Okinawa and Japan in-general have been known as cash-heavy regions, relative to the West. And this is still very true today. However, credit cards are becoming more and more common throughout the country and in Okinawa.
Credit cards are accepted in major establishments in Okinawa. Visa is the most common followed by MasterCard and American Express. It’s still recommended to always carry plenty of cash (yen) as many businesses are cash only. Also, many places have minimum purchase requirements to use credit cards.
If there are any takeaways from this article, I hope it’s these two things:
- Always carry enough yen with you, no matter where you’re going
- If you plan on using a credit card, always ask before using the service, even if your credit card company’s logo is displayed
If you remember these two things, you’ll be good to go. Below are some more details to know about swiping your card in Okinawa.
Where are Credit Cards Accepted and Where are they Not?
Credit cards are accepted at most hotels and hostels in Okinawa. Pretty hard to find one that is cash only.
There are many taxi companies in Okinawa that accept credit cards, and there are many that don’t. So, if you plan on using a credit card in a taxi, you need to ask the driver before you get in.
If you’re planning to use taxis, get all the details from Okinawa Dork: Okinawa Taxis: How to Get One (with a Taxi Fare Calculator).
Monorail (Yui Rail)
The monorail does not accept credit cards. Best to come prepared with 1,000 yen bills or coins.
Credit cards are not accepted on buses in Okinawa. Make sure you have plenty of cash, and more importantly, make sure they are in 1,000 yen bills.
All Family Marts and Lawsons in Okinawa accept credit cards. These convenience stores are pretty much everywhere in Okinawa.
In general (and I stress, in general!), most larger, chain restaurants will accept credit cards.
Though there are many privately owned restaurants that accept credit cards, there are still plenty that are cash only.
Occasionally, even restaurants that display credit card logos in their windows, may not accept cards during certain hours, like lunchtime. It’s always best to ask before ordering.
Also, some restaurants may have minimum orders for credit cards. If your order isn’t over that amount, you need to order more or pay with cash.
Most major department stores will accept credit cards.
Large chain grocery stores like San-A, accept credit cards. Smaller, local grocery stores or vegetable shops are going to be cash only.
In general, the larger the souvenir shop, and the closer it is to major tourist hubs, the more likely they are to accept credit cards. Smaller pottery shops are likely going to be cash.
There are all types of sightseeing locations in Okinawa, and the majority of them are cash only. This is especially common for parking in more remote parts of the island. They will not have the ability to accept credit cards.
How to Tell if Credit Card is Accepted
Just like most places in the world, many businesses will display the logos of the credit cards they accept. If you’re ever in doubt and don’t have cash on you (you should try not to let this happen though), just ask: “Credit card OK desu ka?” If you get an “OK” or “Daijobu” answer, you’re good to go.
If you’re not comfortable trying out your Japanese or the person doesn’t understand, just pull out your credit card to show the person, and ask “OK?”
International Transaction Fees
Before you start swiping your credit card in Okinawa, it’s best to figure out if your credit card company charges foreign transaction fees.
What is an international transaction fee?
An international transaction fee (or foreign transaction fee) is a fee charged to the card user any time they make a purchase overseas using their card.
International transaction fees are usually between 1% to 3% of the transaction cost.
Why do credit card companies charge international transaction fees?
There are a couple of reasons:
- It offsets the cost that your bank incurs when converting your money back into your home currency
- Banks incur greater fraud risk with international transactions. International transaction fees help offset their cost
How to check if your credit card company charges international transaction fees?
To be sure you don’t get charged a transaction fee, do a google search for your specific credit card company and card type. The terms and conditions should be laid out under the credit card product details.
To be extra sure, I would just simply call your credit card company’s customer support line and ask them. This eliminates the need to dig through their terms and conditions, and eliminates any second-guessing.
Where to Get Cash
Most ATM’s in Okinawa do not accept foreign cards. So, once again, it’s very important to make sure you have enough cash on you always. Never assume you’ll be able to access cash or pay with a credit card where you’ll be traveling that day.
Japan Post Office ATM’s are your best bet for getting cash using your foreign ATM card. You can find these at post offices, and you can also find them at major facilities like shopping malls and certain grocery stores.
Which Type of Cards Can be Used?
According to Japan Post Bank’s website, ATM machines will accept VISA, PLUS, Master Card, Maestro, Cirrus, American Express, JCB, Union Pay, and Discover.
Important Things to Know
- Each ATM machine has specific hours of operation. Just because the facility the ATM machine is located in is open, doesn’t mean the ATM machine is operational.
- In 2016, Japan Post Bank issued a withdrawal limit of 50,000 yen (around $500) on foreign ATM cards.
- You may have read that Seven Elevens also take foreign ATM cards, this is true, however, as I write this, there is only one Seven-Eleven in Okinawa.
As mentioned before, there are many businesses in Okinawa that are cash only. It’s very important that you travel with plenty of yen and plan trips to ATM machine during normal business hours to increase the likelihood the machine is operational. Being stuck somewhere without cash is not only embarrassing and inconvenient, but it’s also rude.
Japan Post Bank ATM Finder
This thing takes all the guesswork out of finding an ATM machine and hoping that it’s going to be open.
It also gives you directions on foot, in a car, or by public transportation, right there in the app itself. Lastly, the app gives you instructions in English on how to use the machines!
If you’re just visiting or just getting settled in Okinawa, this is worth the download. And it’s free.
Where to Exchange Cash
If you’re bringing along your own currency or have access to the U.S. bases, then you’re probably going to want to exchange it into yen.
Very few businesses will accept US Dollar, and the few that do, the exchange rate is very poor.
There are plenty of currency exchange facilities in the central part of Okinawa and at Naha International Airport.
Rather than placing a map on here and trying to keep them updated, I’ll leave it to the expert, Google. Have you heard of them before?: A simple Google map search with “Money Exchange in Okinawa” will do the trick.
You’re not going to find a big difference (if any difference) between the majority of these facilities. You might find slightly better rates out in town, vs the Naha Airport.
Most major establishments are happy to swipe your credit card in Okinawa. But, Okinawa still is a cash-heavy destination and accepting credit cards is still a fairly new thing here. Not all businesses have made that transition yet.
So, bring your credit card, but never leave your house or hotel without yen. Because the one time you do, that’s the time you’ll find yourself with a bill you can’t pay. Not fun!