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Exchanging USD $ for Yen

RyogaeOn our prior trip to Japan I discovered that you can save several percent on currency exchanges by purchasing International Postal Money Orders with US dollars and then changing them into yen in Japan. Before this trip/move to Japan I called my bank and credit card company to see what their new rules are for international transactions. The banks and credit companies have increased fees on nearly everything in the past year and international transactions are no exception. My credit card company told me they will charge $3 plus 3% for every transaction I make in Japan. My bank will charge me $5 per withdrawal, but they wouldn’t say how much they will take on the spread between the market exchange rate and their rate. I’ll find that out when I use my ATM here soon. In any event, options 7, 8, and 9 on the above link no longer look very attractive.

I was going to purchase thousands of dollars in International Postal Money Orders and convert them into yen at the Narita Airport. Then I found out that the post offices in the airport close at 4 p.m., and our plane doesn’t land until 4:30. On to Plan B. I need to convert money at a bank in the airport. After researching the current Narita airport rates I decided it would be much better (almost 2% better) to use traveler’s checks (also spelled traveller’s cheque, travellers cheque, and traveller’s check) instead of cash. I recently opened a “Complete Advantage” checking account to go along with my “Wells Fargo Money Market Savings” account. I’m not sure which account has it, or if it is a combination of the two, but having them allowed me to obtain traveler’s checks for free. So that is what I did.

You may be thinking, “boy, this is a lot of effort to save a few dollars,” but this is more than a few dollars. I asked the teller how much these traveler’s checks would cost me if I didn’t have my accounts. She said they would have cost $325. I purchased $15,000 worth since we are going to be in Japan for a year. With travel’s checks getting almost a 2% better exchange rate, that adds up to almost another $300. So doing a little research will save me at least $625. Had I just used a credit card everywhere in Japan the damage could have been far worse.

I’ll soon let you know some exact rate differences for your planning purposes.

The characters in the graphic to the above left are 両替 (りょうがえ or ryogae) which means “money exchange” or “changing of currencies”.

2 Responses to “Exchanging USD $ for Yen”

  1. 1

    hi there,

    thank goodness for your blog!

    so to my understanding, these are the steps of doing an international money order (USD to JPY)? please add any tips you see fit…

    1. go to a US post office, fill out an international money order – in my case, we will first just do $700. address the int’l money order to and from to myself (i have no address in tokyo/japan).
    2. pay the $3.85 and get a confirmation/receipt.
    3. land in japan a week or so later.
    4. go to japanese post office (we will probably use the NRT airport post office when we land around 4pm?).
    5. give japanese post office worker my USPS receipt, driver’s license, and passport for international money order
    6. get the cash.

    let me know…i’m having a hard time really seeing the step-by-steps.

    thank you!

  2. 2

    Those are the steps. You’ve got it. You don’t have to give them your receipt though. You give them the actual money order instead. You’ll want to keep the receipt in a different purse/bag/etc. in case you lose the actual money order.