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soc.culture.japan FAQ [Monthly Posting] [2/3]
Section - (6.6.3) Currency exchange; sending cash to/from Japan

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Last update: <11/95
by Norman Diamond

In buying and selling US$, if M is the market fixing (at around 10:00 a.m.),
then banks and large department stores and some hotels set the rates as:
  cash buying                  US$1 = M - 3 yen
  traveller's cheque buying    US$1 = M - ??? yen (around 1.7; I don't recall)
  telegraphic transfer buying  US$1 = M - 1 yen (maybe minus some fee?)
  telegraphic transfer selling US$1 = M + 1 yen (plus 4,500 yen plus *)
  traveller's cheque selling   US$1 = (M + 1 yen) x 1.01
  cash selling                 US$1 = M + 3 yen

  postal money order           US$1 = prior day's M + 1 (plus 500 to 2,500 yen)

* U.S. banks charge about US$10 to receive a telegraphic transfer in US$.

In buying and selling German marks, the rates differ from the market fixings
by about the same amounts as for US$.  In buying and selling other major
currencies, telegraphic transfers still differ from market fixings by about
1 or 2 yen (or maybe 3 yen for British pounds, just guessing), and rates for
traveller's cheques are almost reasonable, but rates for cash get really bad.
For example, the buying and selling rates for Canadian cash differ by about
20%, and the buying and selling rates for Hong Kong cash differ by about 30%.
For minor currencies, it is even worse.

Postal money orders to other countries also use the prior day's bank selling
rate.  The fee is usually 1,000 to 3,000 yen (500 yen higher than for US$) but
the post office sends the money orders themselves through some system, instead
of making (or letting) the buyer send or carry the money orders as to the US.

Postal money orders to some countries can be sent by telegraphic transfer
(giro) instead of the post office's paper money order system.  The cost is
intermediate between ordinary money orders and Japanese bank telegraphic 
transfers.  But some Japanese postal employees don't understand the word
"giro" even when it's painted on the signboard in front of them.

Some Japanese banks will also sell demand drafts for a rate equivalent to
telegraphic transfer with a fee of 2,500 yen instead of 4,500.  But the buyer
has to return the next day to pick up the draft and still has to send or carry
it to the destination country.

If you are sending a telegraphic transfer from another country, you might find
it cheaper to send the transfer in yen, so that you pay the conversion rate
set by your bank instead of the Japanese bank.  But again, I don't know if a
Japanese bank might charge a fee to receive a telegraphic transfer even in yen.

Do not send or bring a bank draft payable in yen, from another country.  Even
if the draft is payable by a Japanese bank, and even if the recipient (or your
own bank, after you open an account) understands the draft, they will charge
very high fees.  Also do not send or bring a bank draft payable in any other
currency; the fees are even higher.  Only traveller's cheques have reasonable
fees, along with telegraphic transfers and US$ cash.

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Top Document: soc.culture.japan FAQ [Monthly Posting] [2/3]
Previous Document: (6.6.2) Credit cards for foreigners
Next Document: (6.7) What are the laws for Japanese citizenship at birth?

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