How many times would you like to pay? Cash and credit cards in Japan and a little Japanese lesson

Updated May 2014

yen as the yen symbol


Imagine it is 2009 and you will be hopping on a plane to visit me in Japan in a few weeks. “Hilary. Should I bring cash? Is my credit card okay? What about travellers cheques?”

“Cash. Cash. And more cash!” I would have replied.

Don’t laugh too hard about the travellers cheques. I came with a pile of them in 2006!

I lived in Japan from 2006 to 2009. I can count on one hand the times I used my Canadian credit card. Many places didn’t take credit cards and a few times my card was declined. Hitoshi had a Japanese credit card but also rarely used it. Instead, he used cash or loaded fare cards, like Suica or Pasmo.

Spending a month in Japan in 2012 was a surprise! We visited big cities and rural communities and credit cards were accepted wherever we went. I used mine at convenience stores, hotels, department stores, bakeries, restaurants and to buy train tickets. One of the smallest amounts was under Y500 or about $5!

There were still hotels, restaurants and other shops, along with a taxi in a rural area, where we needed cash. Overall though, I felt that money use had changed since our 2010 trip to Japan.

Me: “Can I pay with my credit card?”

If I want to use my credit card, meaning Visa or MasterCard, I look for a sign near the till.

If you want to ask if using your credit card is okay, one way is, “ka-do   dai-jo-bu?” If you are not sure how to pronounce Japanese, the closest in Canadian English is caw-dough   die-jo-boo?

If this seems like too much, hold up your card, point to it with a big smile and say, “dai-jo-bu?” (die-jo-boo?)

Service Rep: “Yes! How many payments do you want to make?”

I’m sorry? How many times do I want to split up what I owe you? This question threw me the first time I was asked!

In Japan, you can have the total divided up into more than one payment, plus interest. Almost every time I used my credit card, I was asked one of the following:

  • O-shi-  ha-rai   kai-su   wa   nan-kai   desu ka? How many times do you want to pay?
  • Nan-kai   desu ka? How many times?
  • I-kkai   ba-rai   de   yo-ro-shi   desu ka? One payment is okay?

If you want to pay the full amount now, say, i-kkai   de   o-ne-gai-shi-ma-su. Using Canadian English, it would be something like this: ee-ky (like sky)     deh     oh-neh-guy-she-mass.

How to use a chip credit card

I have a chip card and about half of the stores had the same set-up as I was used to in Canada. The staff set up a portable terminal, passed it over, I entered my PIN and then pressed the green key in the lower right.

The rest of the time I signed a receipt or was given a receipt for small amounts without having to authorize the purchase.

Happy spending!

What has been your experience with cash or credit in Japan?

And you?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.