Cheap Options to Transfer Money in and out of Japan

I had been using Citibank global online account for a number of years to transfer money from Singapore to Japan because of the zero handling charges until Citigroup decided to sell its retail banking services to SMBC Trust Bank under the brand name Prestia. Fortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that I can still transfer money to my now Prestia account from overseas Citibank accounts without incurring unnecessary processing fees.

I usually transfer SGD from my Singapore account to my friend’s account in Singapore, and they will transfer that amount to my Japanese account with their Citibank accounts. It sounds like a lot of work, but I feel it’s worth the trouble to save on the unnecessary charges and thankfully, I have friends who are willing to do that for me and whom I can trust to transfer my money to. So if you have good friends or family members who have Citibank accounts at home (or even you yourself), you can try opening a Prestia account in Japan to avoid having to pay fees during fund transfers. Note that my account was converted from Citibank to Prestia due to the takeover so I’m not sure if the rules are different for new accounts (although I think it’s the same).

The downside of using the Citibank-Prestia account transfers to send money between Singapore and Japan is that, while you can convert your SGD to JPY via Citibank before transferring to Prestia, the option is not available the other way round. This is because Prestia doesn’t give you the option to convert your cash to SGD. Your next best option is USD but what use is USD if you’re going to send it back to Singapore? Does that mean it’s only a one-way transfer then?

For the Citibank-Prestia method, it appears to be so. However, a fintech startup called Transferwise allows you to convert almost any currency to almost any other currency and send the money to the designated bank account in many countries around the world. Of course, there’s handling fee here but at between 0.5 to 1 percent, it’s supposed to be cheaper than most bank transfer options, so sending $500 would cost you $5. Conversion is also done at the prevailing rate and you are actually changing with people who want your currency. I haven’t used Transferwise myself because as much as possible, I still do not want to pay handling charges, so unless I urgently want my money back in SGD, my other option would be to wait till my next return before bringing some cash back to change manually.

Cheap, right?


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