Changing dollars into yen – update
As mentioned in a prior entry, my results from two years ago are now somewhat out of date when it comes to the best method to maximize the amount of yen you receive when converting your US$ (and possibly other currencies as well) into Japanese yen.
Here are my results for August of 2009 followed by a brief analysis:
ATM 48,000 yen received / ($503.83 + $5 Wells Fargo fee) = 94.334 on 8.14.09 when market rate was 95.27
SFO 83.12 on 8.13.09 PST
NRT Cash rate of 92.12 on 8.14.09
NRT TC rate of 94.12 on 8.14.09
Post Office TC 46,730/500 = 93.46 on 8.17.09 when market rate was 94.46
I asked at the post office in Japan what their rate was on international postal money orders, and the answer was the same rate as that given for traveler’s checks. My bank (Wells Fargo) won’t let me pull out more than $510 a day.
1. Do not change US$ into Japanese yen in the USA. You will have far fewer yen to spend on your trip. The rate can be more than 10% worse than the rates offered in Japan. I checked this rate at more than one place in the SFO airport. I think Forex is the company ripping people off in the US airports. As an example, had I converted $10,000 in the US instead of in Japan I would have had the equivalent of US $1,000+ less to spend in Japan!
2. Cash is not good to exchange. Not only do you receive an inferior rate, if you lose it there is no way to get it back.
3. If you can get free traveler’s checks from your bank this is a good option. TCs give you a better exchange rate, and if they are lost or stolen you can get them replaced.
4. International postal money orders are better than TCs if you have to pay for TCs.
5. Wells Fargo is giving the market rate on ATM withdrawals (something they didn’t do with wire transfers). The $5 per withdrawal fee can be painful, however, especially if you have a limit below $500 on daily withdrawal amounts.
A few other items to note… The Japanese post office cash rate was the same as that found at the banks in the airport (i.e., 2 points worse than TCs). Most Japanese banks still do not accept foreign ATM cards. Citibank, Mitsui, and 7 Bank are the only ones that I have found that do. Mitsui and 7 Bank ATMs only give out 10,000 yen notes so if you are trying to get, say, 49,000 yen then they aren’t the way to go. Japanese post offices do accept foreign ATM cards. There are Citibank and 7 Bank ATM machines near the second set of escalators heading down to the Keisei Line in Terminal 1 of the Narita airport. Get your daily ATM withdrawal amount raised with your bank to more than $500 before going to Japan. Withdraw your maximum amount, less frequently, to avoid fees. Credit cards should not be used in Japan now that the credit card companies are all charging at least $3 per transaction plus a 3% foreign currency charge.