Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Japan Travel: Why and How to Use the ATM?

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If you ever travel in Japan, do remember that Japan is a cash-centric country.  Many small vendors still require cash. Read [1] for some good tips.

Why Use the ATM Overseas?

Whether you need euros, shekels, pesos or yens, making a withdrawal from an ATM is generally the easiest and cheapest way to get cash abroad. The biggest advantage of exchanging money with your ATM card is that all cash withdrawals, regardless of size, are exchanged based on the wholesale exchange rate, which is usually reserved only for very large interbank exchanges.[2]

Sample of Transactions

To show you the advantages of making a withdrawal from an ATM, here are my personal experiences:
  • Airport Currency Exchange Counter
    • To get rid of remaining Japanese Yen before returning to US, I had to use the Airport Currency Exchange Counter at Haneda Airport for that purpose.  Here is the exchange rate I got on 11/23/2018:
      • You sell Japanese Yen to US dollar at 119.0100.  For comparison, the quoted rate at xe.com was:  112.9872.  Note that you sell Japanese Yen at a higher rate means you get less US dollars in exchange.
  • Airport ATM
    • To get some Taiwan New Dollars when arrived at Taiwan, I had used Airport ATM to withdraw NT$6,000 at the following rate: 30.8325 on 11/16/2018.  Based on xe.com, the exchange rate was 30.7786.
    • To get some Japanese Yen when arrived Japan, I had used Airport ATM to withdraw $100,000 Yen at the following rate: 113.3967 on 11/11/2018. Based on xe.com, the exchange rate was 113.8288.

Can I use my debit card overseas?

Yes, you can use your debit card while traveling outside the United States. Please refer to the following tips (Note that this article is mainly based on Wells Fargo's publication and your banks may have different policies):

  • Before you leave, please let your bank know when and where you’re traveling, as well as the cards you’ll be taking with you.
  • Use your debit card to get local currency internationally at more than 1.5 million Visa® and participating ATM networks. Visit the Visa global ATM network locator to view a list of ATMs that accept your card worldwide.
  • Most foreign ATMs require a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN). If your PIN doesn't meet this requirement, you can change it before you leave on your trip.
  • Use your debit card to make purchases worldwide at participating retailers and service providers. When you present your card for payment, you will be asked to sign a sales slip rather than entering your PIN.
  • Wells Fargo will assess a $5 fee for ATM cash withdrawals made outside the United States and an International Purchase Transaction fee which is 3% of the transaction amount for each purchase made with your debit card in a foreign currency that has been converted into a U.S. dollar amount by a network.
  • If you debit card doesn't have a chip, consider get a replacement card with chip
    • Use your chip debit card internationally, where chip technology is already in place. The chip provides added security because it is extremely difficult to counterfeit or copy when used at a chip-enabled terminal or ATM, and does not store any personal information. 
      • The chip generates a transaction code that's only valid for a single transaction and cannot be used again.
    • At merchants and ATMs that do not have chip-enabled terminals, use the magnetic stripe on the card as you do today.


  1. Currency Exchange Tips – Dollars to Yen (good)
  2. ATM Abroad (good)
  3. Best U.S. ATM & Credit cards for Japan
  4. MasterCard/Cirrus/Maestro ATM Locator
  5. Global ATM Locator (Visa Card)
  6. Debit Card Foreign Transaction and International ATM Fees: What You’ll Pay
  7. How to use the ATM in Japan (Seven Bank)
    • In December 2009, Seven Bank discontinued ATM services for MasterCard, Maestro and Cirrus cards. 
    • For internationally issued cards, the limit for each withdrawal is 100,000 yen.
    • The limit for magnetic stripe card transactions is 30,000 yen.
    • For American Express cards, the limit for each withdrawal is 30,000 yen.
    • Seven Bank ATM locator
  8. Japan Post Bank Co., Ltd. (株式会社ゆうちょ銀行)
  9. ATM and Debit Card Questions (Wells Fargo)
  10. Using your ATM Card in Japan (video)
  11. Getting yen with your US debit or credit card at haneda airport using a 7 bank atm  (video)
  12. Kansai International Airport (currency exchange)
  13. Foreign ATM and Cash Machines (Good)
  15. The Top 11 Checking Accounts for Avoiding Foreign ATM Fees
    • (retrieved on 06/30/2018) Ally, Capital One, Charles Schwab, Citibank, Fidelity, First Republic Bank, PNC, TD Bank, USAA, US Bank, Wells Fargo
  16. 5 Ways to Save Money When Traveling Abroad

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