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Need to send money out of Japan? There are a variety of different ways to do this, although it’s not always the easiest process. Choosing which service to use doesn’t have to be a headache, though, so long as you bear two things in mind: how much paperwork is involved, and how much will it cost?
For instance, you might assume that using your bank was the easiest, most stress-free option. But it might not prove to be so. You might well end up having to fill in a huge number of forms, and if you’re doing it for the first time, then you could have to wait weeks before you can actually make the transfer, while your registration is being processed¹. And despite all of that, it still might well not be the cheapest way to do it. They sometimes charge high fees and set exchange rates that don’t work in your favour, meaning that less of your money makes it to its destination. International remittance services, on the other hand, can offer considerably more flexibility, although you might find that on some occasions the banks offer transfers to a broader range of destinations. So it pays to do your research.
However you make the transfer, there’s one thing you shouldn’t forget to do: check the exchange rate. There may well be fixed fees too, which are also important, but the exchange rate can make just as much of a difference to the real cost of your transfer. If you’re offered a rate that’s worse for you than the mid-market rate - the rate you can find on google, and that the banks charge between themselves - then you’re effectively losing out, with the bank, or other provider, pocketing the difference. Wise, for example, does always offer you the mid-market exchange rate and only charges you a small fee that you see upfront, which means there will be no surprise fees.
So don’t forget to get a quote before you commit to making the transfer, and compare what they’re offering to the mid-market exchange rate. You can find that rate by checking an online currency converter - that’s the best way to find out the real cost.
A quick example:
Say you want to send JPY 100,000 from Japan to a euro bank account in the EU. Here’s a look at what it will cost you to do this online via Prestia, a part of the major Japanese bank SMBC, or alternatively via Wise.
|Provider||Fees||Exchange Rate||Total Cost|
|Prestia²||JPY 3,500 or JPY 2,000 (depending on how much money you have in your account)*||Exchange rate + possible markup||JPY 3,500 + possible exchange rate markupor JPY 2,000 + exchange rate markup*|
|Wise||JPY 646||The real mid-market exchange rate you see on Google||JPY 646|
*for Prestia Gold customers the fixed fee is waived.
Anyhow, here’s a look at each of the major options available to you. Take a look through, and see which one is right for you.
You might think the banks would come first, but they shouldn’t necessarily be at the top of your list. Like in many countries around the world, Japanese banks aren’t renowned for transferring money abroad at a good price. Many people choose to look elsewhere, either to Japan-specific transfer providers or to companies that operate around the world. Among the Japan-specific companies are Brastel Remit, run by Brastel, which is also well known for its rechargeable phone credit cards. Another is SBI Remit, which works with MoneyGram. Of the international providers operating in Japan, some of the best known are Western Union, PayPal and Wise.
Some of these providers have offices or ‘agent locations’ where you can go in person to make a transfer. But increasingly, it’s possible to use them online or even via an app. So, when you do some research, you’ll be able to find yourself a provider that offers the method that suits you best.
There are plenty to choose between, but you should still take care when choosing. Every provider will have its own slightly different fee structure - and there’s unfortunately no way around that because making an international transfer will always cost money, even if they advertise ‘no fees’ or ‘zero commission’. That’s because the real cost of an international transfer is often hidden in the exchange rate. Transfer providers, just like banks, can choose their own exchange rate, they’re not obligated to offer you the mid-market rate - which is the rate the banks use between themselves. So when they convert your money into a different currency, they effectively keep whatever the difference is between the rate they charge and the mid-market rate.
Wise takes a different approach. By using a system of local bank accounts all around the world, they don’t have to charge you a high fee and only ever offer their customers the mid-market rate, so that you never lose out on the exchange rate. The only fee charged is a small cost, stated upfront, so you can always see the exact value of your transfer before you commit to it. If you value a more transparent approach to sending money around the world, Wise could be the service for you.
You can also hold and manage your money online in a borderless multi-currency account, which allows you to keep money in yen - or more than 40 other currencies - and pay out whenever you want, thus protecting you against the uncertainties of ever-changing exchange rates. There’s no monthly fee for this, so it’s a convenient way to store money in different currencies without worrying about costs. You can even get your own virtual bank account in 4 currencies - EUR, GBP, AUD and USD - which allows you to receive these currencies via local transfer methods, if you need to.
Take a look at Wise now and see if you could save when you send your money.
Every alternative service is bound to have its own method for how to sign up and make the transfer, but it’s likely that you’ll have to provide some information about yourself and also have the recipient’s bank details ready to send in. So make sure you have everything you need, before you get going.
Perhaps you’d rather not use a different provider, though. If you’ve reached the point of transferring money out of Japan, you’re probably already set up with a Japanese bank account, so you’ll know that there are several Japanese banks - Shinsei, Mizuho and SMBC - that are particularly popular with expats. Unsurprisingly, two of these offer their own bespoke ways of making international transfers - SMBC via Prestia, as mentioned above, and Shinsei via its online GoRemit service. The process can still be fairly complex, however, and the recipient may need to be registered before you can proceed with the transfer. Other banks, of course, offer international transfer options as well.
Here’s a quick look at the steps you might need to take to transfer money online through your bank in Japan.
- Check what preliminary steps are needed. Sounds obvious, and it is, but this is worth checking. You might not be able just to log in and hit send. For example, with Shinsei’s GoRemit service you need to complete an application form and send it by post - registration takes 7-10 business days, so you’ll need to do this well in advance⁵.
- Log in online. Log in to your bank’s online portal and find their international transfer section. This is something else that might need to be set up in advance.
- Recipient details. Provide the recipient’s bank details for the person you’re sending money to. Again, this is something that might need to be done well in advance of the actual transfer - you might even need to register each new recipient via post⁴.
- Amount and currencies. If your recipient is all set up and ready to go, enter how much you want to transfer, and which currency the transfer should be in. It could work out cheaper to make the transfer in the destination currency than in yen - check this with the bank if you’re not sure.
- Research fees and exchange rates. Even at this stage, don’t just hit send. Make sure you have a quote for the full cost so that you can compare it against other providers - and against the mid-market exchange rate. Don’t forget to confirm how long the transfer will take, as well, so your recipient knows when they should check their bank account.
- If you’re happy with the fee and transfer time, then go for it and send off the money.
As you can see from the above, it’s not always easy sailing to make an online bank transfer to an overseas account. That doesn’t mean that going to a branch in person will be any easier, but you might still find that you prefer it, so that at least you have someone to guide you through the forms, although there is a possibility that your bank might charge you an extra fee for this, so you should keep that in mind. If you feel that making the transfer in a bank branch is the way to go for you, here’s how to do it.
- Find your nearest branch. Remember to take your bank details with you, as well as the bank details of the person you’re sending the money too.
- Find a bank teller. In the branch, find someone who can guide you through the process personally, give you any forms you need to fill out, and check all your details.
- Fill out the forms, and state the amount and currency. Go through all the paperwork as is necessary, and you’ll need to also specify exactly how much you want to transfer, and which currency you want to transfer it in. As noted above, it’s possible that it’s cheaper to use the destination currency, so you should check with the teller.
- Check the costs. Your teller should be able to give you some indication of the cost of the transfer, but make sure you don’t just find out the fixed fee. You’ll also need to know the exchange rate they’re going to use. Without that, you simply won’t know how much of your money will really make it through to its destination.
- If you’re happy, pay the money and get the transfer underway.
Some banks also offer telephone banking services, so if your Japanese is up to it, you might be able to complete a transfer that way as well.
Japan Post Bank is a state-owned bank that’s also part of the system that runs the post office⁷. It offers an alternative way of sending money abroad, and you don’t have to have a bank account with them to use it⁷. So if none of the above options appeal to you, you can always head down to your local post office.
There are two types of transfer they offer: with a paper order you can send the money directly to your recipient via a check in the post, or alternatively you can request a transfer to be made directly into their bank account⁷. The latter option is probably quicker and safer.
Be sure to take some ID with you, as well as the means with which to pay⁷. If you plan to make further payments to the same person in the future, you can ask the post office for a special form with which they can keep their details on file so the process is quicker next time⁷. There’s a fixed fee for the service, and of course you may lose out on the exchange rate as well - try and get an exact quote from them before you commit to the transfer, if you can⁶. You might find they only speak Japanese, so this might not be the best option for you if you’re still struggling with the language. Still, it’s a useful alternative to know about, and could be perfect if you also have a letter to drop off.
Best of luck in making your money transfer out of Japan. As you’ve seen, each of the numerous different options comes with its own particular set of pros and cons, and in Japan, the potentially mountainous amounts of paperwork can seem like as big a con as the high fees some services charge.
Remember, whatever method you end up using, that the exchange rate is important too - actually, it’s the most important number of all - although it might be an easy number to miss among all the forms you could be filling out. You can compare the exchange rate you’re being offered to the exchange rate that Wise gives you as well. The best advice to give, is to do your research and don’t commit to a transfer until you really know what it’s worth.
1https://tokyocheapo.com/business/financial/cheapest-way-transfer-money-out-of-japan/ (February 27 2018)
2https://www.smbctb.co.jp/en/banking/services/fees/pdf/service_fees_en.pdf (February 27 2018)
3https://www.smbctb.co.jp/en/banking/overseas_remittance/index.html (February 27 2018)
4http://www.shinseibank.com/english/goremit/individuals/proceduresinfo.html (February 27 2018)
5http://www.shinseibank.com/english/goremit/individuals/apply.html (February 27 2018)
6https://www.japanvisitor.com/japan-travel-guide/sending-money-overseas-japan (February 27 2018)
7http://www.survivingnjapan.com/2012/06/how-to-transfer-money-to-and-from-japan.html (February 27 2018)
|This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.|
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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