Jeremy Stein - Journal

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Sending Money to Japan

I would like to send some money to someone in Japan. US dollars would probably be about as annoying to them as Canadian dollars are to me. So, I’d like to send the money in yen. You’d think this would be simple.

Well, I could walk into the local bank, ask to buy some yen. If I’m lucky, they’d have yen on hand and I’d pay a small premium over the exchange rate. I can’t believe it’s really that dangerous, but everyone tells me not to send cash through the mail. OK, I won’t.

How about a check drawn on a Japanese bank? Well, I don’t live near a Japanese bank. Some banks offer the ability to buy money orders in other currencies, but I don’t live near one of them either.

OK, how about Western Union? Their technology became obsolete in the late 19th century, but they’re still around selling the transfer of money. Hand money to an agent at one Western union and they tell another Western union (via telegraph?) near the receiver to have the money ready. I tried to set up a transaction with them online. They would have charged me $15, but I gave up when it appeared that my Japanese friend would have to pick the money up in Missouri. I guess that must be their closest office to Japan.

I realize there are convenient ways to transfer money from one virtual account to another (PayPal, E-Gold, etc.), but I’d really like my friend to receive something easy to accept. Cash would be ideal, but a check would also be OK.

Does anyone have a good solution to this problem?

Update: The consensus from the comments below seems to be that an international money order purchased at the post office is the best approach in most cases.

April 20, 2005 43 Comments.

43 Comments

  1. Jeremy replied:

    I found iKobo which will mail a Visa debit card to my friend. However, I also learned that Visa is not widely accepted in Japan.

    It turns out that the Japanese post offices have special envelopes for sending cash. So, if they do it in Japan, does that make it OK to send cash from the US to Japan?

    April 20th, 2005 at 10:24 pm. Permalink.

  2. Yachiyo replied:

    I think the easiest way for your friend in Japan to receive the money would be using the International Postal Money Order. It’s about 3 dollars to purchase it for up to $700 money order.

    All you need to do is to go to the post office and purchase it and then send it to your friend by a registered mail. When your friend receive it, he can take it to any post office and change it into a cash. You find the post offices all over Japan, so I’m sure your friend will find no problem with this way.
    Please see this page for more details;
    http://www.usps.com/money/sendingmoney/sendmoneyinternationally.htm

    Well, at a post office here in Japan you can choose three ways to send money to the U.S.A.
    1. Just like what I explained above.
    2. You buy a money order and the post office will deliver it to your friend’s home themselves. (that means you don’t need to be bothered to mail it yourself)
    3. You send money from the post office direct to your friend’s bank account.

    I wonder if you can send money from a post office there direct to your friend’s bank account. Why don’t you ask the post office for more details?

    I hope this will help you a little.

    By the way, your kids are so cute.

    April 29th, 2005 at 1:06 am. Permalink.

  3. Jeremy replied:

    Hey, now there’s the world-wide web at work! I just post a question about Japan and a Japanese resident comes along and answers my question. Thanks!

    April 29th, 2005 at 9:05 am. Permalink.

  4. Kevin replied:

    hello….
    I’m currently facing the same choices for sending money…
    Need to send several thousand to my wife…..What did you experience????

    October 9th, 2005 at 7:00 pm. Permalink.

  5. Jeremy replied:

    I took Yachiyo’s advice and sent an international money order. I received a thank you note, so it must have worked!

    October 9th, 2005 at 9:12 pm. Permalink.

  6. Kevin replied:

    I will do that on Tuesday…Thanks!!!!! I’ll try and get back for an update

    October 10th, 2005 at 1:18 am. Permalink.

  7. Kazoo replied:

    Hi, I am facing the same problem right now. I have to send some money to my brother in Japan. I would like to know how the exchange rate is calculated? Is it calculated based on the order date or the date the recipient cashes the money order in Japan? Does a recipient in Japan have to pay additional fees to cash the money order? It’s great if any of you can let me know about it. Many thanks.

    Kd/Rgds,
    Kazoo

    December 11th, 2005 at 7:55 pm. Permalink.

  8. Jeremy replied:

    In short, I don’t know. I think the money order is in USD and thus the exchange rate is calculated when the money order is redeemed. Also, I assume there are no fees for the recipient since I the sender have to pay a fee. If you find out for certain, please let us know. Your post office may be able to help you.

    December 11th, 2005 at 8:01 pm. Permalink.

  9. Kazoo replied:

    Jeremy,

    I will go to a post office tomorrow. I will let you know what I find out. Thanks for your speedy reply.

    Kd/Rgds,
    Kazoo

    December 11th, 2005 at 8:13 pm. Permalink.

  10. Jeremy replied:

    Charles asks how long an international money order (sent as a standard letter) should take to reach Japan from San Diego.

    I am having an issue with a vendor overseas in Japan. I filed an international postal money order at my local post office on the 26th of November, i dropped it off in the mailbox with an 80 cent stamp as the clerk directed me for international mail. It is now the 12th of December. I have received no word from the vendor, I’m assuming he has not received his payment, as my friend who has done business with this individual has told me he has sent money the same way to Japan two times and received his product in half the time of 16 days it had arrived. I have no idea how long it takes for mail to reach overseas but can anyone give me a good idea? So far it’s been approx. 16 days since I dropped it off in San Diego. How long total should it take before I begin to worry? I am also going to take into account that it is the holiday season and mail is slow right now.

    Can someone tell me what’s up? How long does it take to get to japan? Can it really be up to 30 days? Im paranoid/panicing I have never sent international mail and my friend got his product already by now within 16 days after mailing. help!

    Quote from http://www.usps.gov:
    For only $3.25, you can purchase international money orders valued at up to $700 to 30 countries, with additional countries being added in the near future (some exceptions apply – see below). You can then send your money order using Global Priority Mail® or Global Express Mail®. The money orders can be cashed at the post office locations of the destination country.

    I did not send it “Global Priority” or “Global Express” – I sent payment plain snail mail with an 80 cent stamp, I guess the clerk was not the brightest. How long is this going to take? 30 days? Please help.

    December 12th, 2005 at 1:31 pm. Permalink.

  11. Sheri replied:

    We are having the same problem. Our son is an exchange high school student in Japan. He has a Visa Buxx card and it works good for weekly expenses. He gets his money from the post office ATM or whatever it is.
    But he want’s to buy a laptop, which means bigger bucks. I would like to know if the international money order worked for anyone?

    Thanks!

    December 13th, 2005 at 4:00 pm. Permalink.

  12. Charles replied:

    i guess nobody knows how long a non red/blue ‘por avion’ 80 cent mail standard letter takes from california to japan?

    ill just assume 30 days. i hope to god its not longer :(

    December 16th, 2005 at 2:59 pm. Permalink.

  13. Kazoo replied:

    I just purchased an International Money order and sent to my mom in Japan from a local post office in AZ.

    As many of you experienced, it is extremely difficult to extract information from a postal clerk at a post office or 1-800-ask usps. I was told that the money order would be translated into Yen at the date of the money order purchase. No, it was not true. It turns out that the International money order is nothing but a money order in USD that can be accepted by foreign financial institutions where there is certain bilateral agreement exists between the US and the host country.

    It means that I have to send the International money order to on my own. It works just like a typical mail. You can choose any form of available postal service, i.e., parcel, airmail, snailmail, global priority mail, etc.. The money order sent would remain in USD denomination until my mom exchange it into Japanese Yen (JPY). My mom has to bring the money order to a post office or local bank for that matter, cash it, and exchange it into JPY. She may have to pay additional service charge. It’s been years since I left Japan but I do remember they used to charge rather hefty service charge. I hope it’s not the case any more any more.

    I created a quick summary for anyone who would like to look into the option:

    International Money Order (this is the amount I chose) $500.00
    Fee $ 3.25
    Total USD sent to Japan $503.25
    Global priority mail (Mail will get there within 3-5 day) $ 8.40
    Total money spent by me $ 11.65

    Say, the exchange rate when my mom exchases the USD-JPD 115.78

    The JPY value 57,890 JPY
    Estimated handling fee -4,000 (USD $35)
    Total money mom receives 53,890 JPY

    Total fees spent in the transaction:

    My spending $11.65
    Mom’s spending $35.00
    Total $46.65

    The above summary is of course subject to the actual handling fee and the currency exchange rate on the day of the exchange. I would think it is worth while to check who gives the best exchange rate, a city bank, regional bank, or post office. For my mom, I have to do the reserch from my end. Poor old girl. My mom cannot handle complicated matters. She was raised in a way she would not need to deal with things on that level. I will update you all after my research sometime late next week.

    Kind regards,
    Kazoo

    December 17th, 2005 at 6:32 pm. Permalink.

  14. Kazoo replied:

    My mother was able to exchange the $500 International Money Order in Yen about ¥57,000 +. It turns out that Japanese post office did not charge so much fee as I expected. The spot rate was around 116.3 on Monday when she exchanged the money order. The fee must have been as little as $10. My mom would have gotten a little more yen if she exchanged the money today. It does not matter, though. Important thing is that she received her money so that she can help my brother. She said it was very easy to cash the money order. She called a local bank too but it was easier to do it through the post office. After all using International Money Order seems to be the best way to send money to Japan.

    Here’s the updated summary:

    Money sent to Japan $500
    Fee for the money order $3.2
    The cost of priority mail $8.40
    The embedded FX transaction fee $10.00

    My spending outside of the money sent $11.40
    * Mom’s (indirect spending) $10.00

    Thanks everybody for your help.

    Kazoo

    December 28th, 2005 at 7:03 pm. Permalink.

  15. Samir replied:

    Does anyone have ideas on options for amounts OVER $700?

    Thanks!
    Samir

    February 9th, 2006 at 12:52 pm. Permalink.

  16. Tuugi replied:

    I’m also in the same situation. I need to send some money to my sister in Japan. I think you can use Ikobo if you need to send more than $700. it will send a Visa ATM card to my sister. Their website says the charge for $2000 is $65, and $20 for $500. However, I have not tried it. True, Visa may not be so popular in Japan, but all they need is a Visa ATM machine, right? Also, it seems like you can send money from a credit card through Ikobo.
    Has anyone tried Ikobo?
    Thanks,
    Tuugi

    March 1st, 2006 at 7:37 pm. Permalink.

  17. Erick replied:

    Kazoo, thank you so much for your time explaining about the international money order. I too have to send money to a friend in Japan, and clearly understand now. ( I was still confused after speaking to the USPS, the Japanese Consulate, and the Japanese travel bureau.)
    Erick

    May 2nd, 2006 at 11:09 am. Permalink.

  18. Alex replied:

    Hello everyone!

    I am very glad I came across this website on my desperate search on how to send money to Japan!!! Kazoo’s info has been most helpful! :-) Thanks!

    June 23rd, 2006 at 5:24 am. Permalink.

  19. Betsy replied:

    Hi All!,
    Wish I had seen this site before I sent a cashier’s check and exhausted all of my resources for sending money to my son in Japan. He is in a study abroad program thru his college. Was told to arrive with $200 cash and the college in Japan would set up an account so we could wire transfer money into it. HAHA no such luck! He’s been in Japan for 3 weeks and has exhausted the $300.00 that I sent with him($200 like they said was very wrong!) The college still hasn’t set up the bank account and the paper work was done his first day there. I sent a cashier’s check global express that he is unable to cash without a Bank account. I have put money in his bank account here in hopes that maybe he will find an ATM that will accept his ATM (only . Not Debit) card. The kid has 00000 dollars or yen and I being the Mom am frantic. BTW my bank told me not to worry they will cash the cashier’s check just like cash HA! Oh well there is my rant and I am certainly happy to have happened upon your site it will be a great help to me in future!
    THANKS

    September 15th, 2006 at 2:45 pm. Permalink.

  20. Jeremy replied:

    OK, Mom. It’s time for some perspective. Your son is an adult. He’s not lost in the Sahara; he’s in a highly industrialized and properous nation. He’s an intelligent American student, young and resourceful. Furthermore, it’s in the college’s best interest to help him out (though he probably doesn’t even need it). It will be a good experience, perhaps for both of you!

    Time to cut the cord, relax, and let your son be an independent adult. He’ll do fine. Really.

    September 15th, 2006 at 2:54 pm. Permalink.

  21. student management guy replied:

    I read about egold in BusinessWeek, it was scary. Don’t know how I feel about reverting back to the gold standard. And I avoid paypal if at all possible. So this is some great info from your commenters.

    October 2nd, 2006 at 10:55 pm. Permalink.

  22. I used be Japanese replied:

    Oh my gosh! you are not kidding… I had to send $3000 to my mother in Japan. 1.) Bank here advertised that I can send money in Yen (NOT! they sent 3,000 yen, instead of $3,000) 2.) Since 9/11, Japanese banks have implemented some anti-tero policy; my mother was interrogated in a small room in her bank… why she is receiving $3,000, who sent it to her for what purpose?? (She is 75 years old on wheel chair, who just lost hudsband/my father died recently) I was born there, I used to live there. I used to think living in Japan was comfortable. I just never thought sending money is so darn complicated. I wish story ended there, but it doesn’t. She is now holding $3,000. And it is going to take her (She does not live in downtown Tokyo, and she is very old) I have no idea what kind of effort it is going to take for her to exchange the dollar into yen. She was told to go to Sumitomo bank in Tokyo (well, it is 30 ~ 40 min. cab ride). But they told her, it will take about a week to do exchange. Other option is to go to Narita International Airport, but I think you need at least passport, no? I have no idea. So, I decided to send her Credit Card in her name. I hope that will eliminate all of the aggrevation.

    October 13th, 2006 at 11:24 am. Permalink.

  23. Betsy replied:

    I just wire transfered $1000.00 (converted and sent in Yen) to my son in Japan. It took about 5 days for the money to arrive in his account. Now the bank wants him to go there so they can ask him questions(Interrrogation? I USED TO BE JAPANESE?) He has no Idea what to expect. I got that e-mail this morning so I was happy to see the previous posting. This web site seems to be a great source of information. So glad to have found it!

    October 13th, 2006 at 2:07 pm. Permalink.

  24. I used be Japanese replied:

    Betsy, let’s hope your son’s experience will be different, and at least it will be a learning experience for him. When I first came to America 25 ~ 26 years ago, world was different place. I had a culture shock then, your son too will go through one in Japan. Today’s Japan is not the country I left 20 some odd years ago. (I am 41 now…) I think one thing to remember is that (things may have changed) business used to get done in face to faith. No, I didn’t misspell it. Once your son’s bank start seeing him once a month to withdraw money, and once they know his face, I am sure his experience will drastically different, or will change for better. I’ve also noticed that life for foreigners in Japan have become “much” easier. 20 some years ago, it would have been very difficult for foreigner, or “Gai-jin” to find apartment, or room for rent. Today, I personally know very successful, respected, few American business person who are better known than Japanese person. Anyhow, I think Japan is still as civilized as America, or comparable to… in many ways. So, no worries.

    By the way, sending stuff in mail thing doesn’t work too well anymore. Whether it’s USP, UPS, or DHL, or FedEx, or whatever, everything, I mean almost everything I send, or my family send to me in package gets opened and comes with a letter saying, “Custom has inspected, etc….”. This trend seems to be also new, but not attributed to 9/11. This seems to be attributed to Beef vs. Chicken war between U.S. and Japan. Japan not buying U.S. beef, and U.S. not letting any meat related products coming in from Japan, etc… So, be careful what you send. He can buy most everything he needs at downtown Tokyo; Tylenol to his favorite peanut butter.

    If I can answer any question, let me know… My wife and kids are calling me for dinner :)

    October 15th, 2006 at 8:22 pm. Permalink.

  25. Rhonda replied:

    I had no idea how to send money to an Okinawa family, so this site has been very helpful!

    I appreciate the insight from “I used to be Japanese”. I was going to send American cash because I had no idea how to send it. Plus, I have been told not to exchange American money into yen here in the USA. It is better to send USD to Japan and have the person there exchange into yen for best exchange rate.
    Is this true?

    Can the family cash the International money order for USD and then keep the USD until a good exchange rate? Or must they immediately exchange the money order into yen?

    I am soooo very happy I tripped upon this site! Thank you, everyone!

    November 9th, 2006 at 9:24 pm. Permalink.

  26. Berttiny replied:

    I help Hong Kong and Taiwanese to bid stuff in japan auction. Just want to find a best method to send money to Japan. But seem it just what I did.
    Recently I just saw a webpage can pay directly to Japan bank account. Hope it can help you all. It is similar to paypal.
    http://www.biz-wizards.com/Contractor/Home/

    I have just registed. I will try later.

    November 28th, 2006 at 2:37 pm. Permalink.

  27. John J. Totten replied:

    After living in Japan for several years we found that the best way to get money from the USA is to go to the Post Office and they have a visitor’s account which lets you draw money from an account in the US. There is a 1% fee for the transaction so it is a little expensive. We use our Visa card and have our bank account in the US. That works well. To send a check to Japan is no good. Most banks will not cash them and if they do there is a very high fee and a period of time before you can get the money. Some banks also have the capability to use their ATM machines and withdraw money from a US bank account, but the fees are generally higher than the Post Office. This has been our experience with getting cash in Japan. Typically the ATM machines have a limit of how much you can withdraw each day.

    April 2nd, 2007 at 11:22 pm. Permalink.

  28. Hikaru replied:

    Don’t need to be so worried about ATMs. All postal offices in Japan (particularly in cities, not towns) accept foreign credit cards (visa and mastercard). I used a visa myself in cities away from Tokyo in lots fo stores and to withdrawal money.

    April 22nd, 2007 at 4:30 pm. Permalink.

  29. Shfocus replied:

    Hmm… This is still definitely a problem in Japan as of Jan 2008. My mother wants to send me $5000 Australian dollars from Aust to Japan but as yet I have found no good options for this.

    International Postal Money Orders from Aust seem to have a limit of $1000, PayPal is a rip-off (3.4%), sending in the post is not secure and the banks don’t seem to connect to each other… I can’t believe this is sooo difficult in today7s supposed ‘high tech’ world!

    Can anybody out there with valid experience transferring money (especially from Australia to Japan) help??

    This is driving me nuts…!

    January 8th, 2008 at 1:55 am. Permalink.

  30. John J. Totten replied:

    From our experience here in Japan the International Money order is the way to go. Most large post offices have a “license” to cash them. Just have 5 of them sent and that will fill the bill to get $5000 here..

    The banks here are not connected to each other except by paying a transaction fee. In order to pay a bill through another bank there is the minimum of 360 ¥ service charge up to 860 ¥. If our banks in the states tried to charge us something like that we would all rebel. On top of all those service fees is the typical account charges of about 5000 ¥/month to service the account.

    The banking business in Japan is interesting and a money making organization. If you go into the bank and see all the people in a relatively small bank. The one I go to in Nagoya has 47 full time employees. That amounts to a lot of money necessary to pay them all.

    The only other way that we have found is to have a debit card set up where you bank and then have the atm card and the pin number and draw the money out through the Post Office. On our bank in the states we can pull out money with a 1% transfer fee. Typically that has to be done at the source of the funds and we have quite a few people we associate with who have done that. They, like us, have to pay a service fee of some sort to operate through the Japan Postal System.

    January 8th, 2008 at 8:16 pm. Permalink.

  31. Shfocus replied:

    Thank you John for your prompt and indepth reply! It is good to know that there are people like you willing to help others with your experience and knowledge… gotta love the www.

    Update: I am now considering a direct transfer from my mother’s bank account to my Shinsei Bank account. I rang them today and even though the call centre women tried really hard to help me she didn’t really know the specifics of international money transfers so… I am waiting for a return call and I may end up just having to follow John’s pragmatic advice and go for 5 separate money orders (but I think my mother will not appreciate paying 5 different commissions…).

    Wish me luck and I will post back to update my progress or lack thereof for others who follow in these difficult footsteps.

    January 9th, 2008 at 2:09 am. Permalink.

  32. John J. Totten replied:

    I suggested that option because I work with about 100 young people who serve here as missionaries and often they need to receive funds from home to purchase personal items and after searching for ways to get them funds, particularly from the US I found only two that work. Set up an account out of the country, which still requires a 1% fee, or International Postal Money Orders. I have had people try to send checks and that does not work. I have also attempted to find a way past the 1% fee that I have to pay to take money out of my California bank account with no success. Several of these young people are from Australia and from Brazil so I am glad to find that they can set up an account in Australia too. Please post what you had to do to accomplish that.

    January 12th, 2008 at 4:55 am. Permalink.

  33. Shfocus replied:

    Well I have finally succeeded with the International Money Transfer game and I must say it was easier in the end than i had first imagined… I am writing a post at my blog to describe the process for others so please be patient and i will tell all asap!

    Thank you to those who have taken the time to post here!

    Simon Dean Hilton

    January 29th, 2008 at 3:51 am. Permalink.

  34. Henry replied:

    Hi,
    I stumbled upon this blog while researching the best way to send/receive money while in Japan.

    I will not lie and say I have read all the posts/comments mentioned (mostly because I’m a bit lost with the ones I have read).

    I’m trying to find out whats the money efficient and economical way for someone to send money from the U.S. to Japan on a constant (say, weekly) basis. Are there any American bank chains in Japan? If so, would depositing money to this account her in the U.S. allow me to withdraw it in Japan? Furthermore, does anyone know the average withdrawal rate?

    Thank You, appreciate it.

    September 22nd, 2008 at 11:43 pm. Permalink.

  35. Malaysia BOLEH replied:

    Hi everyone.. I’m currently attending a university in Japan and I’m trying to figure out how to send money from Japan to my home country, Malaysia.. Can anybody help??

    April 23rd, 2009 at 11:31 am. Permalink.

  36. Ufot Ekong replied:

    Am a university student in Japan and i want to recieve money from US by International Postal order, how many days does it take? My sister in London sent directly to my bank account but it took 7days!??????

    May 12th, 2009 at 10:17 pm. Permalink.

  37. emily replied:

    hello everyone..im living in philippines and i need to send a money to my cousin’s bank account(Mitsui Sumitomo) in japan…but i don’t know how?? i don’t want to use Western union because i had a bad experience w/ them. in my experience 1st i needed to buy Yen(pesos to yen)from them, & it was terrible.+ transaction fees. also paypal is not good. my cousin want’s to receive the money thru her japanese bank account. is it possible to send money from my philippine bank account to her japanese bank account???please,,,can somebody help me??

    October 29th, 2009 at 10:48 pm. Permalink.

  38. Jose replied:

    People don’t use check here in Japan….get the transfer bank details of the bank here in Japan…and then go to your bank back home and give them that information and tell them you want to transfer X about to the bank in japan…that’s the easiest pain free way.

    gambatte!

    May 17th, 2010 at 7:17 pm. Permalink.

  39. Tomoko replied:

    I recently found and used this on-line money transfer service called ATMCash (www.atmcash.com) because I wanted to send money to my family in Japan .

    You can order to send money through their website, and they will send an ATM card to Japan via FedEx.

    My family withdrew cash from an ATM machine in Japan . This card is reusable so I can add money in the future.

    I liked this on-line service because of the reasonable service fee ($5), security and convenience. (I had the experience of losing my “International Money Order” in the mail. It was quite a hassle!)

    The downside of this service is the first limit on the amount you can send in the first month. I could only send $500 for the first 30 days. After 30 days, their limit is $1,000 a day and $2,500 a month.

    Please make sure to use their promo code to save your money – Como7

    http://www.atmcash.com

    Good luck!!

    September 19th, 2010 at 3:57 pm. Permalink.

  40. lawrence replied:

    hi, will there be any charges for redeeming the foreign money order?

    October 15th, 2010 at 1:33 pm. Permalink.

  41. shanna replied:

    my friends started this thing were we’re going to raise money for japan we need to send it so we dont have an adress

    March 25th, 2011 at 6:22 am. Permalink.

  42. dom replied:

    If you’re sending money to someone in Japan who has a Visa card with a PIN, they can just withdraw cash at any Post Office or 7-Eleven.

    April 12th, 2011 at 1:27 am. Permalink.

  43. Jack B. replied:

    Thanks all, this is a great help. I have yen so think I will send cash via registered intl 1st class mail (since I now know this is the only legal way to send cash in Japan). My receipient is an old-school classical man and I do not want to bother him with converting from dollars. Once again thanks and glad Google helped me stumble upon this blog.

    September 21st, 2011 at 10:58 am. Permalink.

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