MasterCard debit card holders shouldn't panic

by Louise George Kittaka

Special To The Japan Times

A reader from Australia, JF, contacted Lifelines with a question about using her MasterCard debit card here. She is coming to Japan soon and was concerned about a notice she had seen on MasterCard Japan’s website, indicating that certain types of cards issued overseas could not be used in ATMs here:

To: Cardholders of Maestro-branded EMV Cards issued outside of the Asia/Pacific Region
Re: Temporary Suspension of Maestro ATM Acceptance in Japan

All Maestro-branded EMV cards issued outside of the Asia/Pacific region are temporarily unable to withdraw currency at domestic ATMs, while the regional ATM network is upgraded.

However, Maestro-branded EMV cards issued in the following countries are able to withdraw currency at domestic ATMs.


Maestro-branded EMV cards issued within the Asia/Pacific Region, Maestro-branded cards without EMV chip, MasterCard-branded cards, and Cirrus-branded cards are not affected by this temporary suspension of service.

[The above is an abridged version. The full version of the notice, in several languages, can be viewed at:]

JF found the wording confusing, and her friends in Japan and her Australian bank couldn’t clarify things. She had been following a discussion about it on the Japan Guide website, where the situation was obviously causing a fair amount of concern. To confuse things further, it appears that Seven Bank, which operates ATMs at 7-11 convenience stores, isn’t accepting any MasterCard branded credit and debit cards issued overseas at all (

I had not heard of the problem, so I talked to a representative at MasterCard Japan, who supplied the following information, summarized here in a question-and-answer format:

How do I know if my card has an EMV chip?

EMV is a global standard for credit and debit payment cards based on chip card technology. EMV chip-based payment cards can be identified by the gold square on the front of the card, known as the card’s contact.

What is the difference between MasterCard, Maestro and Cirrus?

MasterCard, Maestro and Cirrus are different brands, or products, of MasterCard. MasterCard is the brand name for credit and debit cards and Maestro is the brand name for debit cards. You can tell if your card is a MasterCard or Maestro based on the logo on the front or back of your card. Cirrus, on the other hand, is the brand name that stands for the global MasterCard/Cirrus ATM Network, and if your ATM or debit card bears the Cirrus logo, your card can be used at Cirrus ATMs.

So, if my card isn’t Maestro, I can use it at ATMs in Japan? Also, if it’s Maestro but doesn’t have an EMV chip, I can still use it?

Yes, you can continue to use your Maestro-branded EMV cards issued within the Asia/Pacific Region, Maestro-branded cards without an EMV chip, MasterCard-branded and Cirrus-branded cards at ATMs in Japan that accept these cards, as they are not affected by the temporary suspension of service. However, you won’t be able to withdraw money at domestic ATMs using Maestro-branded EMV cards issued outside of the Asia/Pacific region (with the exception of Netherlands and Canada) while the regional ATM network is being upgraded.

Does the “Asia/Pacific region” include Australia?

Australia and New Zealand are included in the Asia/Pacific region. If your card is issued in either of these countries, even if it’s a Maestro-branded card with an EMV chip, you will be able to use it at ATMs in Japan (except for Seven Bank’s ATMs).

I heard that it’s really hard to find ATMs that accept foreign cards in general in Japan. What do you recommend?

Approximately 24,200 ATMs in Japan operated by Japan Post Bank and Citibank Japan allow you to withdraw cash with MasterCard-, Maestro- or Cirrus-branded cards. Please refer to an ATM locator tool or bank branch information at their websites: Citibank:

Japan Post Bank:

Is it true that Seven Bank’s ATMs aren’t accepting any overseas MasterCard branded cards?

At the moment, MasterCard-, Maestro- or Cirrus-branded cards are currently not accepted at Seven Bank ATMs. MasterCard is working with Seven Bank to enable full acceptance of all cards as soon as possible.

So, the good news for JF is that her card issued in Australia should be unaffected by the problems with MasterCard Japan. The company could not give me a firm answer about when the current situation will be fixed. To be on the safe side, any visitors to Japan who plan to use a MasterCard to withdraw funds would be wise to bring a back-up card along too for now.

Kiwi Louise George Kittaka has been based in Japan since she was 20. In the ensuing years she has survived PTA duty for three kids in the Japanese education system and singing live on national TV for the NHK Nodo Jiman show, among other things. Send your questions and comments to:

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