Send Money Overseas from a Japan Post Bank ATM Machine Using Transferwise
Updated: Nov 15, 2019
How to use a Japan Post Bank ATM Machine to make an international bank transfer when English language settings are not available
As someone who has lived overseas on and off for the best part of 10 years, I have first-hand experience of how excruciatingly painful and frustrating it can be to move one's hard earned cash overseas. Anyone who's ever tried to move money back home from a foreign bank will know something about language barriers, impossibly complicated banking forms, hidden fees, crappy rates and that suffocating feeling of dread felt while waiting for a seemingly endless amount of days, worrying that your money has somehow been lost in the ether, never to be seen again.
Here in Japan it's no different. Banks can take 4-6 days to move your money for a fee of around 3000 yen and at an exchange rate considerably lower than that quoted on xe.com. When you're moving months of accumulated earnings, this can really add up. Of course, your transfer will only be successful if you have managed to leap the administrative hurdles before your yen goes anywhere. Most staff in Japanese banks have very limited to no English ability. Added to that, you may have to write your Japanese address in Kanji (Chinese characters) and then pray you have filled out the boxes correctly because any little mistake on the form and the bank will be calling your employer explaining that they couldn't make the transfer. Meanwhile, you could be on the other side of the world, feeling powerless and penniless. Believe me, I know; it happened to me!
In December 2016, two days before I was due to fly to the UK for Christmas, I sent home a considerable sum of money from my Japanese bank account to my UK bank account, using a standard international bank transfer. I was told the money would arrive in my UK account 4-6 days later. It did not. Everyday I checked my account to see if it had come through but it never did. So there I was, thousands of miles from Tokyo with no way of directly contacting the bank myself and no money in my account. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have some other savings to keep myself going until I was due to return to Japan in April 2017, but for others living paycheck to paycheck with no plan to return, this would have been disastrous. When I did return to Japan in the spring, I was told that I had written the IBAN number in the wrong box on the form. That is literally all it takes. Needless to say, I am not a fan of the archaic international banking system. That's why I feel I have an obligation to you, my fellow expats, to save you a huge amount of stress, time and cash by sharing the genius of Transferwise.
“...your money will arrive in your account at home the same day you send it, for the same rate as quoted on xe.com.”
Transferwise is a UK-based fintech startup that can promise your money will arrive in your account at home the same day you send it, for the same rate as quoted on xe.com and for a fee lower than or similar to the bank depending on how much you send AND you can do the transfer from an ATM machine in Japan without having to fill in any forms. Too good to be true? For a change, no...it's just awesome! I've used this successfully three times, transferring money from the Japan to the UK, and I just can't rave about it enough.
YOU CAN SIGN UP TO TRANSFERWISE HERE
By signing up with my link you can transfer up to £500 for FREE :D
How it Works
You're probably wondering how Transferwise is able to make same-day international bank transfers possible for such a small fee. Well, the truth is, they can't! That's right! I lied!. They don't actually make international bank transfers; they make domestic ones. Transferwise have bank accounts all over the world, including the UK and Japan. So, when I send money from Japan to the UK, my money doesn't go overseas using the usual channels. I actually send yen domestically from my Japanese account to Transferwise's Japanese account. Transferwise calculates the equivalent pound sterling, takes a small fee, and then instructs their UK account to pay my UK account in pound sterling on the other side. The money never actually goes overseas meaning the lengthy international banking protocols are avoided.
Once you have signed up via the app or the website, you need to verify your identity and address. This blog will only focus on making a transfer with Transferwise from a Japan Post Bank ATM, so I won't explain the whole verification procedure. All I will say is it's pretty straightforward and all the details are on Transferwise's website here. It will take a few days, so if you want to send money soon, get cracking on this asap.
To set up a payment, I highly recommend downloading the Transferwise app. It has a handy calculator that shows you exactly how much it will cost you to make a transfer depending on how much you send. Here are some example figures in the image below. As you can see, when sending lower amounts, the fee can be a lot less than the bank.
Pay by Bank Transfer
When you've set up a payment, you'll receive bank details like those below which should include the name of the bank, the branch, account type account number and the all-important Transferwise reference number which beings with 'P'. Now you're ready to go to the ATM machine.
Hmm...Ok, there is one little catch. Yes, you can make a transfer the same-day; yes, it's cheap; yes, you don't have to set foot in the bank; yes, the ATM's language setting must be in Japanese... WHAT? Yes, unfortunately, all Japan Post Bank ATM's have an English setting, however you cannot (at time of writing) make a transfer with Transferwise using the ATM set to English. But don't worry my no-nihon-go expat friends, that's why I wrote this blog to help you. Follow the steps below, paying attention to the circled buttons in the screenshots.
STEP 1: This is the first screen you should see on a Japan Post Bank ATM. Press the button circled in red.
STEP 2: Again, press the button circled in red. I've done this on several machines and it's always the button at the bottom. If in doubt, match the kanji on your screen with that in my picture.
STEP 3: Hit the big green button in the bottom right to proceed
STEP 4: Now it's time to look at the bank details you received from Transferwise after setting up your payment. This step is where you choose the bank name. In this case it's 三菱ＵＦＪ銀行.
STEP 5: Select the first character of the branch name. Tokyo transfers are from the EBISU branch, therefore click 'エ' in this case. If you don't know katakana, ask a nice Japanese friend or colleague to help you.
STEP 6: Here is a list of branches in Kanji that begin with 'エ' when pronounced. The EBISU branch is on the second page, so press the button in the bottom right hand corner.
STEP 7: It should be the button on the left of two options. If it's different, pay attention to the Kanji. You should be able to match it with the characters displayed on the app. This is the Kanji for EBISU branch.
STEP 8: This page asks you to select account type. Select the top option 普通 /futsuu/
*On the TW app, it will say 'Current account' in English. If you type current account in Google translate, you will get 当座 which is the second button on the screen, but you should not select that one. #followthekanji
STEP 9: Input the account number. In my case 0785985. Again, if you're in Tokyo, it will likely be the same. Carefully double check.
STEP 10: Input the amount you want to send. It should be exactly the same amount as on the payment you set up online. As usual, press the big green button in the bottom right to proceed.
STEP 11: There is a small fee of 432yen to use this ATM service. Again, hit the BGB.
STEP 12: OK, this is the most important part of all. You need to input the special Transferwise reference number that begins with the letter P. When you see this page, it will show your name in katakana. The natural reaction is to click YES/はい to confirm that it is indeed you, which I did once, of course. However, YOU MUST PRESS NO ( いいえ/YELLOW BUTTON) as circled in the picture, so you can input the Transferwise reference number.
STEP 13: Press the button circled in the image to change the text to the Roman alphabet plus Arabic numerals.
STEP 14: Press the yellow button to delete your katakana name and then input the all-important Transferwise reference number. You can also press the same yellow button if you make a mistake. Proceed as usual.
STEP 15: Input your phone number here. If you don't have one, I suggest using a friend's. After 3 successful transfers, I've never had a call or any other type of contact via phone from the bank or Transferwise.
STEP 16: BIG GREEN BUTTON!
STEP 17: Finally, check the details you've entered are correct. If you've made a mistake, simply press the necessary yellow button to go back to amend it.
STEP 18: This screen asks if you want to save the details for next time. Click the yellow button for NO and you're done!
When your transfer has been successful, you will receive an e-mail from Transferwise informing you they have received your money. This will followed by a second email letting you know that your cash has been sent, and is now in your overseas account.
You can check the progress of the transaction in the app. As you can see from the image below, this transaction took less than 5 hours for the money to move. Awesome!
Hopefully this blog was useful to you. If you need anything clarifying, send me a message through my social accounts.
Thanks for reading and happy transfers.