Traveling throughout North America and Europe, just about everywhere you go, credit cards seem to be accepted. What I recently experienced in Japan was quite different. As high tech as Japan may be with high speed trains, futuristic toilets and taxis with auto open doors, they can be quite behind others with credit card usability. As an example, Japan is the only country where I have run across McDonald’s that did not accept any credit cards (in Kyoto and Tokyo both!) I found that just about all restaurants, kiosks and stores do not accept credit. Cash is king, so when you visit expect to hit up the ATM machines a lot. Good news is that ATM machines are found all over. Train stations have ticket machines, but they will only accept credit cards that have a PIN number – no pin, no use. You are able to stand in line in the train ticket office to use your credit card, but you can expect a long line and wait.
Pasmo/Suica cards are debit cards that you load up with cash for easy and quick subway/train travel. I highly recommend these when you visit. Although credit cards are not accepted, most of the shops and restaurants in or near all train/subway stations accept the same Pasmo or Suica cards as a method of payment. So if you don’t like walking around with a bunch of cash, load up your Pasmo/Suica card and use this for many of your purchases. Those same McDonald’s that did not accept credit cards… they did accept Pasmo/Suica.
Travel tip #1 – I found 7-Elevens and other c-stores as the most convenient for using ATM. C-stores can be found on every corner, all have ATM, each has an English button for easy use. Typical ATM service fee is around 200y (around $2).