It’s been all over the news that the yen is at high point. At 83 to 85 yen to the US dollar, you might have gotten a better rate for sending money home in the 1980s, but not by much. If you’re fresh out of college, this rate is just in time for the first payment of student loans; if not, well, it’s still a great rate and your savings will no longer tempt you from your bank book balance.
Many people working abroad recommend GoLLoyds for their money transfer needs. However, GoLloyds charges 2000 yen to send the money, and then will charge your overseas account to recieve it. Your bank might even hand you more processing charges after that, possibly doubling the 2000 yen you thought was enough. As convenient as GoLLoyds is, there is another option with less fees.
Post office money orders (郵便為替 ゆうびんかわせ) are a slightly slower way of getting your money abroad, but are less complicated and less fee-laden than instant transfers. For the same 2000 yen, the post office will take up to 30 man yen cash and exchange it for you, turning it into money order (like a traveller’s check) in whatever currency you like. (Unless you want to sent money to Ireland. Then it doesn’t work at all.) That check is then sent via post to a designated recipient at home. You can send the check by EMS (express mail) and insure the amount enclosed.
All you need to bring with you is your Alien Registration Card, the cash you want to send plus 2000 yen, and your hanko. The forms are in both Japanese and English, but the two instructions that might not be intuitive are as follows:
Fill out the form with your address in romaji. Ishikawa Prefecture, etc. Fill in your name EXACTLY as it appears on your gaijin card–last, first, middle name.
The Bank section of the post office gives you checks, and then you write your address and the address of the recipient before you take them to the post office proper to have them mailed. You can choose regular, registered or express mail, the latter of which will set you back 1000 yen.
While perhaps not as convenient as GoLloyds or PayPal, it is a secure service that allows you to avoid fees on the other end. It’s also handy for repaying to a specific recipient for loans or gifts.