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Changing U.S. dollars into Japanese Yen

One of the more popular questions in Japanese travel forums on the internet relates to finding the best rates for changing U.S. dollars into Japanese Yen. That being the case, I did a comparison last year and posted my results here.

Subsequent to creating that web page, others have emailed me their experiences. In the future, people can compare stories by responding to this blog entry.

Here is one that I just received yesterday:

I found your study to be very thorough and just what I was looking for. Some new info as of June 2008:

Bank of America skims off 3%, so you get approx. 104 yen (exchange rate is 107) but no “additional” service fees if you change $1000+. Narita airport website now lists exchange rate. If you bring cash, it is 104 yen (I’m guessing there is a fee attached as well, but can’t confirm). If you bring Traveler’s Checks, the exchange is 106. So that seems to be the best option, if you can get your TC for free at your bank, then wait until you are in Japan to do the exchange.

(Lonely Planet (newest version) says you will pay fees at Japanese banks and airports to exchange, so I’m undecided at this point about what to do.)

There were no fees at Japanese post offices if you had international postal money orders in hand, and I don’t believe that has changed.

I’ve noticed in preparation for my trip to Europe next week that my credit card companies are charging more than they previously did. My MasterCard is taking 3% off the top for currencies other than U.S. dollars, and my American Express is taking 2%. Since my American Express gives 3% cash back on restaurants, and 2% back for travel-related purchases that won’t be bad. Hopefully people will take American Express, and I won’t be forced to use my MasterCard (which only gives 1% back).

Leave a reply if you have additional, first-hand experiences that can help people save money on currency exchanges.

6 Responses to “Changing U.S. dollars into Japanese Yen”

  1. 1
    Sean:

    What about cash exchange at a bank in Japan? seems this one was missed…

  2. 2
    admin:

    You are correct. I didn’t try changing dollars to yen at a bank in Japan. I’m guessing the rate would be pretty good, but you have the risk of carrying around a bunch of dollars in the meantime. I’d rather use a card or postal orders which don’t have the risk.

  3. 3
    KT:

    Thanks for the article. I’m going to study abroad soon and had an IPMO question.

    For the IPMOs, did you have your US address as ‘from’ and your Japan address as ‘to’?
    Or is it alright to put the same address (since I’ll have no ID stating my Japanese address?)

  4. 4
    admin:

    I used my U.S. address for both to and from. Then I used my U.S. drivers license to prove it. They did ask for my Japan address (even though it was just a hotel) so you may want to bring your host family’s address for that.

  5. 5
    Doug:

    does anybody have exchange rate’s for cancun,Mexico were leaving this Sunday.03/022/09
    Thanks abunch

  6. 6
    Andrew:

    I’ve found that one of the best ways is to open a citibank account in yen in your home country. You obviously have to have a native currency account (dollars in your case) to go with it. The rate they give you to switch money between the two is pretty good (maximum of 2.5%??). No additional charges. What’s more, you can go back and forth and change when you think the rate is in your favour using internet banking. You then take your cash card, go to citibank branch in Shinjuku or Ginza or Narita, and withdraw cash free of charge.

    Of course, Citibank isn’t the best performing bank in the world right now. However, there’s no way that the U.S. government isn’t going to guarantee your deposit so your money’s safe.

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