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Changing dollars into yen – update

Air Flight-GenericbuttonAs mentioned in a prior entry, my results from two years ago are now somewhat out of date when it comes to the best method to maximize the amount of yen you receive when converting your US$ (and possibly other currencies as well) into Japanese yen.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.

Conclusion:
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.

183 Responses to “Changing dollars into yen – update”

  1. 1
    seaweb:

    Thanks for your service.

    So, on arrival at Narita, getting cash from an ATM … do I use a VISA or my ATM card? And are the ATMs there obvious (I’ve only been there nine times, but never used the ATM)? Still a better rate than the exchange counters in the airport?

    And in the city, ANY ATM will take my card and apply a $5 charge? Which card again … ATM or VISA?

    Most important question of all: Do the ATMs display English?

    Last question: Suica/N’EX cards. Much better than the JR rail pass for more than two weeks in Tokyo with few plans for long, outside-the-city trips?

  2. 2
    acase:

    Use your ATM card; they are obvious. You’ll get a better rate and it will take you 10 seconds instead of 20 minutes. Same goes for in the city. I usually used the ATMs in the post offices or 7-Elevens in the city. They all display in English once you change the language to English on the first screen.

    You don’t need a JR Rail pass unless you are making at least a round trip from Tokyo to Hiroshima or farther (and back). We did Tokyo to Himeji and then back to Osaka and flew out of Osaka and individual train tickets were less than a rail pass.

  3. 3
    seaweb:

    Thanks. That’s very helpful. I’ve always brought yen from the US and used a JR rail pass (which have gotten more expensive).

    One more question: have you done the special train to Kamakura/Enoshima with the pass for one day of local trains/buses … I’d like to do it. Is it easy to see pretty much everything if I get an early start? (If I really wanted to, two visits wouldn’t hurt me.)

  4. 4
    acase:

    I have been to Kamakura and Enoshima many times but never with a special pass. I think the special pass is on JR. I always took the other line because it was less expensive (even than the pass). You can’t see everything in Kamakura in a single day period. To see pretty much everything in Kamakura you need about three days. For everything on Enoshima you need about half a day.

    If you only have one day, I would recommend a very early start, then follow the directions here: http://traveljapanblog.com/wordpress/2010/03/kamakura-daibutsu-giant-buddha-hike/ Temples to see along the way include Engakuji, Tokeiji, the Daibutsu, and Hasedera. From Hasedera get on the train toward Enoshima. Walk the bridge to Enoshima and make sure you get to the backside of Enoshima in time for the sunset. http://traveljapanblog.com/wordpress/2011/04/moment-of-zen/

  5. 5
    Gail:

    Hello,

    This is by far the most informative blog on converting USD to yen in Japan. Thank you!
    I am writing because we are taking a tour with an outfit called WalkJapan which just sent us an info packet on what to expect on a variety of subjects of interest to travelers taking their tours. This info packet said “The daily withdrawal limit from the Japan Post Office for international cards, including VISA, is JPY30,000”, which is currently about USD270. I contacted Wells Fargo and was told that their ATM debit card is a VISA card. So I am obviously confused about how you are using the Wells Fargo ATM/debit card at an ATM to get out USD500. Are you using the 7/11 ATM or the one at the Post Office? Or is their information inaccurate?

    Thank you!

  6. 6
    acase:

    Unless things have changed in the past year (which I doubt) the information from WalkJapan is incorrect. I frequently took out more than 30,000 yen in a single day at either the post office or 7 Eleven. In fact, my limit was on the US side, not Japan, so I could take out my max (about 50,000 yen) in the morning in Japan and then take out another 50,000 yen in the late afternoon of the same Japan day when the US became a new day.

  7. 7
    Gail:

    Thank you for your fast reply. I will contact WalkJapan to ask them to confirm their information. I am sure they do not intend to mislead! I think that we will probably bring some money in traveler’s checks as a back up to the ATM. So far, I have researched USAA bank which seems to only charge a 1% fee for withdrawing money at a foreign ATM, HSBC Premier which has a 1% currency conversion fee provided you have a $100,000 balance with them (HaHa), and Wells Fargo which allows you to have two fee-less foreign ATM withdrawals each month and does not charge a fee as long as you have an account with a $25,000 balance. I also plan to ask a couple of credit unions where we have deposits about their fee structure. I will report my findings later today.

  8. 8
    Gail:

    I spent about 6 hours talking or online chatting with the following banks regarding foreign (non-USA) ATM withdrawals on 10/1/2011. I will summarize my findings which assume that the ATMs at the Japan Post Office do not assess a fee. The terms banks offer change frequently so these figures are only valid at this time. Bank of America has no special type of account to let you avoid their 4.7% fees (based on a $700 max withdrawal per day) for withdrawing money at a foreign ATM. Everbank itself has no ATM fees and pays 0.61-0.75% interest on checking account balances. But there is a 1% fee charged by VISA for converting the funds ($600 max withdrawal per day). USAA bank also has no ATM fees and charges the same 1% currency conversion fee imposed by VISA. You do not have to be active or current military to open an account. Wells Fargo PMA account requires a $25K deposit. It waives the $5.00 ATM fee for two ATM transactions each month. The max withdrawal amount is $1000.00. Currently, they DO NOT waive the 3% foreign transaction fee however according to the rep I spoke with. The HSBC Premier account is super if you have $100,000 to deposit with them. (The deposit can be in the form of IRAs, CDs, etc.) There is no ATM fee and no foreign transaction fee, and no currency conversion fee. You are given the best wholesale currency exchange rate for the date/time the transaction settles. Finally, I checked with Citibank which offers a Citigold account if you have a mortgage with them for over $250K or $50K in deposits and IRAs at Citibank. They waive all ATM fees and all foreign transaction fees. However, I am not certain about the how the Citigold account handles the 1% fee charged by Mastercard for the currency conversion. The maximum withdrawal amount is $2000 per day. To save time at the Post Office, get two or more accounts, i.e. an Everbank and a USAA account. Then withdraw the max from both on a visit to the P.O. Here is another great source of info on this topic:
    http://www.flyerguide.com/wiki/index.php/Credit/Debit/ATM_Cards_and_Foreign_Exchange

  9. 9
    Bruce Campbell:

    I’ve spent at least half of my time in Nippon (Japan) for the last almost three years, yet am still exploring for the cheapest method to convert USD to Yen.

    I found the following at http://www.Japan-Guide.com/forum/quereadisplay.html?2+26021:

    “If you’re willing to become a Hostel International member ($30 for the year), you get a bunch of perks, including free currency exchange. They will exchange nearly any currency into nearly any other currency and do it without any fees. $500 USD translates directly into the Yen equivalent. You do it online with a check, credit card, anything. They mail you the currency next business day. Very fast and easy. Since there are other perks with HI membership (free insurance while traveling including heath, cheap world wide prepaid cell phones, etc) it’s well worth the price.

    Forgot to add…
    that you don’t have to stay at a hostel ever or anything like that. []”

    That post was on 31 December 2007, and I don’t know whether it was accurate even then – in at least some respects it seems unlikely. For example, do they really mail significant sums of cash? Thus far I’ve been unable to find a web site for Hostel International. Does anyone know where it is? Or have any other insights about this? It might be a terrific option. If it really exists…

    I carry a Bank of America issued American Express Platinum World Points credit card (1-800-900-6651) which, to the best of my knowledge, charges no foreign transaction fee, but does charge a 50¢ foreign exchange service fee on each transaction. If I understand correctly, in theory I could purchase a large ticket item such as a car, or anything else up to my credit limit, in Yen, and receive the actual open market exchange rate for that day (maybe the day’s average, but I don’t know), with only a 50¢ fee for the transaction. The card seems commonly accepted by ordinary retailers here in Miyazaki. There’s no annual fee for the card, and in my experience there are no other ordinary card holder charges so long as the balance is paid off every month.

    But it’s a credit card, not a debit card. So simply withdrawing cash is out of the question since cash advance fees are quite expensive. (Even if you prepay your balance, so that a ‘cash advance’ isn’t an advance at all because it’s completely covered by credit you’ve prepaid into the account. That strategy doesn’t waive the ‘cash advance’ fee, alas.)

    And I doubt that any business would accept the card for really high value transactions, because they’d likely incur an unacceptably high fee from Bank of America / American Express. As I recall, I couldn’t pay for my apartment for the year with it for example – I had to pay with cash Yen. However, whenever I join friends at a restaurant, or a friend purchases a new bike, TV, computer, or similar, I ask them to allow me to pay with my card, then be reimbursed with cash Yen. For transactions over $50 value, my conversion cost is then less than 1%.

    Otherwise, a debit card for my Wells Fargo account, plus as generous a withdrawal limit as can be acquired, seems like the only reasonably priced conversion option. I’ll want to confirm that Wells Fargo really does convert according to the open market rate however. In the past I converted USD to Yen in cash at a Wells Fargo Branch in America, because I was advised that it was a direct open market rate conversion, with no ancillary charges, only to learn later that there was in fact a “carrying charge” (I don’t recall the percentage) which was not considered an “ancillary charge”, but rather just a margin to protect the bank from rapid exchange rate fluctuations.

    In my experience a person has to invoke extreme care in conversations with many banks or similar institutions about fees, then execute a modest sized test transaction to determine whether the information provided was in fact complete and accurate.

    So thus far my sense is that the cheapest way to convert USD to Yen is:

    • A Wells Fargo debit card with a high withdrawal limit.
    • Use my Bank of America issued American Express card to:
    •• Pay for Yen from Hostel International, if that opportunity is real and practical.
    •• Pay significant bills for local friends, with them reimbursing me directly in Yen.

    Economical conversion seems to be a great deal harder and more time consuming than it should be. Zannen…

    All this is just from my reading and limited practical experience. Perhaps other institutions offer attractive options, I don’t know. We all welcome useful insights of course.

    Thanks so much for your blog! Takara desu!

  10. 10
    Bruce Campbell:

    A footnote and summary:

    The Wells Fargo debit card works, and seems to be, by far, the value champ for USD to Yen conversion from within Nippon. I received my debit card by mail, then called to both validate it and to request a limit extension to $5,000, which was immediately granted. Then I used it to withdraw $5,000 worth of Yen at a local Post Office’s ATM.

    I then verified that I received $5,000 worth of Yen for that day’s open market exchange rate. Due to volatility, and inattention to the timing, I can’t be absolutely certain of the rate at the moment I made the withdrawal. But my sense is that the exchange rate applied was the open market exchange rate at the moment of the withdrawal. There appear to be no costs except one: A $5.00 non-Wells Fargo ATM use charge. So for my $5,000 value withdrawal, I thus lost .1% (1/10%) in total costs. That’s right – just point one percent total costs. That’s dirt cheap.

    I might still use my Bank of America issued American Express Platinum World Points credit card (1-800-900-6651) for some high ticket purchases because, for me, it charges no foreign transaction fee, but does charge a 50¢ foreign exchange service fee on each transaction. So for a $500 expense or higher, the cost to me is .1% (1/10%) or less, respectively.

    But for transactions of less than $500, cash acquired with my Wells Fargo debit card as described above is the value champ. And at any level cash is better for the store too of course – they don’t want to pay fees to financial institutions any more than you or I do. And my guess is that they pay considerably more than .1%…

    I’ll make another $5,000 withdrawal soon – as soon as the exchange rate opportunity seems best. I’ll chose the most favorable exchange rate moment I can, as best I can guess it, then execute the withdrawal. I’ll note the exact time of the withdrawal, then compare the exchange rate I received against the day’s open market exchange rate at that moment in time on the web later. I expect that I’ll be able to confirm that the rate I received was the open market rate at the moment I executed the ATM withdrawal. If there’s a discrepancy, I’ll report it here. If I don’t report anything within about a week, assume that I did indeed receive the open market rate at that moment in time (or that I fell into a volcano in the meantime).

    So in summary, I recommend acquiring a Wells Fargo debit, card, raising the card’s withdrawal limit to at least $5,000, then simply acquire Yen from ATMs in $5,000 value or higher increments. Then, for the most part, pay for everything with that cash, guilt free, because it cost you almost nothing in fees, and the stores you shop at literally nothing.

    Kudos to Wells Fargo. And to ATM infrastructure.

    Itsu made mo, genki de ite kudasai, Bruce

  11. 11
    Bruce Campbell:

    Sorry I’m so late with this update. And worse, my actual experience thus far has been that the Wells Fargo Debit card method of transferring money into Nippon evidently costs substantially more than just the $5 external ATM charge. Of the several roughly $5,000 withdrawals I’ve made since early December 2011, each seems to have cost about $42 plus the $5 ATM fee.

    The most precise example I have was a withdrawal made while the Forex was closed this weekend, and thus the exchange rate was stable. In that instance, XE.com (http://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=USD&to=JPY&view=1W) reported the dollar as worth ¥81.79 at the time of my transaction. I withdrew ¥409,000, which at 81.79 ¥/$ converts to $5,000.61. But the Wells Fargo debit to my account was $5,042.23, plus the $5.00 ATM fee.

    The bottom line is that while this method is very convenient, it’s not the great value I thought it was – rather than costing about .1%, the process costs about 1%.

    Although I need to reverify the cost of using my Bank of America issued American Express Platinum World Points credit card, I’m reasonably confident with my last actual use verification. It indicated that their exchange rate carries no hidden expenses – I believe I was getting the exact Forex rate at the time of use, plus a 50¢ foreign exchange service fee per transaction. I should know with full confidence quite soon – I just used it to pay for an ¥8,237 meal with good friends, again this weekend while the Forex was closed and thus the exchange rate stable. If the verification holds, that credit card is the exchange value champ for any purchase above about $50.00 equivalent. Even a tad less than that threshold actually, because that credit card also provides a modest “World Points” benefit with each purchase.

    At the moment I’m steamed with Wells Fargo. I invested a significant amount of time finding the most knowledgeable foreign exchange specialist available at their firm, and then conversed with absolute care and focus with them. And I was assured that I would receive the exact Forex exchange rate for “that day”, with no ancillary expenses or charges of any kind, except the $5.00 external ATM fee. I was extremely carful with that conversation, to insure that we completely understood each other, and that “no ancillary expenses or charges of any kind” meant exactly that – no ancillary expenses or charges of any kind. The only thing the representative was uncertain of was whether the exchange rate applied was the exchange rate at the moment of the withdrawal transaction, or some daily formula, such as the average rate for that day. That leaves some room for doubt about transactions during days when the Forex is open. But not in the middle of the weekend – my last transaction was almost precisely in the middle of Forex’s weekend, and thus the $41.62 discrepancy could not be related to any mathematical formula associated with exchange rate movements. The bottom line is that about $42 has disappeared from my account, independent of the $5 ATM fee, every time I’ve withdrawn about $5,000.

    Needless to say, another serious conversation with Wells Fargo is imminent. One has to allow for the possibility that there was some sort of innocent misunderstanding – for example, perhaps there’s something about the mechanism that I simply misunderstand. But there is also the possibility that I was misled. If so, and it can be clearly demonstrated that deception was conscious and intentional, there will be repercussions…

    I’m facing a very, very busy schedule for the next two or three months. But I’ll try to keep posting as information develops. As best I can…

    Itsu made mo, genki de ite kudasai, Bruce

  12. 12
    paulsomething1:

    For the Prepaid Travel Visa, it should work wherever Visa credit cards are accepted for making purchases (most larger shops now, convenience stores, and a handful of supermarkets).

  13. 13
    Jeremy:

    Just returned from Japan yesterday. Prior to leaving, I raised my Wells Fargo debit checking limit to $750. I withdrew from JP Bank ATM at the airport twice (1 time the first day 4/15, 1 time on 4/16. I thought I would stop by the atm more often, but it turns out I didn’t spend that much to need to withdrawl a 3rd time). The cash rate at the airport was selling at ~77.something. almost 78. Looking at google now, the market closed at 81.12 on 4/13, and 80.5 on 4/16. I withdrew 60,000 yen both times, and both times my account debited $741.89 +$5 transaction. That calculates to a rate of ~80.33.

    Coming back yesterday 4/23, the rate in the NRT airport was selling at $84.something. We forgot to exchange leftovers (43000 yen) back to $USD so we did it at LAX. The reciept says Buy currency: 0.010786, Commission: 5.95, USD total 457.85. That calculates to ~93.91. Looking at google now, the market on monday closed at 81.14.

  14. 14
    Bruce Campbell:

    Sorry again I’m so late with another update. And this one’s important…

    I was wrong! Wells Fargo does not charge any ForEx conversion fee when their debit card method of transferring money into Nippon is utilized. The only fee they charge is the $5 external ATM charge. The conversion from USD to Yen is literally absolutely free. I confirmed this very carefully and thoroughly. Kudos to Wells Fargo!

    But as I previously indicated, each of my previous transfers seems to have cost about $42 plus the $5 ATM fee. But now it’s completely clear that Wells Fargo was not responsible for those roughly $42 fees.

    Each of the transfers was made using a Yucyo Bank’s ATM. I don’t know why they’re imposing a fee of roughly $42, but my guess is that some sort of misunderstanding about the transfer is responsible – perhaps the ATM’s incorrectly presume that the money is arriving in USD, and therefore a ForEx fee is imposed. But if so, it’s clearly in error – the money is definitely transferred from Wells Fargo in America as Yen.

    My recommendation is that anyone using this Wells Fargo debit card method to exchange and transfer money have a chat with the Japanese bank which owns the ATM before you use it, to insure that they won’t impose any ForEx fee at all (because they are receiving Yen, not USD), nor any other fees. The only fee which should be charged, by anyone, is the $5.00 external ATM fee, which Wells Fargo charges, and which I presume they forward to the institution which owns the ATM.

    My sweetheart and I are currently trying to resolve the charges I’ve incurred. And in the meantime, we’re looking for an institution which manages these ATM transfers correctly. Once we find one, we’ll then have means to convert USD to Yen and transfer that Yen to Nippon in $5K increments for a total charge of $5, or .1% (1/10%).

    I’ll try to keep you up to date…

    Ja ne, Bruce

  15. 15
    acase:

    Thanks for the updates Bruce and Jeremy! I always withdrew my yen (using Wells Fargo card) from 7-Eleven or the Japanese post office and neither ever charged a fee.

  16. 16
    oconee:

    Hi!
    I have one question: Is the exchange rate for T/C at Narita exchange counters the same as in Post Offices? Otherwise, which is best?

  17. 17
    acase:

    It’s usually not quite as good as the post office, but things may have changed.

  18. 18
    Travelers Mom:

    Hi Acase,
    Your posts are very helpful, but I am stressed and my brain isn’t working properly – LOL. My son and friends are going to Osaka for 11 nights. Are you saying that they should get travelers checks from the bank (if free) or post office here and then exchange them there for yen? Also, what about rail passes? They don’t know when they will go to other areas and if they will be on consecutive days. Also they want to take the bullet train to Tokyo and rail passes don’t look like they cover all trains. I am so confused and, of course, worried. My daughter went to Germany and prepaid card she took didn’t work and she was without money. I do not want ANY kind of stress when he is gone. I would rather get a bad rate here than have something not work. Thank you in advance.

  19. 19
    acase:

    Assuming you have a Wells Fargo account, increasing your daily maximum and then withdrawing the maximum amount at a post office ATM in Japan is the best way to go these days as you get charged just $5 (no % take by Wells Fargo or the post office in Japan). Be sure to tell Wells Fargo (or whatever bank your ATM card is with) that it will be used in Japan so they don’t lock it up when the first transaction is attempted.

    If they are only going to Osaka and Tokyo you don’t want a rail pass. It is cheaper to just buy individual train tickets. If they were going from Osaka to Hiroshima to Tokyo to Osaka then a rail pass may make sense.

  20. 20
    Bok:

    Hi Acase!
    Thank you for keeping this post updated and current! I bank with Wells Fargo, so I should be able to use my ATM to withdraw yen when I travel to Japan. The question I have is whether I should travel to Japan with nothing in currency but my ATM card and make a withdrawal as soon as I land in Narita? If so, should I seek out the Narita post office for their ATM or am I okay withdrawing from any ATM that takes my card at the airport?
    Thanks in advance!
    BOK

  21. 21
    acase:

    Any ATM in the airport will work. You don’t need to go to the post office. There are ATMs near the escalator that take you from the airport to the trains. There is no need to bring cash.

  22. 22
    Bok:

    Wonderful! The information here has saved me a lot of time and a good chunk of cash!
    Many thanks!

  23. 23
    CK:

    I am actually inquiring about a reverse of what most people want to know. Your blog has be very informative on the best ways to exchange money at the best rate from USD to Yen. My question is more about moving money the other way. My husband and I will be there for 2 years and the Japanese branch of the company is paying us into a Japanese Bank account and covering nearly all our set up costs and some of our expenses there. If my calculations work out, we will have a fair chunk of money left in our account by the time we transfer back home. We use Wells Fargo in the US and I was wondering what the best method is for getting that money back into US funds at a minimal loss. (We have considered just leaving it there if it’s less than 10k so we have money available when we travel back for vacation).

  24. 24
    acase:

    My experience has been that banks in the US will charge a small percentage (usually 1-3%) + a wire fee (usually $20 – $50 per transfer). You should shop around for a bank in the US with the smallest percentage and then transfer large amounts when you do wire money so that you don’t get hit with the wire fee so many times.

  25. 25
    Kristen:

    I’m going to Japan in 2 weeks…after I ask this question I’m going to read many more of your posts 🙂

    I don’t have a bank account, only a PayPal account. I have a PayPal debit card that works just like any other bank debit card. Do you know if I will be able to use it to withdraw money from Japanese ATMs? Thanks!

  26. 26
    acase:

    I have not personally used a PayPal debit card (in Japan or anywhere), but I think you will be able to use it at banks and Japanese post office ATMs. You will be charged a small fee ($1-$5) each time you use it in Japan plus a small foreign currency translation percentage (1-3%). Check with Paypal to be sure, especially if you aren’t bringing any other credit cards or bank ATM cards.

  27. 27
    Lisa:

    I’m leaving for Japan Thursday morning 3/21/13 and needed to exchange dollar for yen (about $2,500 US). I have a Bank of America debit card. Is the best way for me to exchange money is to go to my USPS office and purchase 3 international postal money orders made out to myself for $700.00 each, as well as one $400.00 international postal money order and exchange it for Japanese yen at a Japanese Post office in Tokyo? My understanding is that I will only be charged $3.85 x 4 = $15.40 by the USPS and the Japanese PO will charge me 1% or $25.00 (US) for the entire transaction. Is this correct? Can I redeem this all on the same day? Can you recommend a post office in the Ginza (Tokyo) that can do this kind of transaction? Thank you!

  28. 28
    acase:

    It has been a few years since I have done this, but yes this should work. The problem with the money orders is they can take a while to obtain (and even more time to redeem on the Japan end). You may be better off just pulling the money out of an ATM in Japan with a B of A ATM card.

    There are post offices every few blocks in Tokyo. You shouldn’t have a problem finding one. They are also in the airport.

  29. 29
    iris:

    How about the reverse issue?

    I’m returning to the USofA after 12 weeks in Japan and need to figure out the best way to get ~150000 JPY into USD. The Internet seems to think if I go to a large JP Post I might be able to get a few international money orders mailed to my US Address. I’m guessing my Japanese ATM card won’t work in the ‘States (as my American ATM card generally doesn’t work in Japan except for 711, etc etc).

    I was thinking of just doing cash and converting at an airport, until I read these articles that talk about how exorbitant the rates are.

  30. 30
    acase:

    If you convert at an airport, be sure to do it in Japan. In Japan the commission will be like 2-3% and in the USA it will be like 10-20%.

    I’m not sure about the money orders going the other way as I haven’t tried that. Perhaps you can get the rate down to 1% or 2% doing so, but the hassle may not be worth it for only that amount of money.

  31. 31
    Julia:

    Hi,

    I don’t know if you’ll be able to answer this. I am stopping at ICN airport for a 3-4 hr layover before going to KIX. Would it be better to exchange my travelers check at ICN or at KIX?

  32. 32
    acase:

    I don’t know for sure as I haven’t been to ICN before (although I will be there in two months). However, I haven’t found any airports outside of Japan to offer rates as good as those in Japan.

    I’m assuming you are exchanging for yen? If so, Japan would almost certainly have the better rates. You may not even be able to get yen in a Korean airport.

  33. 33
    acase:

    2013 update here: http://traveljapanblog.com/wordpress/2013/06/changing-us-dollars-into-korean-won-and-japanese-yen/ Also includes information on withdrawing Korean Won at ATMs in South Korea.

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