Quite often, using credits cards in Japan is not as easy as you might think. If you are planning to primarily pay by credit card during your visit, here are the 4 key things to keep in mind before making payment.
1. Using Credit Cards at Restaurants
If you are planning to pay by credit card when you eat out, it is better to check in advance if the restaurant accepts credit cards. Although chain restaurants and restaurants introduced in travel guides usually accept credit cards, there are many that do not.
How to Check if Credit Cards Are Accepted at Restaurants
One way to check in advance whether or not a restaurant accepts credit cards is to search on websites that introduce restaurants in Japan, like Gurunavi. Such websites often list information about if it is possible to use credit cards at a specific restaurant as well as what kind of credit cards are accepted.
If you are already at the restaurant, the easiest way to find out is to check if the sticker of your credit card brand is displayed near the front entrance or cash register. Older Japanese restaurants may not have a cashier placed at the entrance; in such cases, it is best to ask the serving attendant directly. For restaurants where you buy your food tickets through a ticket machine, it is likely that only cash is accepted.
How do you ask a restaurant if they accept credit card payments? Try the following phrase while showing the credit card that you would like to use.
Do you accept credit cards?
Kurejitto kādo wa tsukaemasu ka?
(ku-re-jee-toe kah-doh wah tsu-ka-eh-masu kah)
Credit Cards Might Not Be Accepted during Lunch
Some restaurants accept credit cards only during certain time periods. In particular, a significant number of restaurants in Japan do not accept credit cards during lunchtime. Because restaurants offer lower priced meals for lunch as compared to dinner, the view that you can pay by cash for lunch still prevails in Japan.
2. Using Credit Cards at Japanese Hotels
You will also have to take care when selecting accommodation while traveling in Japan. Generally, almost all business hotels accept credit cards, but you may not be able to use them at some traditional Japanese inns, called “ryokan.” Also, in the case of guest houses managed by individual owners, only a small percentage accept credit cards. However, if you book a reservation in advance through a hotel reservation website, you may be able to use a credit card to pay online even though the accommodation wouldn’t normally accept credit cards in person.
3. Using Credit Cards for Transportation
Almost all taxis accept credit cards. If you are worried, check first by asking the driver in advance using the Japanese phrase provided above. Metropolitan buses and trains do not accept credit cards though it is possible to purchase a bullet train (shinkansen) ticket if you go to a JR ticket office.
4. Using Credit Cards at Retail Shops
When shopping, it is a good idea to carry some cash with you. Most nationwide chains in Japan like apparel shops or drug stores accept credit cards, but many smaller, individually run shops do not. If you would like to purchase a low cost item but only have large bills (¥10,000), you shouldn’t encounter any problems with using them as Japanese shops are more accepting of giving large amounts of change back, unlike some Western countries.