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Posts tagged getting the best rate to change convert USD into yen

Getting the best rate on foreign wire transfers

Wells Fargo stagecoach shooting Native Americans (Jacksonville, Oregon)

Wells Fargo stagecoach shooting Native Americans (Jacksonville, Oregon)

@xe @WellsFargo

A couple of my more popular posts have been Wells Fargo International Wire Transfer still stinks and Beware of banks ripping you off on foreign currency wire transfers!.

Seven years have passed since that first post and more than six years have passed since the second post. Have things changed? Yes. They have gotten worse!

I had to wire DKK to my landlord in Denmark for this summer. Wells Fargo online quoted me a rate 3% off from the market rate, and the wire fee has gone up from $25 per transfer to $35 per transfer. The net result was going to be a cost of $2,165 for my rent. I called Wells Fargo to try and get a better rate and was put on hold for half an hour. At that point I hung up.

I then went to and within 15 minutes I had transferred the same amount in DKK (from my Wells Fargo bank account no less!) to my Danish landlord for $2,087.

Conclusion: you can waste your time and money with your bank, or you can use one of several online services that will transfer your money for you for less.

Changing US$ dollars into Korean Won (and Japanese Yen)

change us dollars into korean won south best rate airport atm how to

10,000 Korean Won Bill

One of the most popular posts on this blog is the one dealing with getting the best rate when you change dollars into Japanese Yen. Here is a 2013 update based on my actual experience, and my exchange rate and fees for converting my dollars into Korean Won.

First, the yen…
My 2009 experience held true in 2013. I was planning to get money out of an ATM in the Narita airport while transferring planes to Fukuoka. However, once I went through customs and security in Narita, there were no ATMs so I couldn’t get yen out of an ATM there. You can obtain yen in the Narita airport if you are departing from there, and perhaps you can near customs, but I didn’t think to look until after I went through security for domestic transfers as I was more concerned with finding my gate than obtaining yen. In Fukuoka I didn’t look for an ATM in the airport (as I had brought enough yen with me to get to my ryokan). The next morning I walked into the first 7-Eleven I saw, inserted my (Wells Fargo issued) ATM card (which has Plus, Star, Instant Cash, and Interlink logos on the back), and without any troubles withdrew my maximum allowed on the US side (which I had raised via a phone call before leaving). The yen came out at the market rate and Wells Fargo charged me a $5 fee (which means my total exchange fee was 1/3 of 1%). Rates for changing cash in the US airport were more than 5% and in Japan the rates were about 2 or 3% so the ATM card is still the way to go (if you need to change more than a couple hundred dollars).

Next, the won…
The English instructions at the first ATM I went to in the Korean airport were pretty confusing, and I couldn’t get any won out using my ATM card. I asked someone for help, and they assisted me even though they couldn’t speak English. We went through three ATM machines before we found one that gave me won. Also, the ATM machine in Korea spit out only 10,000 won bills. In the USA I’m used to getting $20 bills out of ATM machines. In Japan you get (mostly) 10,000 yen bills (about $100). A 10,000 won bill is worth less than $9 so that means if you are pulling out the equivalent of, say, $1,500 in US$ you will receive about 160 bills! Try fitting that into your wallet! The rate charged was the market rate, and Wells Fargo charged me $5 so, again, the ATM was the way to go for getting the best rate (if you are pulling out large sums of money). The number of ATMs that work in Korea don’t seem to be as high as those in Japan (I’ve never had an ATM in Japan–whether that be an airport, convenience store, bank, or post office–not work), but don’t give up. Just try another machine until you find one that will give you Korean Won with your foreign bank card.

Changing yen into dollars

I’ve mentioned before the best ways to convert dollars into yen, but what if you need to go the other way? If you only have a few hundred dollars worth of yen, you may as well change them in Japan at the airport on your way out. The cost will be about 3%.

However, if you have more than about $1,000 worth of yen to convert, or if you need to send your yen overseas and have it magically turn into dollars on the other side, there are a number of options, each with different costs.

1. You can wire the money. You will need to set up a bank account in Japan. The cost will likely be 4,000 yen or 5,000 yen per transaction plus about 1%. Your bank outside of Japan may also charge a fee. There are few situations where this is the easiest or cheapest way to go.
2. You can convert all of your yen at the airport or a bank. While this is easy to do, at about 3%, it isn’t cheap. Nor is it very safe to carry thousands of dollars into the U.S. or many other countries.
3. You can go to a post office in Japan and get the equivalent of an International Postal Money Order. In Japan it is called “International Payment Application and Declaration Form” (国際送金請求書兼告知書). The Japanese postal employees probably won’t speak English so you’ll want to print this out and show them what you want. Fill out the form. The charge is 2,000 yen plus about 1% on the exchange rate, not cheap but better than the other alternatives if you are converting more than 100,000 yen. Also, it is much safer than converting and carrying cash. You can safely mail the money to someone else in another country and in another currency as well with this method.

Wells Fargo International Wire Transfer still stinks

Before coming to Japan I mentioned how unsatisfied I was with my Foreign Wire Transfer through Wells Fargo Bank. I sent yen to Japan from my U.S. account which had dollars in it.

After that unfortunate transaction I received a feedback survey from Wells Fargo asking how I enjoyed their service. I gave them my honest opinion. More than one employee of Wells Fargo then called me to apologize and get more information about why I was unhappy and how they can improve. They both seemed rather shocked that their rates were so poor and that someone in the know could get a better rate simply by asking.

Fast forward more than seven months to my next need to wire money from my US$ Wells Fargo account to a Japanese account in yen. I was hoping things would be better this go around. They weren’t.

On a day when the yen traded between .01108 and .01095 (when I called the bid was .01097 and the ask was .01098) Wells Fargo quoted me a rate of .01134. Plus they would charge me a wire transfer fee of $25 on the transaction. The lady on the phone tried to get me to agree to the transaction immediately. I asked if she could give me a better rate. She responded that she would call exchange services and check. Exchange services offered a slightly better rate of .011323. I declined.

I can pull money (yen) out of ATMs in Japan for the market rate. This is the exact same money I was trying to wire. Wells Fargo charges me $5 per transaction (or 1%) on a $500 withdrawal. So instead of wiring money and paying $25 + 3-5% I will just withdraw $500 a day in yen. How much will I save compared to using Wells Fargo “exchange services” in so doing? I will save almost $400, even after considering the $5 per transaction I will have to pay over 20 times, to get the amount I need.

Again, you will not get the best foreign wire transfer rate if you go with the first one they give you. They will not give you a good rate even after you talk them down. Foreign wire transfers cost not $25 but $25 + several percent of the amount transfered.

I love Shinsei Bank (新生銀行)

I previously mentioned how enjoyable the experience was of opening an account at Shinsei Bank. I recently found three more reasons to love the place.

1) Their exchange rates are better than anywhere else. Other places will charge you at least 1%, and some places will charge you 3% or more to change your money. If you have an account at Shinsei Bank, even if you don’t have a single yen in the account, they charge just .125%. I wish I had known this yesterday. I changed money at the post office yesterday. Had I done so at Shinsei Bank, like I will next time, I would have an extra 3,000 yen in my pocket today.
2) I can make deposits or withdrawals for free at any 7-Eleven.
3) Resona Bank (りそな銀行) wanted to charge me 600 yen a month to pay my rent at their bank. 600 yen a month may not sound like much but that adds up to almost $100 for the year we will be here. The only way around the fee is to open an account at Resona. Resona Bank requires a special bank hanko which I would have had to special order. Outside of the hassle, I’d have to wait for it to arrive and pay more than 1,000 yen. Then I’d have to take it back to the bank and wait an hour or more for my account to be opened just so I could give them money without a fee. Instead, Shinsei will allow me to pay this bill (and four more a month) for free, online, anytime I want. No more trips to Resona; no more fees; no more hassles.

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.

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.