Banking in Japan – Overseas Transfers

Terebi Madoguchi

I remember some 20 years ago, in a local bank in countryside Japan, spending a whole morning sending some money to my account back home to make a payment on my student loan. To say the process was complicated would be an understatement. I hate to say it, but if you tried to do the same thing from the same bank today, it probably wouldn’t be any easier! So here are a few things I have learned over the years, and some quite recently, on the art of making overseas bank transfers from Japan.

Firstly, if you can avoid doing it from a bank in the middle of the countryside, that probably doesn’t get a lot of call for overseas bank wires, then that will make things easier. I know not everyone lives in Central Tokyo but if you have a trip to a larger town or city planned, you might want to do your overseas banking then.

Secondly, you will need a lot of detail on the account you are sending to, including: bank name, bank address, beneficiary name, beneficiary address, account number, SWIFT code, and IBAN number if available. If it is not a bank account in your own name you will need to explain what the purpose of the transfer is. If you have documentation supporting this, such as an invoice, that will help. Oh and don’t forget your hanko! (chop / seal)

Recently banks are very sensitive about sending money to “third party” accounts. So if you have an investment with ABC company overseas and you are sending money to that company’s account so they can credit your investment account, it’s a good idea to have some kind of proof that you have an account with ABC. (like a copy of a statement) In some cases banks have still refused to send money to third parties if they are not on the Ministry of Finance’s list of accepted institutions…If this is the case I suggest sending to your own account overseas first, or setting up an overseas account for this purpose.

I haven’t researched the overseas transfer process for all banks in Japan. I bank with Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ and I recently found that they have a few more options for executing transfers than previously:

At the counter: This is the old school method. You need to fill in the overseas transfer form with the details of the account you want to wire money to. If you are not used to it then you may need some help filling in the form. You may also need some Japanese language ability or a translator to talk to the staff. Cost 4,500 yen.

At the “Terebi Madoguchi”: You may notice that your bank now has a little cubicle equipped with a computer screen and phone inside. This is not a tardis-like time machine, although you may be in there a while the first time! You can input the transfer details into the computer and talk to staff on the phone if you get stuck. This is likely to require some pretty advanced Japanese skills or help from a native speaker, but if you are able to work it all out it you can save 1,000 yen per transfer. Cost 3,500 yen. Transfer limit of 5 million yen.

Online registration: Instead of writing the transfer details on the form by hand, you can register them first online and then print and take to the counter. This allows you to save the transfer details for future use, so it could be handy if you send money to the same account regularly. Cost 3,500 yen.

Transfer through online banking: If you have never used Japanese online banking then this one is for the patient only. The process is as follows:

  • Register the transfer details on online banking
  • Bank will request supporting documentation, such as your ID / My Number
  • Send documents back to the bank by post
  • Once registered you can login and send money from the comfort of your home
  • Takes around 2 weeks to set up
  • Cost 2,500 yen per transfer. Transfer limit of 1 million yen per day and 5 million yen per month

I would be interested to hear if anyone has experience with other banks in Japan. I understand that Shinsei bank has online banking in English, and has a GoRemit service with a charge of 2,000 yen per remittance. Could be the way to go for newcomers!

 

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