When I first came to Japan, I left Jeremy in the care of my parents for about a year. Naturally, I needed to send money for his upkeep from time to time. I also needed to deposit money into my Kenyan bank account to repay my credit card.. etc. Here are the options I have used before (I saved the best for last- WorldRemit, so keep reading until the end):
1. EFT Bank Transfer (using JP Post Bank)
You have to physically go to the bank to fill the request transfer form, although you can set up a monthly standing order. This is by far the most costly option I have ever used. The minimum transaction cost is 2,500¥ for any amount (up to 500,000¥, I think). In addition, the currency conversation rates are so bad.. you lose money when converting from Yen to Dollars, and then again from Dollars to Kenyan Shillings. Furthermore, Standard Chartered Bank charged me Ksh. 1,000 to “process” the dollar transaction. It also took up to 4-5 working days for the money to arrive in my Kenyan bank account. I needed another option.
- Pros: can send directly to a bank account
- Cons: Extremely expensive transaction costs, terrible currency conversation rates, takes a long time to process, cannot send to mobile money e.g. M-Pesa
A friend told me about 7-Bank, under the same corporation that runs the 7-11 convenience stores. It basically works by sending the money to Western Union agents anywhere in the world, and your recipient can pick it up from there. The transaction costs are way less than that JP Post Bank and the currency conversation rates are friendly. You can also send money online, or via the ATM at the 7-11 convenience stores. The money is received almost instantly.
First though, you have to sign up and be verified and this can take up to 2 weeks. I think you may also need to be in the country for at least 6 months, but I’m not sure.. just check the terms and conditions when signing up. It’s been 3 years and I don’t remember very well.
Another option is to just go directly to Western Union agents and send the money; but I live in rural Japan and the nearest agent is a 45-min drive away. So 7-Bank was very convenient for me. However, I could not send directly to a bank account (you can if you’re sending to the Philippines and China, but not any other country). I would send the money to my brother and have him deposit it into my bank account in Kenya.
I used 7-Bank for quite a long time, almost 3 years. I knew it wasn’t the cheapest option but I had become complacent, sticking with what works. It costs 990¥ for transactions of below 10,000¥, 1500¥ for transactions above 10,000¥ but below 50,000¥ and 2,000¥ for transactions above that.
- Pros: cheaper transaction rates than EFT, better currency conversation rates, near-instant money transfer, ubiquitous 7-11 ATMs for sending money, online transactions possible
- Cons: cannot send money directly to bank account or MPesa, transaction rates are still high especially if you’re sending small amounts of money
You guys, I am not exaggerating neither am I getting paid to advertise WorldRemit, but I found my remittance solution. Just like 7-Bank above, it takes about one week to verify your account after you send your initial money (it is because of tough anti-fraud laws in Japan). After initial verification, subsequent transactions are handled immediately.
Let me just list the pros:
- Transaction costs for any amount: (virtually zero!) 1¥
- Can send to MPesa, Bank Account (KCB, StanChart, Equity, Barclays and National Bank), or Agent (Upesi Money Transfer, KCB, National Bank), or even airtime top up
- Fair currency conversation rates: I find them comparable to 7 Bank/Western Union
- Time to complete transaction: about 2 hours for MPesa, about 1 day for bank transfers
- You can send money online (only online)
I cannot find any cons!
- Alright, except for the initial verification which is required by Japanese law. This verification is only activated not upon signing up, but after you send them money for your first transaction. It would be better if they just verified you immediately after you sign up so that when you are ready to send money, you’re already verified but maybe they don’t want to waste resources on people who sign up but never use the service. So just be patient after that first transaction.
- You need to sign up for online banking from your bank if you haven’t already. When sending funds, you need to go to your online banking and send cash to the WorldRemit bank account. It’s easy to sign up for online banking, use Google Chrome to automatically translate the web pages into English for you if your Japanese ability isn’t up to par.
I hope this post will be helpful to someone!