Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Getting cash in Japan

In Japan there a loads of banks and every convenience store has ATMs but when you're a foreigner needing to get cash from an ATM you're pretty well limited to Citibank, 7-Eleven and Japan Post. That doesn't sound as dire as it seems. There's a few Citibank locations with ATMs in Tokyo but 7-Eleven is just about everywhere. They have a bank called, funnily enough, 7-Bank and every store has a 7-Bank ATM that accepts just about every foreign card you can imagine. The usual anyway, VISA, Maestro, Cirrus etc. ATMs at other convenience stores don't seem to use any of major international banking networks. The post offices usually have ATMs that accept foreign cards too. I kept forgetting about the post office, but I did get cash there once or twice. For some reason I kept mucking up how to get cash from Citibank ATMs. It usually took me 2 or 3 goes to get the combination of transaction type, card (credit or savings) and account (credit or savings) correct. I think most ATMs had a 50000 yen ($500) limit per transaction. I was able to get cash advances on my credit card and withdraw cash from my savings account with my bank transaction card.

The ATMs defaulted to English when you put in your card or you're able to select English with a button on the screen.

Watch out for those foreign transaction fees charged by your bank though. Westpac charged me about $25 every time I withdrew $500. $10 foreign ATM fee and a $15 foreign currency conversion fee. It is out and out gouging. Paying for things with a credit card avoided the ATM transaction fee but there was no avoiding the foreign currency conversion fee. I reckon Westpac made close to $500 from me with their fee rort on this trip.

I took Georgia with me to the Citibank ATM in Ginza. There was was a security guard on duty who looked ready for business. He was an older guy but he was shaped like the Hulk. Not tall though. He was glaring at us like we were going to take the ATM with us. He had his arms out like he was going to go for the draw with his imaginary weapon. He looked intimidating. But as we were leaving he winked at Georgia and gave a little wave. It was kind of cute. Don't worry Citibank, your ATMs are in good hands.

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