The ability to send money back to the home country is one of the most
important issues faced by foreigners coming to stay mid or long term
in Japan. The exchange rate is of course variable, but you will
generally get a better rate at Japanese banks than American ones, so
it is best to exchange your money in Japan whenever possible.
If possible, the best thing to do is set up a well-funded Citibank
bank account in Japan. If you can keep a balance of at least
1,000,000 yen in your Japanese account, you can make dollar transfers
to your American account at no charge.
For many people, keeping such a high balance in their Japanese bank
account is not an option (especially with the high costs of living in
urban Japan!). For those people, there is still a good option for
keeping costs down.
If you are looking to transfer up to a couple thousand dollars, the
most economic solution is the International Postal Money Order, which
you get from the Japanese Post Office. You can purchase a money order
for up to $700 at the standard exchange rate (the same at any bank or
post office in Japan) for a service charge of only 500 yen. Because
most banks charge a service charge of between 2500 and 4500 yen for a
bank transfer, and nearly that much to draft a cashiers check, this
option is generally worthwhile for sending up to $2,800 back to
America by normal mail. Please note that while these can be cashed at
any United States Post Office at no charge, some American banks may
charge a fee for cashing these, so check with your American bank
beforehand to make sure, or have a friend or relative cash these at a
post office before depositing in the bank for you.
For much larger amounts, as I mentioned, most Japanese banks will
charge a service charge of between 2500 and 4000 yen for a bank wire.
Because all Japanese banks use the same exchange rate, using the bank
with the lowest service charge would seem to be the most sensible.
However, if you don't speak Japanese, it may be best for you to use
Citibank in Japan for this purpose, even though they charge 5200 yen,
as they are the only major bank in Japan that can provide full English
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How to make a Telegraphic Transfer from Japan
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Request for Answer Clarification by
27 Nov 2002 12:07 PST
FYI, I was told at the post office in Japan that regulation prohibits
sending postal money orders by regular mail. They must be sent by EMS
which costs around 2000-3000 yen I believe, so that should be worked
into the total cost.
You don't really have to worry so much about the logistics of speaking
Japanese or having relatives or friends in the US. Assume a native
speaker who travels back and forth from Japan to US on a daily basis
if you wish. But please assume 1,000,000 yen.
The postal money order route would obviously cost more that the
Citibank route if what you say is true. But I am somewhat confused
because you say that Citibank will transfer the 1,000,000 to a US bank
for free, but then you say Citibank charges a 5200 yen fee for the
wire transfer for "much larger amounts"--much larger that what:
USD700, USD$2800, JPY 1,000,000?
So it appears that the cheapest way is not Citibank or postal money
orders but a wire transfer from a Japanese bank at a time when the
exchange rate is favorable relative to resistence and support of
recent volitility. Correct?
I admit this question is under priced, and I apologize for failing to
word it specifically enough, but I'll tip you, or anyone else, a few
dollars if you can tell me precisely how many dollars I'll end up with
after the exchange in a specific (or typical) Japanese bank. Surely
they don't use the rate in the newspaper, but inflate it will fees or
services charges or whatever; or am I wrong? Anyway, I'd like to know
how much overhead they attach to a daily market exchange rate.
Clarification of Answer by
28 Nov 2002 23:36 PST
Sorry, I forgot to clarify the Citibank information. Bank wires are
free from Citibank Japan only if you have a Citibank Japan account,
and you maintain an average monthly balance of over 1,000,000 yen. I
believe the amount to be wired does not matter, so long as your
monthly balance of over 1,000,000 yen in the Citibank Japan account is