The Best Ways to Send Money to and From Japan [Ranked by Convenience and Risk]

by Doc Kane
Updated: June 7, 2021

Need to transfer money to Japan? Just a year ago, getting money from an overseas family member, business colleague, or even from your own bank account was a far more complicated and complex process than it is today in June of 2021.

Online remittance companies like TransferWise (Now, Wise), OFX and even capital transfer stalwart, Western Union have reduced barriers to entry for consumers, putting a lot of heat on banking institutions to complete. No longer to banks (or, even Western Union in days of ol') have a stranglehold on consumers when it comes to transferring money overseas for a variety of purposes.

In this assessment of your options for transferring money abroad, I'll take a look at the most common methods for sending money from one country to another with a focus on Japan.

Some of these services I have used personally, some I have yet to try. The list is organized as best as possible by ease of use, with a particular attention paid to customer support, and lastly risk. I say risk, last, because each of these options are regulated industries, so the degree of risk you might experience should be no less than shopping at home with your credit card. Later references to cash and checks up the risk level a bit, which is why they are posted last.

Okay, lets get on with the research.

1. Online Remittance Services

Since the vast majority of modern money transfer language is derived from terms bandied about in the banking and accounting industries that most of us aren't that famliar with, let's first begin with a quick definition: what exactly is a remittance? Simply put, a remittance is the transfer or receipt of money from one party to another.

The word remittance takes its root from the word remit, which among other variances, simply means to send money. So, any transaction as simple as sending a bill, or handing over money to someone else, is by defninition, a remittance.

Online remittance services, then, are businesses that operate in the financial tech sector (FinTech) that help facilitate the transfer of money between businesses and individuals, and for the purpose of this article, overseas.

Throughout the last decade, vast sums of investment capital have been funneled into FinTech firms with the aim of democratizing access to money throughout the world, while at the same time leveraging the antiquated systems of traditional brick and mortar banking institutions that have prevented them from moving quickly in this same regard. And, as such, firms like Transferwise, OFX, MoneyGram, WorldRemit, Remitly, and Ria, to name a few, have (along with their nascent customer base) been reaping the rewards.

These online remittance providers have removed the obstacles and typical inflated fees from their operations, making transactions smoooth, intuitive, and affordable. For those with a smart phone, sending money anywhere in the world is now available at the tap of a finger upon one's smart phone.

2. Multi-currency Accounts

Even simpler in some ways than transferring money from one person to another, or from one business to another, some vendors (like TransferWise) have established borderless, multi-currency accounts that allow account holders to store any number of national currencies on a single card. This provides numerous advantages to business professionals who do a lot of international travel (or, who used to), and to freelancers, and nomads who want to save on exchange rates while on the road.

These accounts, which typically exist as a phone app, or a physical card, make debit card transactions seamless, and help the holder of the account avoid the type of unnecessary markups that are often associated with purchasing overseas—even purchases made online.

If you have ever been traveling overseas and had to pay for the privlege of withdrawing money from your own account, or have a loved one in school, or working overseas, you'll quickly recognize how significant a benefit a borderless card provides.

As I live in Japan, I personally use the Borderless Account from TransferWise. The cost to me was only 12 USD, and now I can use the card for any sort of travel I'll be able to do once the world opens up again, with the ability to spend in 60 currencies.

3. Electronic Funds Transfer

The most familiar of all money transfer opportunities is the now ubiquitious electronic funds transfer. Domestic transfers for bill pay and peer-to-peer payments are largely accomplished through the payment funcionality provided to us by own own banks.

4. Physical Remittance Services

5. Online Payment Providers

6. Payment Service Providers

7. Personal Checks

8. Money Orders & Travelers Checks

9. Cash

10. Payment Systems

11. The Verdict—TL;DR

Doc Kane from Nihon Hustle

About Me

Howdy, all, I'm Doc. I live in the beautiful port city of Kobe, JAPAN with my wife Reiko. Together we co-founded the Japanese literature translation firm, Maplopo. Nihon Hustle grew out of my desire to help others interested in working with, or starting, a business Japan—or anywhere else in the world!

We all wear different hats and my job is to help you find the one that fits you best. Thanks for reading, and go get 'em!