When shopping in Japan, e-payments can save you a lot of hassle. This article provides an overview of electronic payment methods available in Japan, including their pros and cons, to help you choose the most suitable method for a smooth shopping experience.
Available Electronic Payment Methods in Japan
Electronic (or cashless) payments allow you to exchange money without needing physical currency, in which data is used for transactions.
Compared to other countries, e-payments have been a bit slower to catch on in Japan. In 2018, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry set a goal to boost Japan's cashless payment ratio to 40% by 2025, eventually reaching 80% in the future, a level that would surpass the rest of the world.
To achieve this goal, the government has rolled out the Cashless Point Rebate Program, incentivizing cashless payments by offering points and other rewards. Not to mention how the COVID-19 pandemic also contributed to the growth of e-commerce sites and delivery services.
While cash payments remain the predominant choice in Japan, electronic payments are gradually catching up, with a notable increase in payments through credit cards, transportation cards, and QR code services like PayPay and LINE Pay.
Major Electronic Payment Methods Used in Japan
The following is a list of major electronic payment services used in Japan with the basic functions and systems of QR codes, barcodes, and touch payments similar to those used overseas. However, please note that there may be some differences in their usage.
1. Credit Cards (VISA/Mastercard/JCB)
Credit cards are amongst the most widely used electronic payments in Japan. They are accepted in various places, including department stores, shopping malls, restaurants, convenience stores, hotels, and taxis, making them a necessity for travelers.
Payment processes may vary, from inserting to tapping your card, to signing for the transaction. Payment methods may differ between establishments. However, it's important to note that many small souvenir shops, restaurants, and smaller traditional inns are cash only, so it's always advisable to carry Japanese yen in cash when traveling just to be safe.
- Foreign credit cards may not work with all Japanese card readers. Although you may not face any issues at major retail chains or larger shops, it is advisable to carry some extra cash especially while dining out to avoid any inconvenience.
2. Travel IC Cards (Suica/PASMO/ICOCA, etc.)
Travel IC cards (or transit IC cards) are those issued by Japanese railway companies that you can pre-load with funds and use to automatically pay for train and bus rides with a simple tap on the ticket gate or card reader.
The card issued by JR East is known as Suica, while PASMO is issued primarily by the Tokyo Metro, and private railways and bus companies in the Kanto Region. There’s also the Kitaca, issued by JR Hokkaido, TOICA by JR Tokai, ICOCA by JR West, and SUGOCA by JR Kyushu. Although these cards vary by issuing railway company, they can be used all throughout Japan, with no regional restrictions.
But aside from just transportation, these versatile IC cards are widely accepted as payment at a variety of stores, including convenience stores, supermarkets, and chain restaurants.
Some options for international travelers visiting Japan also include Welcome Suica and PASMO PASSPORT (more details in the next section). These are deposit-free, single-use cards that are most suitable for those with no plans to return to Japan after their trip.
- Some regional transport systems only accept their own travel cards. For example, the buses in Ibaraki Prefecture that go between JR Katsuta Station and the popular Hitachi Seaside Park accept only cash or the local "Ibappi" IC card, and do not accept Suica or Pasmo.
3. Retail Electronic Money (WAON/nanaco, etc.)
These payment methods are most convenient for use at specific retail stores and restaurants, such as convenience stores and major Japanese supermarkets like AEON. What makes these methods so economical is that you can accumulate points with your purchases!
WAON is popular choice in Japan, as it is available at over 1,243,000 locations nationwide, primarily in commercial facilities within the AEON Group and stores like FamilyMart and McDonald's. There’s also nanaco, issued by Seven & i Holdings. Additionally, there are prepaid options such as Rakuten Edy that allow you to pre-charge it with funds, making it similar to cash payments.
4. Credit Card-Based Electronic Money (iD/QUICPay, etc.)
Credit card-based electronic funds allow you to make payments by tapping your smartphone or a registered card on the store's payment terminal. This hassle-free method does away with the need for pre-charging and entering PIN codes, and can be connected to credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid cards.
Japan also offers services like iD, issued by docomo and accepted at over 2 million locations nationwide, and QUICPay, offered by major Japanese credit card company JCB, which is accepted at over 2.05 million locations nationwide.
5. QR Code-Based Electronic Money (PayPay/LINE Pay/Rakuten Pay, etc.)
QR code-based funds allow instant payments by simply downloading their app, and presenting the QR code or barcode on your phone in the store, or scanning it at the register.
Amongst these options, PayPay boasts the highest number of users and merchants. There’s also LINE Pay, which can be used by anyone with a smartphone and the LINE messenger app. Another option is Rakuten Pay, known for great point redemption rates for members of Japan's major internet shopping site, Rakuten.
6. Smartphone Payments (Apple Pay/Google Pay)
Although not exactly e-money, there are smartphone functions like Apple Pay (for iPhone) and Google Pay (for Android) that enable users to make payments by registering their most frequently used credit cards and e-money methods. Simply present your smartphone at payment.
These services support various forms of e-money payments, including touch payment credit cards (note that Google Pay only supports Visa), transportation IC cards like Suica, PASMO, and ICOCA, and e-money methods like WAON, nanaco, iD, and QUICPay. You can even register airline tickets!
To pay, tell the cashier what method you’d like to use and hold your smartphone over the dedicated reader. This eliminates the need to carry multiple cards or search for an app, allowing you to manage your payments on your smartphone as if it were your wallet.
- As of 2023, the Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden) and a handful of other railways also allow contactless payment with certain IC-equipped credit cards, with Tokyo Metro looking to roll out similar support in 2024.
Recommended Cashless Payment Services for Travelers in Japan
So while e-payments have indeed been increasing throughout Japan, which ones are most recommended for foreign tourists who are just visiting? Below is a list of our top recommended e-payment methods for tourists based on their usability and perks.
1. Credit Cards
Credit cards are widely used around the world and highly familiar to international travelers, making them one of the most convenient payment methods for travelers in Japan. Most major international brands like Visa, Mastercard, JCB, and American Express are widely accepted in department stores, malls, convenience stores, taxis, restaurants, and a variety of other places, making them a safe choice for just about anyone. This especially goes for those unfamiliar with e-payment systems specific to Japan, such as QR codes or IC cards.
How to Use
Methods of use may vary from one shop to another, but typically, you can either hand your credit card to the cashier, or insert (or swipe) it into the payment terminal yourself. You may need to enter a PIN or provide your signature afterwards, although some places like convenience stores and supermarkets may not require this for purchases under a certain amount.
If your credit card supports contactless payment, you can quickly complete your purchase with a simple tap of your card on the payment terminal, with no need for a signature. Cards with contactless payment capability usually have a symbol on their surface. Note that purchases exceeding specific amounts may still require a PIN or signature.
You can pay seamlessly without any extra steps by using the same credit card you use back home, without having to worry about how much Japanese yen you have on hand.
You must be careful not to exceed your spending limit. As of October 2023, you can shop at great prices for electronics, brand-name goods, and more thanks to the weakened yen in Japan. However, that also opens up the possibility for over-spending. Make sure you know how much you can spend within a certain period of time, because once you reach that limit, you may not be able to use your card again until after your next payment date.
Recommended for those who frequently use public transportation like trains and buses during their stay in Japan. All you need to do is charge your card at the station ticket machines to avoid the hassle of buying tickets every time you ride. For short-term foreign visitors, there's the "Welcome Suica" (available in amounts of 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, and 10,000 yen), valid for 28 days. Since no deposit is required, you also won't need to complete any refund processes when returning home.
How to Use:
Using Suica is easy; simply tap it on the designated reader at ticket gates or when making a payment. Suica cards can be purchased from JR station ticket machines, and require a minimum of 1,000 yen, of which 500 yen is allocated as the deposit. The rest can be used freely. You can also choose to register it with your name or not. Named cards will require you to input personal information, such as name, birthdate, and gender, at the time of purchase. In the case of loss, this registered information can be used when reissuing. Also, please note that registered cards may not be used by anyone other than the cardholder.
Not only does this single card allow you to board trains and buses with ease, it can also be used for shopping in a variety of places, such as convenience stores, vending machines, shopping centers, and supermarkets.
“Welcome Suica" cards are deposit-free and non-refundable and may be brought back to your home country. The design also features a unique Japanese cherry blossom illustration, making it a great souvenir.
If you do not plan to visit Japan again, you will want to cancel your card and reclaim your deposit before leaving Japan. For Suica cards, you can do this by visiting the "Midori-no-Madoguchi”, located in the Suica section, and presenting your ID card. If there is a remaining balance, you will be refunded your 500 yen deposit and the balance, minus a handling fee of 220 yen. Welcome Suica cards, on the other hand, do not offer refunds, regardless of remaining balance, so be sure to select an amount you're certain to use when purchasing.
- As of October 2023, due to a semiconductor shortage, purchase of both registered and unregistered Suica cards are suspended. Welcome Suica cards are limited regarding where they can be purchased and the number of cards available per person.
- Purchase Locations: Narita Airport Terminal 1 Station, JR East Japan Travel Service Center / Narita Airport Terminals 2 and 3 Stations / Haneda Airport International Terminal Station (Tokyo Monorail) / Welcome Suica vending machines
- Card Availability: One per person
Like Suica, PASMO is an IC travel card with electronic money capabilities. It’s recommended for travelers who plan to make frequent use of public transportation, such as trains and buses, during their stay in Japan. Charge it at a station ticket machine to eliminate the need for ticket purchases every time you ride. Foreign visitors to Japan can also opt for the PASMO PASSPORT (1,500 yen), which can be used for trains, buses, and e-payments during shopping, not only in the Kanto Region but all throughout Japan.
How to Use:
Touch the card to the dedicated reader at the ticket gates or when making payments. PASMO cards can be purchased at ticket machines and service counters of PASMO-operated stations and require a 500-yen deposit. You can choose between registered and unregistered cards, with registered cards requiring you to input personal information such as name, birthdate, and gender at the time of purchase.
PASMO PASSPORT can be purchased at various locations, including Skyliner & Keisei Information Center (inside Airport Terminal 2), Keikyu Tourist Information Center (2nd-floor arrivals lobby of Haneda Airport Terminal 3 Station, next to ticket gate), and major stations in the Tokyo metropolitan area. You will need to present your passport during the process, and there is no 500 yen deposit required.
Similar to Suica, one pro of the PASMO card is not having to buy tickets every time you board public transportation, and it’s also accepted at convenience stores, retail stores, vending machines, and more. Another perk is that the PASMO PASSPORT offers discounts at participating facilities and shops within the PASMO area. The card makes a great souvenir, as PASMO cards often feature cute designs, such as Hello Kitty, Mount Fuji, and cherry blossoms, making them perfect for fans of character goods and Japan-themed items.
One con is that if you don’t plan to come back to Japan, you’ll need to go through the deposit refund process before leaving the country. And like the Welcome Suica, the PASMO PASSPORT does not offer deposit refunds, even if there is a remaining balance on the card. Finally, note that charging your card can only be done using Japanese yen (credit cards not accepted) at station ticket machines and convenience stores.
- As of October 2023, due to the semiconductor shortage, purchase of both registered and unregistered PASMO cards are suspended. However, PASMO PASSPORT is currently available for purchase at Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, and major stations in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
Alipay is an electronic payment app provided by China’s Alibaba Group. This payment is so widely accepted throughout China that it’s often said, “If you have Alipay, you don’t need a wallet.” We recommend Alipay for those who use it back in their home countries, as you can continue to use it after you visit Japan as-is. Even in Japan, you’ll find that most department stores, electronics retailers, convenience stores, 100-yen shops, and duty-free stores accept Alipay. Look for the blue sticker at the cash register to see which stores accept this service.
How to Use:
Scan the QR code when paying or present the QR code in the Alipay app to the cashier.
The biggest pro is the ability to pay directly from the linked bank account or credit card from your home country. There’s no need to recharge it due to running out of funds. Also, because money can be transferred to third parties in one-yen increments, it’s also convenient for splitting the bill when dining out with friends.
Unlike many Japanese cashless payment services (such as PayPay and LINE Pay), Alipay does not offer points or cash back based on spending. However, Alipay does have its own unique credit score system in which high-scoring users can enjoy various perks.
5. WeChat Pay
This payment feature is integrated into China’s top messenger app, WeChat. Those who already use WeChat Pay in their home country can continue to use it in Japan hassle-free. Like Alipay, WeChat Pay also allows you to send money in 1-yen increments, making it convenient for travelers splitting expenses for food and lodging.
How to Use:
When paying at the store, open the WeChat app, select “Scan Code (扫一扫)” from the plus menu (+) in the upper right corner, and scan the QR code to pay. Then, enter the payment password, and you’re good to go. You may also present your personal QR code to the cashier when paying.
WeChat Pay allows you to pay from your linked bank account or credit card, eliminating the need to deal with physical Japanese yen. Some stores may even offer special coupons and updates after your purchase. And since the service also enables instant money transfers, it’s super convenient for travelers shopping for items on behalf of friends and family living in China.
Like Alipay, WeChat Pay does not offer the points or cash-back systems commonly seen in Japanese cashless payment services. There’s also a transaction limit of 6,000 yuan per purchase (about 120,000 yen; 1 yuan = about 20 yen). The monthly spending limit is 50,000 yuan, while the annual spending limit is 60,000 yuan. So be careful if you plan to use it for significant purchases, such as electronics or luxury goods.
PayPay is Japan’s largest QR code payment service, allowing users to make payments using their smartphone. It is affiliated with China’s Alipay, Hong Kong’s Alipay HK, and South Korea’s Kakao Pay, so those already using one of these payment services in their home country can easily use PayPay for purchases at participating stores in Japan.
Also, PayPay-supporting stores that use Alipay+ have also begun to accept payments from Thailand’s TrueMoney, Malaysia’s Touch ‘n Go eWallet, and the Philippines’ GCash, and HelloMoney by AUB (as of June 15, 2023), and Taiwan’s JKO Pay, PXPay Plus, and E.SUN Wallet (as of October 2023). With the expansion of so many partnerships, many shops in Japan have made it even easier for international visitors to shop using PayPay!
How to Use:
At checkout, select “Pay” on the home screen, present it to the cashier, and have them scan the barcode, or hold the QR code over the dedicated terminal.
PayPay is often accepted at smaller, independent establishments, making it widely available, even at local shops and restaurants. PayPay also offers a points system, so you can enjoy discounts and savings with every purchase. There’s also a useful feature for foreign users making purchases with cashless payment services from overseas. Just input the amount in Japanese yen, and it will automatically convert it into the currency of your home country.
While usage is pretty straightforward for those already using a service linked to their home country, it can be a bit challenging for newcomers, as you typically need a Japanese bank account or credit card to get a PayPay card.
Cashless Payments Gaining Ground in Japan!
Today, Japan is moving toward an increasingly cashless payment environment thanks to the widespread use of IC cards. On top of that, e-payments from overseas are also on the rise, making it even more convenient for international visitors. (For example, Taiwan’s cashless Yuyu Card, which can now be used in Okinawa, too!)
So if you’re planning a trip soon and are considering what the most appropriate payment method for your travel needs may be, feel free to refer to this article, and choose the best option for you!
*Information in article as of October 2023. Please see official websites for the latest updates and information.
English translation by: Krys Suzuki
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
Share this article.
Limited time offer: 10% discount coupons available now!
Enjoy Autumn in Nikko: 12 Best Tours & Things to Do in the World Heritage Area Outside Tokyo
Where You Should Stay in Hakuba: Best Areas & Types of Accommodations For Visitors
Step Into an Autumn Dreamland: 'Light-up Nikko 2023' Transforms Tochigi's World Heritage for One Magical November Weekend!
15 Fun Mount Fuji Tours to Enjoy Next Visit to Japan
Hello Kitty is Back - And This Time, She's Not Messing Around
Where to Buy Manga in Tokyo? 5 Collectors Share Tips & Favorite Spots
Top 10 Must-Buy Hello Kitty Items at Sanrio World Ginza – Limited Goodies and Special Finds!
Otaru Travel Guide: Inside Hokkaido's Leading Destination! (Sightseeing, Food, and Shopping Tips)
- #best sushi japan
- #what to do in odaiba
- #what to bring to japan
- #new years in tokyo
- #best ramen japan
- #what to buy in ameyoko
- #japanese nail trends
- #things to do japan
- #onsen tattoo friendly tokyo
- #best coffee japan
- #best japanese soft drinks
- #best yakiniku japan
- #japanese fashion culture
- #japanese convenience store snacks