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Tuesday, 17th March 2015
In Business In Japan, Japan Travel News,

Japanese banks to boost ATM availability for tourists

Some of the biggest banks across Japan are looking to boost connectivity between ATMs to global networks in order to allow foreign tourists to access their cash much more easily in the run up to the 2020 Olympics.

Following years of pressure from the government, the nation's three biggest lenders, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Sumitomo Mitsui and Mizuho, will be opening up their ATMs to the global market. In past years, there has been too much of a focus on the local market, forcing Japanese technology to evolve in isolation from the rest of the world.

Sumitomo Mitsui plans to connect 1,000 of its roughly 6,000 ATMs by March 2017, while Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ will begin linking 1,000 of its 8,300 or so ATMs this year. Mizuho will install around 100 new ATMs that accept foreign cards in the next few months, adding to its already 5,600 ATMs nationwide. All the banks will have to pay to connect to Visa and MasterCard networks, upgrade their software and modify current ATMs; a cost that could set them back billions of yen. This investment will then be paid back through transaction fees on the customer side.

One of the biggest problems among foreign visitors often is the case that overseas cards can only be used at only a few banks' ATMs, such as Seven Bank and Japan Post Bank. In a survey carried out by the Japan Tourism Agency in late 2011, 16 per cent of travellers stated that one of their big issues was ATM accessibility.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Nobuyuki Hirano, chairman of the Japanese Bankers Association, said: “A decision [on ATMs] is up to individual banks and each bank will respond to customer needs considering the costs and benefits."

Related news stories:
Government pushes for foreigner-friendly ATMs (28th July 2014)