Hi Lifehacker, I'm planning an overseas trip to Japan with my wife at the end of the year and have heard that most businesses will only accept cash. I'm wondering what is the best way to access our money over there without being ripped off? Thanks, Tokyo Tourist
Yen picture from Shutterstock
That certainly hasn't been our experience when visiting Japan — plenty of places in the larger cities will happily accept major credit cards. It's always dangerous to assume that any given card will work when you're overseas, however, and you will often be hit with foreign currency charges if you use a standard credit card when travelling. Unless you have a Visa or MasterCard branded debit card, you won't be able to pay directly from your bank account, EFTPOS-style, when overseas — an obvious point, but one worth making given how many people conduct a near-cashless existence in Australia.
As a strategy, we'd recommend a mixture of three elements:
- Actual cash, for small purchases and places that don't accept anything else. Ordering this in advance will be cheaper than changing money at the airport.
- A designated travel money credit card, preferably one which doesn't charge high conversion fees and which lets you handle multiple currencies. When this topic has come up on Lifehacker in the past, popular choices have include the 28 Degrees MasterCard and the OzForex prepaid travel card.
- Your existing Visa and/or Mastercard, as a backup if the designated card doesn't work.
For more specific tips, check out our guide to avoiding travel money rorts. And one bonus Japan tip: while ATMs are relatively common, unlike Australia, many also have set operating hours, so you can't necessarily hit late at night for an emergency cash infusion. Enjoy your trip!
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