October 3, 2015
The first 2 trips to Japan, I exchanged my dollars for yen at the airport. Upon further inspection of travel sites, I see everybody says the airport rates suck and the best yen for your buck can be obtained by ATMs in Japan with a no-foreign-transaction-fee card. Well, this time around I just wanted the peace of mind of getting my yen ahead of time. There’s the Florida Exchange in Tampa, but we just went to a Chase bank closer to home. Same rates, basically.
We had been holding on to this 50% off exchange fee coupon for the Florida Exchange place. When I called them up, turns out that means 50% off $5. Woo. So it’s not the “fee” that really mattered, it was the rate. The dollar was getting close to 120 that day (it’s been kind steady lately at that amount or 119ish), but the rate these guys were offering was like 94% of that. Still good to get my hands on my money before the trip. One less thing to worry about.
2017 update: When I left late March, the yen was at 113 per dollar. Not terrible. This time I tried the ATM method, but after another bit of research, my Discover Card with no foreign transaction fees is not accepted at the machines. Ugh. Which meant I had to use a VISA we got from Chase for this purpose, but then I see this article on NerdWallet. I thought it was all about the type of card- VISA or MasterCard. But no, the bank really matters. So Chase gives you a 3% ATM fee and 3% transaction fee. Which ends up being close to inside-US money exchanging, like I did above. Next time, I need to pursue getting a card through Navy Federal- waaaaay better rates.
By the way, you need to know that the places to find ATMs for foreign transactions is at 7-11 and the Post Office (a.k.a. 〒). Armed with this knowledge, I popped into a random 7-11 when I needed cash and was crestfallen there was no English button. What?? This isn’t the way it was on YouTube!!
Now what? Okay, back to YouTube. I carefully studied this guy:
Okay, this guy literally shows the Kyoto’s main Post Office, which is right outside Kyoto Station. I was in Nijo, and that’s right down the street, so to speak. I go in, and it happened just like in the video. Easy English Guide button, easy withdraw. They tell you there may be some transaction fees, but they don’t calculate that then and there. I don’t even think that popped up on my online banking reports right away. I think it took a few days. I was so hopeful somehow I escaped all the fees, but haha, no such luck.
Anyway, I think next time, if I can’t find a handy post office, I’ll just look for 7-11’s in a more touristy, station-centric location.
I didn’t budget much money for my last day, the airport day, and I regret it. But fortunately, you can use your Suica card (train pass/train debit) to get stuff out of many vending machines, so I widdled away a few of the dregs I had on the card on Coolish and royal milk tea.