Guide to Japanese Convenience Store Services: Money Transactions

Japan’s three major convenience store chains, Seven-Eleven, FamilyMart, and Lawson, have some 50,000 stores in all nationwide. Most shops operate 24 hours a day and offer an array of services useful to foreign tourists. In this article we introduce money transaction services that are available at convenience stores.

Round-the-Clock Japanese Yen ATMs

Credit cards and other digital payment methods have not caught on in Japan to the extent they have elsewhere in the world. The situation is gradually improving, but many businesses still operate on a cash-only basis, making it prudent for foreign travelers to carry some hard currency along with plastic money.

When cash is called for, travelers need only visit a nearby convenience store, or conbini as they are commonly called in Japanese, to withdraw funds. Look for Seven-Bank ATMs at Seven-Eleven, Japan Post Bank ATMs at FamilyMart, or Lawson ATMs. These machines are connected to the PLUS and Cirrus ATM networks and operated principally by VISA and MasterCard, respectively.

The PLUS logo.

Many credit companies offer competitive currency conversion rates. Even with ATM fees and other banking charges added, it can be relatively inexpensive to withdraw money using ATMs, as long as you pay off your credit card bill in good time.

Seven-Bank ATMs offers operating instructions in 12 languages, including English, Chinese, and Indonesian.

In addition to the PLUS and Cirrus ATM networks, 24,500 Seven-Bank ATMs across Japan and the 1,600 Yūcho Postal Service Bank ATMs at FamilyMarts in the Greater Tokyo area and the Kansai region accept VISA, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, and UnionPay International credit cards, among others. Seven-Bank ATMs offer screen instructions and banking receipts in any of 12 languages when a foreign credit card is inserted.

A FamilyMart currency exchange machine.

FamilyMart has begun offering automated currency exchange machines in select stores. As of August 2018, machines are available only at the FamilyMart Shinjuku Yasukuni-dōri and Asakusa Kaminarimon-mae stores in Tokyo, but the company has plans to install machines in additional areas.

The machines can convert 13 foreign currencies into Japanese Yen, including US dollars, British pounds, Euros, Canadian dollars, Swiss francs, and Korean won.

Users can select their preferred foreign currency from the input screen.

Customers can call for assistance in English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.

Expanded Support for Foreign Digital Currency and Duty-Free Sales

Major Japanese convenience store chains accept credit cards and Japanese e-money cards along with cash. They are also gradually expanding their support of foreign online payment platforms. Lawson customers can use Alipay, a Chinese digital money system with over 500 million users, at over 14,000 stores.

Alipay is a smartphone payment service offered by Alibaba, China’s largest online currency provider.

Shops are also increasingly offering duty-free sales. The service is currently available at 1,600 Seven-Elevens, 500 FamilyMarts, and 150 Lawsons.

Duty-free discounts are primarily applicable to consumables like snack foods, beverages, cosmetics, and cigarettes, as well as such general merchandise as clothing, towels, and books and magazines. A passport is required to qualify for the discount.

A duty-free corner at a convenience store.

Look for signs advertising duty-free services.

(Originally published in Japanese. Text by Fujitani Ryōsuke; photos by Jōraku Hiroyuki. Banner Photo: The exterior of a Seven-Eleven store.)

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