This is a wiki crowdsourced by the Monzo Community to help you travel with Monzo.
Just like Wikipedia, anyone can edit it to help out others. If you have any tips or feedback for visiting Japan with Monzo, please feel free to edit this guide. You can also add a comment or question below — someone will then incorporate your comment into the main text below and then delete your comment. To create your own “Monzo in …” guide if one doesn’t already exist, just copy this template into a new post and write away!
Japan uses the Japanese Yen (JPY).
Yen can be written as ¥100 or 100円.
Monzo users pay the Mastercard exchange rate with no added fees.
Card acceptance is slowly improving in the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, however Japan is still fundamentally a cash based society. While you are likely to find a mixture of magstripe and EMV terminals in most tourist places, carrying cash is still strongly recommended. Where cards are accepted, Mastercard is almost always supported.
When paying in stores, make sure to reject any dynamic currency conversion and pay in Yen, this will allow you to receive the best Mastercard rate from Monzo.
Often, when making a purchase, your initial authorisation notification and feed item will show in USD, then the final settlement will come through as a separate feed item in the correct currency of JPY before the USD authorisation is refunded. This is unfortunately normal.
While NFC payments are incredibly common in Japan (more common than EMV card support), Monzo cards will almost certainly not work as Japan uses their own contactless systems. For reference, you will see these marked as QUICPay and iD for bank cards, and Suica/PASMO (and other IC transit network cards), Edy, WAON, and nanaco for e-money cards. Certain stores, however, are starting to implement contactless EMV in the run-up to the Olympics. You’ll know if you see the contactless EMV “wave” mark on the card reader rather than the Japanese NFC payment mark.
When topping up Suica with Apple Pay, JR East will sometimes post a payment separately from the initial authorization, making it look as if you have been double charged. Wait a couple of days and the initial authorization should “go away”.
Seven Bank and JP Post ATMs have been most reliable for Monzo users, both providing an English interface. Unfortunately, both have started charging fees, ¥110 for Seven Bank and ¥220 for JP Post. You can find them in many larger stations in addition to any 7-Eleven, Family Mart, or JP Post branch.
These days, in fact, most banks that take MasterCard at their ATMs will charge a fee except for Aeon Bank, whose ATMs can be found in Aeon malls, supermarkets, Ministop convenience stores, Aeon Bank branches (subject to the branch’s opening hours if not a separate vestibule), and at most major airports (except Tokyo-Haneda) before security. Aeon Bank is also one of the only banks that will allow you to withdraw cash in multiples of ¥1000 (just about every other bank will make you withdraw in multiples of ¥10000).
Payment and withdrawal limits
All Monzo cards have some payment and withdrawal limits. To check yours before you leave, tap on the manage card icon and then tap on Spending and card limits.
Pay particular attention to your ATM limits as you will likely be using a lot of cash.
Apple Pay Suica (for iPhone users)
A great way to minimize the amount of cash you need if you’ve got a newer iPhone (8/X or newer) is to set up a Suica card on your phone. Once set up, this can be topped up with your Monzo card and used anywhere that takes transit cards for payment (except for PiTaPa-only vending machines and stores in Osaka). There are two ways to do this:
Some users will see a push notification upon arriving in Japan and connecting to a local mobile or WiFi network suggesting that you set up a Suica card. Tap it, follow the directions, use Apple Pay to top up with your Monzo card, and off you go.
If you don’t get the notification, or you want to set it up in advance of arrival, go to the App store and look for the SuicaEng app. Download it, open it, follow the directions (you’ll be asked to agree to Suica terms and conditions and select an initial top-up amount), and your iPhone will be ready to go.
With the Express Transit feature, you generally won’t need to authenticate with Touch ID or Face ID when taking transit or for small purchases at stores. Just tap your phone to the reader. Due to the way Japanese NFC payments work, at stores and vending machines that accept multiple forms of NFC payment you will have to select your method of payment. Either say to the clerk “koutsuukei IC” or “Suica”, or tap “交通系IC” or “Suica” when presented with the choice, then tap your phone to the card reader.
Crowdsourced merchant data
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- Most prices in convenience stores are listed without the consumption tax, pay attention to the larger amount in a smaller size if you care about adding up the exact total.
- When paying in coins, try to get the last digit correct. It will save you from ¥1 coin hell later on.
- Many machines will only take coins above ¥10, but no notes above ¥1,000. Use the previous tip to get rid of ¥1 coins in addition to breaking down larger notes in stores or train ticket machines.
- A Suica card, PASMO, ICOCA, or other IC network transit card comes highly recommended. It’s very slightly cheaper and significantly easier than buying paper tickets on services that support it. You can also use the balance on these cards to pay for many things in the cities. IC card acceptance is significantly better than EMV card acceptance in places that deal in smaller amounts, and if you have an iPhone, you can set one up with Apple Pay and top it up with your Monzo card, reducing the amount of cash you need to carry.
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