Working in Japan and looking for the best way to send money home? Look no further!
If your transfer is for less than about a million Japanese yen (~US$10,000) then you will find that Transferwise is the cheapest way to send money.
Transferwise does not offer the best exchange rates but you won’t pay any extra or surprise charges to send or receive money. This is quite different from banks where you will typically pay fees to both send and receive international transfers. The savings on these fees (called lifting charges) is typically enough to offset their less favorable exchange rates when transferring under about 1 million JPY. If you are transferring over 1 million Japanese yen then you will find using Shinsei Bank to be a better deal.
I’ve written about Shinsei Bank previously but not about using them to send money internationally.
Shinsei Bank offers by far the best exchange rates that you will find as a consumer in Japan. Even outside Japan I don’t think I have seen any banks that can compete with the rates that Shinsei offers to regular consumers.
The downside is that there is a 4000yen charge to send an international transfer. This is pretty typical for a wire sent from a bank and the recipient will generally pay about the same amount to receive the money you send. If you are unlucky there could be some additional surprise charges from one or more intermediary banks as well. It can be difficult to calculate the exact amount in advance but once you have sent a wire to a given overseas account the charges will usually be the same each time you send funds to that account.
Overall this means that it will be cheaper to use Transferwise up to about US$10,000 but if your transfer exceeds that amount then using Shinsei will save you money. The greater the amount you send the bigger the difference will be.
The first time you send money with Shinsei will be a time consuming process. Here is their list of requirements. (PDF warning!) Once you have registered a recipient however you can then use Shinsei’s phone banking to issue future transfers to the same recipient. It still costs 4000yen but at least it is quick and easy!
SHINSEI BANK GOREMIT
For those who are not comfortable with using a non-bank service like Transferwise but who also want an easier application process and lower sending fees Shinsei Bank’s GoRemit service is worth consideration. The application form is sent in by postal mail (no need to visit a Shinsei branch) and you don’t need to have a Shinsei account either.
GoRemit charges 2000yen for each wire you send. The exchange rates are not as good as Shinsei’s own rates but for smaller amounts it still works out to be a good deal. This service has been around for many years and was originally known as GoLloyds. Prior to Shinsei Bank opening in Japan and the availability of Transferwise GoLloyds (now GoRemit) was the best way to send funds from Japan.
JAPAN POST INTERNATIONAL POSTAL MONEY ORDER
If you need to send funds to someone and you are not able to send the money to their bank account then you can purchase an International Postal Money Order from Japan Post Bank.
Most post offices won’t have anyone who speaks English but what you want to purchase is called a 国際郵便為替証書 (Kokusai Yubin Kawase Shosho) in Japanese.
The cost is 2500yen (2000yen to the USA) and they are available from most larger post offices. Small local post offices do not deal with foreign currency and as such will not be able to issue an International Postal Money Order.
Unfortunately PayPal Japan is very limited in what services they offer. For example, you can not transfer funds from your Japanese bank account to your PayPal account.
PayPal Japan also has no option to send money to “friends and family” which means any money you send will be charged normal PayPal fees of about 4%. PayPal’s exchange rates are also shockingly bad, typically between 3 and 5 percentage points worse than you will get from Shinsei Bank.
Overall it is not a good idea to use PayPal as a way to transfer money from Japan. It’s great for making overseas purchases but best avoided otherwise.
I hope this information has been useful, feel free to ask questions in the comments!