Sending Money From Japan 国際送金
Remitting Money from Japan
If you are sending money from Japan to another country (gaikoku soukin 外国送金 in Japanese), it pays to know what the various channels are through which you can send your hard-earned, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each remittance service.
As Japan enters the age of globalization and demand for money remittance services grows, cheaper and more convenient options for remitting money overseas are becoming available, especially online.
When selecting a remittance company to use, there are two basic questions to ask.
1. Does this company service the country I want to send money to?
This is less an issue if you are using a bank, but it can be more of an issue if you want to use a dedicated remittance service. Some remittance services in Japan have greater geographical scope than others. In other words, not all of them can send to all countries around the globe. Generally, the more expensive the service, the greater the global reach.
2. How much will it cost me to transfer money overseas from Japan?
This is a trickier question to answer, and requires some research. How do money remittance services make their money? They do it in two ways: most charge a transaction fee (tesuuryo 手数料) for their service (a flat fee that may or may not increase in steps with the amount of money being sent). On top of that, the services then make additional money (more money than the transaction fee) by way of the exchange rate (kawase rehto 為替レート).
Understanding Exchange Rates
The job of the bank or remit company is not simply to organize the transfer of your money. First it must take the Japanese yen you hand over and use them to purchase the currency of the country you are remitting to, such as US dollars or Indian rupees. This is called currency trading, and only financial institutions are authorized to do it. Also, how much two currencies are worth against each other changes every minute of the day. Like any commodity, currencies can be traded at any price. (Note that there is no such thing as a "standard exchange rate," but only an average exchange rate, which is what exchange rate websites and apps calculate and show.) So, like all merchants, the bank or remittance company sells foreign currencies to you for a higher price than it buys them, setting the exchange rates it buys at and sells at so as to make a profit for itself. For your 10,000 yen, one company might give you USD 92, for example, while another more competitive company might give you USD 93.
So, when deciding on a service, first look at its exchange rate, then at the commission charged, and work out which service offers the best deal.
Using banks to send money from Japan is usually more expensive than using dedicated remittance services. However, there are times when bank transfers will be advantageous. Firstly, banks have a much higher per-transaction sending limit than remittance services. Remittance services typically have a top limit of between 500,000 and 1 million yen per transaction (depending on the destination country). Secondly, as globalization increases, so does the need for compliance and, especially in the case of investments, money must be traceable. Banks offer more solid money traceability than dedicated remittance service companies, so using a bank can save you the headaches associated with having to prove to a regulatory agency where your money came from.
There are three banks in Japan that stand out when it comes to transferring money internationally: Prestia, Shinsei Bank, and the Yucho (Post Office) Bank.
Prestia (formerly Citibank, but the SMBC Trust Bank's Prestia service, since November 2015) is well-known in Japan as a bank through which overseas money transfers can be made quickly, reliably and more cheaply than most of the traditional Japanese banks--and in English. To send money overseas using Prestia, you must have a Prestia account. You do not have to visit a branch to send money, you can use the Prestia Online or Prestia Phone Banking services; but if doing it online or by phone, you must have first pre-registered the payee (recipient). Prestia charges a 4,000 yen fee, or a 2,500 yen fee if your Prestia account balance has been an average of 1 million yen or more over the past month. Prestia Gold customers can send money for free. An optional "Instruction of corresponding bank fee (Pay in full)" fee of 1,500 yen is charged if you wish to prevent the bank at the receiving end from deducting any further fees (which can happen, but not always). Prestia adds a commission of 1% to its "standard" exchange rate. Money sent usually arrives the next day (sometimes the same day) if the transaction is completed by 3pm.
SMBC Trust Bank fund transfer to overseas web page
Shinsei Bank also provides a basically English-language-friendly overseas remittance service, although not necessarily of as fluent a level as at Prestia. Shinsei has two remittance services: one for customers with a PowerFlex account, and one for customers who have registered with the GoRemit service. A PowerFlex remittance transaction costs 4,000 yen, but the first one every month is free for Shinsei Platinum customers. It can be done at a branch or by phone, but the payee (a maximum of one) must have been pre-registered. The PowerFlex exchange rate is different from the GoRemit exchange rate, and further differs according to whether the customer's account is Standard, Gold or Platinum: the higher the status, the better the exchange rate. A GoRemit transaction costs 2,000 yen, the amount to be sent must be transferred to a stipulated Shinsei Bank account, and the recipient(s) (no set maximum number) must have been pre-registered. The GoRemit exchange rates can be viewed online.
Shinsei Bank GoRemit website
Yucho Bank (Post Office Bank)
The Yucho Bank currently has 233 branches across Japan that you can send money overseas from. Two kinds of service are offered, the check-mailing service known as juusho ate soukin (住所あて送金, "sending money to an address") or kouza ate soukin (口座あて送金, "sending money to an account"). The latter, kouza ate soukin, is more straightforward and secure, as juusho ate soukin requires you to post a check generated by Yuucho Bank to the recipient. Also, the number of countries that the juusho ate soukin service is available for is shrinking, seemingly because of security problems.
Sending money to an account using the Yucho Bank costs 2,500 yen. The exchange rate cannot be looked up online, only at a counter, and neither can the transaction itself be done online, but at a counter only. Yucho Bank has a reputation for reasonable exchange rates. For most countries, the time taken for sending money to an account is stated as being between four and six days. You will need your My Number card or certificate to make the transfer, some identification such as a passport, driver's license or zairyu card and either a signature or seal (hanko).
Yucho Bank offers services in the Japanese language only (except for its multilingual ATMs). It is therefore recommended to use a remittance service (see below) as an intermediary offering a more language-friendly way to avail yourself of the Yucho Bank's services.
Remittance services (as opposed to banks) are more flexible and customer-oriented than banks, and are cheaper. On the flip side, they may not be able to offer the level of traceability that international governmental financial regulations require in the case of making investments in another country, and the maximum amount you can remit at one time is lower than with a bank. Also, the paths remittance companies use to send money are more complicated than with banks, involving more intermediaries, so there is a higher chance of the remittance failing the first time. Quality customer service that can deal with such situations to the customer's satisfaction is also therefore very important.
The following is a selection of the most reliable and popular cash remittance services in Japan.
Brastel Remit draws on Brastel's large customer base built up over the years by way of its well-known Brastel Card discount telephone card service for Japan residents and tourists, and the company's mobile phone/WiFi router rental service for tourists.
Brastel Remit currently services 80 countries around the world from Japan, and features very competitive fees, starting at 880 yen and, more importantly, very competitive exchange rates, viewable online at any time. Brastel offers already competitive regular exchange rates and even more advantageous special exchange rates for customers with a Brastel Card, which is a rechargeable prepaid card for cheap international and domestic calls from and to Japan. Also, the Brastel Card earns free telephone calling credits with each money remittance sent via Brastel Remit.
A major advantage of Brastel is its multi-lingual customer service, in 11 languages. Brastel's customer service has an excellent reputation for responsiveness and problem-solving.
Brastel offers four ways of sending money overseas from Japan:
Bank Account Deposit is the most popular option, whereby money deposited into a designated Yucho Bank account is automatically remitted to the registered recipient (1-3 day delivery time);
Agent Collect Point, whereby the recipient can collect the money at a specified local pick-up point (usually the branch of a bank) by presenting personal ID and the transaction reference number (1 hour delivery time);
Mobile Wallet, whereby the remitted money goes straight to the recipient's mobile wallet (instant delivery time);
Home Delivery (available only for Vietnam) whereby the money is delivered in cash to the recipient's home address (1-2 day delivery time).
Brastel Remit website
SBI Remit is a remittance service that is part of the SBI Sumishin Net Bank, Ltd., a bank owned in equal shares by the SBI Group (originally known Softbank Investments), and the SMBC Trust Bank. SBI works in cooperation with the MoneyGram remittance service. SBI Remit has four kinds of remittance services:
Furikomi Money Transfer Service whereby money is deposited into a specified bank account and is thereby automatically remitted to a pre-registered recipient;
Internet Money Transfer Service, whereby money deposited into an SBI Remit account can be sent at any time to a recipient using an online procedure. (Being able to choose when to send deposited money has the advantage of being able to select a time when the exchange rates are more favorable, unlike the Furikomi Money Transfer Service where the money instantly and automatically gets sent as soon as the money is deposited);
Remit Card, whereby a deposit made to a Yucho Bank account is instantly and automatically transferred to the registered recipient;
Convenience Store Money Transfer Service, whereby money can be sent without the use of a bank account, but by paying cash at a Family Mart convenience store counter using a document you generate with the FamiPort machine.
SBI Remit website
Western Union is a very big international name among dedicated remittance companies, and it is possible to send money to a lot of countries and in numerous currencies. Western Union is the most accessible money sending service in Japan, as it is available not only through Western Union's own branches, but through the 7-11 and Family Mart convenience store chains, as well as the Daikokuya ticketing and pawning (among other things) chain. (Note that 7-11 charges an ATM fee after 7pm, whereas FamilyMart is free all hours.) Western Union's broad reach and convenience comes at the price of somewhat higher fees and exchange rates. The Seven Bank remittance service is tied-up with Western Union, as are several other more minor remittance services in Japan.
Western Union website
PayPal is well-known as a very easy means of instant, online international payment, covering a huge number of countries and over two dozen currencies. But PayPal is just as well-known for being expensive. However, technically speaking, the remittance is free, in that the payer is not charged anything. It is the payee who effectively pays for the service by receiving the amount sent minus about 4 or 5%. Also, PayPal uses exchange rates that are much higher than what a Japanese bank or money remittance service will use.