Recently, I had to transfer a large amount of money from the US to Japan. I needed the money quick and I wanted a good rate. I searched all over the internet and found results such as Japan Post Bank, Western Union, and Seven Bank. I even had a friend, who just happened to be visiting, help bring some cash over and exchanged it at Japan Post Bank and Sakura Exchange in person. If you’re transferring money from US to Japan, I found Transferwise to be the best option for exchanging a large amount of money quickly and at a good rate. Before I start talking about Transferwise, I want to go over the other options first and why I found Transferwise to be best for my situation.
Exchanging in Japan
Japan Post Bank
Do not ever exchange cash at Japan Post Bank. The rates here are very low if you exchange in person. On the day that I went, the real exchange rate was about 114.3. Japan Post Bank gave me a rate of about 111.23. Furthermore, they charged me a fee.
Sakura Exchange is a chain of small kiosks that that exchanges money. You can find several locations in Tokyo. Although the rates here are quite low as well, they gave me a higher rate than Japan Post Bank and they did not charge me a fee. I went to Sakura Exchange about half an hour after I went to Japan Post Bank and the rate was about 111.7 (Japan Post Bank was 111.23). Go here only if you need to exchange in a hurry or if you need to exchange a small amount of cash.
International Wire Transferring
Japan Post Bank
Wire transferring money from US to Japan Post Bank usually has a better rate than exchanging in person. However, wiring money can take up to a week if not more (depending on the US bank you are sending from). Even after Japan Post Bank receives the wire transfer, they will need to find out the reason for the transfer from you. That means they hold onto the money and you will receive the money on your account only after they contact you. You will need to let them know the reason for your transfer and say that this money has no relation to terrorists.
Furthermore, if you make a mistake on the wire transfer details such as accidentally forgetting to input the branch code, Japan Post Bank will hold onto the money and require you to contact them. They will only contact you once. You will have to contact them if you miss their call. I waited about 10 days before finally calling them. I had no idea where my money was. When I tried calling, they said I had to go to a physical location in person. When I did go in person to ask, the bank said they couldn’t do anything to help. I just wanted to find out what happened to the money! So then I call them again and they finally said they will investigate the situation and let my local bank know. So then that means I had to go back to the bank again in person and find out what had happened. Ridiculous. After they finally investigated what had happen, it turned out that the branch code number was missing.
I have never used Western Union before so there is not much I can say about its services. You can use Western Union at most ATMs in Japan such as Seven Eleven. Unfortunately, they have a international transfer limit of 1 million yen which was not suitable for my situation.
I have an account with Seven Bank and I am quite happy with its services. It is very convenient to use, especially with their ATMs all over Tokyo. Since Seven Bank uses Western Union for their international money transfer, the transfer limit is the same. So unfortunately, their international money transfer limit was not high enough for my situation.
Unlike banks where they have hidden fees and make money by giving a lower exchange rate, Transferwise gives you the exchange rate and fee upfront. On top of that, the exchange rate is extremely high. The rate they give is just slightly below the actual real exchange rate. Transferwise makes their money from the fee they charge. Although the fee they charge is slightly higher than banks, the high exchange rate Transferwise gives makes up for it and helps you save a lot more. When making a transfer, the rate is saved for 24 hours. So you have 24 hours to send the money, while keeping the rate you have when you create the transfer. You can create several transfers and have it saved for 24 hours so that you can keep the best rate. Rates change throughout the day. However, after you send money to the bank make sure you cancel the other transfers with the lower exchange rate so that the money will be exchanged with the higher rate saved.
How Transferwise differs from the typical bank wire transferring is that no money is wired internationally. They have banks all over the world. For example, they have a bank in the US and a bank in Japan. When you make a transfer on the Transferwise website, you are asked to send money to their bank in the US. After they receive your money in USD in their US bank, their bank in Japan will send you money in JPY. There actually is no money exchange that occurs. The money you send stays in the US and they just send you money from their bank in Japan. This allows them to give a high exchange rate and quicken the money transfer time.
I made multiple transfers on Transferwise and I received the money in my bank with 3 to 5 days (although they give a later estimated date of arrival). I understand that Transferwise is new and it is kind of suspicious in the sense that money is sent to a bank in the US, not Japan, and that the street address of the wiring details is Jamaica Street. In fact, I did a test transfer of $100 just to be safe. I received the money with no problems, so I moved on with doing a bigger transfer and received it safely and swiftly.
The only downside of doing a money transfer with Transferwise is that the money has to be sent from an account with the same name as the receiving account. That means if you want money sent to an account in Japan with your name on it, it has to be sent from an account in the US with your name on it as well. So it can’t be sent from a different name such as from your parents or siblings. The only exception is that if it is a joint account with your name on it as well. Just make sure your name is listed as well when sending the transfer.
Once you get the bank account information prepared on the Transferwise account, making transfers will be easy and quick. I strongly recommend this service if you are transferring money from US to Japan.
Feel free to use my exclusive invite link to make a free transfer of up to £500 (roughly $530): https://transferwise.com/u/alanl36