advises Mark, an expatriate living in Tokyo. “These ATMs often have English language options and usually don’t charge additional fees for international transactions.”

3. Be Mindful of Currency Conversion

When making purchases in Japan, you may encounter the option to pay in dollars instead of Japanese yen. While this may seem convenient, it’s essential to be mindful of the currency conversion rates.

“Opting to pay in dollars may seem convenient, but it often comes with unfavorable exchange rates and hidden fees,” cautions Emily, a seasoned traveler. “I always prefer to pay in local currency to avoid unnecessary charges.”

4. Carry Sufficient Cash

While Japan is known for its advanced technology and digital payment systems, cash remains king in many establishments, especially in rural areas or smaller shops.

“During my travels in Japan, I’ve encountered several instances where cash was the only accepted form of payment,” shares David, an avid explorer of Japanese culture.

“Carrying sufficient cash ensures you’re prepared for any situation, whether purchasing from vending machines, Suica cards, street food, or souvenir shopping in traditional markets.”

5. Stay Informed and Flexible

Lastly, staying informed about the latest developments in currency exchange policies and being flexible with your payment methods can enhance your travel experience in Japan.

“Japan is constantly evolving, and so are its currency exchange practices,” notes Sarah, an expatriate residing in Kyoto. “By staying informed and adapting to changes, you can navigate currency exchange with confidence and ease.”

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FAQ – Does Japan Accept US Dollars?

In Japan, tipping is not customary and may be seen as rude in some situations. However, many businesses frequented by tourists, like hotels, taxis, and restaurants, will accept US dollars and appreciate small tips. 

Here are some guidelines for tipping in Japan with dollars:

Restaurants 

At restaurants, a small tip of $5 to $10 in cash is appreciated for good service, especially if paying with a credit card.

Leave the tip in the tray with the bill, or hand it directly to your server. Some higher-end restaurants may add a 10% service charge to your bill, in which case an additional tip is not expected.

Taxis

Round up the fare for taxi rides, especially if the driver helped with heavy luggage.  For example, if the fare comes to 1,850 yen, pay 2,000 yen in cash and let the driver keep the change as a tip. Tipping more than 10% of the fare is not customary.

Hotels

Leave 1,000 to 2,000 yen (around $10-$20) in an envelope or with a thank you note for housekeeping. Bellhops usually receive 500 to 1,000 yen (around $5-$10) per bag. No need to tip the front desk staff unless they provide exceptional service.

While tipping in Japan is not mandatory and often not expected, following these guidelines and showing your appreciation through small gratuities in US dollars will be greatly appreciated by those serving tourists.

When in doubt, a smile, handshake, and sincere “arigato gozaimasu” (thank you very much) will go a long way.