Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sending money from Japan to the US

Check out my updated Post on Wire Transfers

Citibank Japan versus Shinsei Bank

One of the issues that comes up for new residents in Japan is how to send money back home to the States. For me, I must pay student loans State-side. Since there is little, helpful information on the internet I thought I would start a post to document my experience with Japanese banking and foreign currency transactions. Two of the more gaijin (foreigner) friendly banks I have discovered thus far are Citibank Japan and Shinsei Bank. I currently have an account for each. 
While you will need a passport and foreigners card (外国人登録証明書 gaikokujin tōroku shōmeisho)  sign-up for a new bank account, they do not require a Japanese hanko (registered seal) which traditional Japanese banks will require and which can be a bit of a hassle to get. 
**These are good banks if you are a foreigner and in Tokyo because these banks have many branches here and a few branches have English speaking staff. Outside Tokyo, I do not know. 

Below, I am including the screen shots of a recent transaction I had using Citibank Japan to send my paycheck to my US bank account. I use USAA in the US because they have free incoming transaction from overseas. (My credit union charges $40 for incoming overseas Keep in mind also that my current employer Berlitz has a special deal with Citibank called Citibank at Work where I can receive free overseas wire transfers for a year. (This pdf is for University of Tokyo employees, but its similar to the program Berlitz has with Citibank). They usually charge 4,000 yen for overseas remittances (foreign transaction fees from Citibank Japan accounts to foreign bank accounts). 

So for about a year I will continue using Citibank Japan, after that I will have to find a better solution as I will no longer receive free wire transfers (remittances) home. 

Here is what my remittance looked like yesterday. 
I sent home 250,000 Japanese yen at a rate of 80.55 Jpy for 1 USD.
Divide 250,000 yen by 80.55 and you get $3,103.66 USD. Since my transaction is free, there is no remittance fee. 

Here is Citibank's listed exchange rate at that time:

**Note the definiton of TTS and TTB: TTS is Yen to foreign currency rate and 
TTB is the rate from foreign currency into Yen. I am concerned about TTS.

Looking at Shinsei's listed exchange rate at the same time/on the same date for their Standard Customer plan:

You see the TTS is different. So I do the quick calculation to see how much it comes out to in USD.            250,000yen/80.04 (exchange rate, TTS)= $3,123.44

Compared to Citibank's $3,103.66, that is a difference of $20. However, Shinsei also charges 4,000 yen for the transfer so: 250,000 yen - 4,000 yen= 246,000 yen. Then divide 246,000 yen by 80.04= $3073.46 (net deposit in USD).

$3103.66   - $3073.46 = $30.20 (my net savings using citibank Japan to transfer my funds) 
Might not seem like much, but multiply that by 12 months a year and I will receive an extra $362 in my US bank account this year and pay off those pesky student loans just that much quicker. 

To summarize, with the Citibank at Work program I will receive an extra $362 transferring my money through Citibank Japan. However, you can see that Shinsei gives the better rate. If I did not receive the free remittances from Citibank, Shinsei would be the better choice ($20 per month better than Citibank Japan, or $240 over the course of a year).
So next year, when I no longer receive free remittances (overseas wire transactions) from Citibank, I will probably use Shinsei to get a better exchange rate on my transfers. That is, unless I find a better way to transfer. I would love to hear from others in a similar situation. Comments/questions welcome. Thx for reading. 

****UPDATE August 2012****
Some friends recommended Golloyds (online registration possible) for remittances, so I did a quick comparison showing the amount in dollars you can receive from each bank: Golloyds, Shinsei, and Citibank. I did these calculations after deducting the various fees for each bank. Golloyds (2,000 yen) Shinsei (4,000 yen), and Citibank (4,000 yen). 

This is what I came up with: 
250,000 yen at Golloyds becomes $3,081, $3,091.23 at Shinsei, and $3,067.33 at Citibank.
Shinsei seemingly comes out on top...assuming there aren't some undiscovered fees from intermediary banks they may or may not use to make the transfers. 

As of Wednesday May 30th at 21:58. The TTS exchange rate (Yen to Dollar) is Golloyds 80.48, Shinsei 79.58, Citibank 80.20. 

You can check the current exchange rates for these three banks below.




***Update December 2012***
Now keeping tabs on the biggest bank in Japan Mitsubishi UFJ. Here is the link


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Viva churrasco... em Tóquio

Spring churrasco in Tokyo

(Brazilian-style bbq)

Today I traveled to a beautiful little neighborhood near Hamadayama Station (Tokyo area). Green and vibrant, the sun out in full-force, a gorgeous day for a barbeque. Truly a rare treat, I was invited to the Sakairi home by my dear co-worker and friend, Mari. 
The Big Sister I never had, Mari :-D

Our generous hosts: Mr. and Mrs. Sakairi  (with their neighbor; they throw a churrasco bbq party every spring and fall in their home)
Mari and Mrs. Sakairi are old friends from their childhood where they first met in Brazil. My presence was a little hard to explain to the 30+ guests because of the distant relationship to the Sakairi family, but it was a point of interest to try to explain to everyone at the house when I showed up at 11:00am (our agreed time) and Mari didn't come until 12:00pm. It worked out well as I bonded quickly with the other guy wandering around the neighborhood with a paper handwritten map and the same lost look on his face. 

 The food was phenomenal. Perfectly grilled seasoned steaks, pão de queijo, stewed feijoada(not pictured), Japanese Korokke and something similar to Pico de Gallo (the green stuff pictured above; muito deliciosa). Beer and wine flowed freely, especially since the neighbor pictured above runs an Italian wine import business. 
 The entire neighborhood was filled with smoke from our churrasco.  It was great.
 Note the chilled wines and copious beer cans. Asahi, Kirin, and Sapporo were all well-represented. :-D
Thought this was sausage, turned out to be made of figs and nuts. Quite sweet and scrumptious.  

Both Mr. and Mrs. Sakairi work for NEC so the majority of those present were co-workers. Mari and I were the only ones from Berlitz. 

And finally for dessert: delicious birthday cake. Anyone with an April, May, or June birthday was sung to and received cake first. Including yours truly. :-D Turns out Mari and I both have April birthdays. woohoo!

 Since the February and March birthdays didn't get a special cake, this guy made some "Birthday labels" from the back of his business card and put it in the bowl of chips for himself and Rie...quite funny!!
Mari with the April cake

This dude was totally feeling up my bicep...umm, yeah...should have buttoned that last button for sure. Partly my bad, but still, what the hell dude!

Mrs. Sakairi made some awesome apple cake: pictured top right.
Hayashi and me, "Err-body in the club gettin' typsy"

"Err-body" at the party, what a great group!

Pensive Mari, looking good Big Little Sis!
Mari sings the Brazilian birthday song to me because I forgot to record the group singing. Thanks Mari!!! 
End of the Birthday song