JCT Tips - Currency Exchange

Money Money Money

We see a lot of people confused or misinformed about exchange rates and where to swap their money into yen. Sometimes it is easy to make an exchange at an airport, but some of the exchange places do not provide the best option or value for money. The following provides a bit of guidance.

The examples below use the difference between the buy and sell rates for cash (notes). We have taken quotes from public sources and actual rates will change from time to time, and vary between country and the exchange service you use. The important measure is not necessarily the rate on a given day, but the spread in the buy and sell rates - generally the lower the better.

Summary:

For

Airports:

Most people travelling to Japan will be arriving at Narita. Haneda (Tokyo) and Osaka/Kansai are two other common arrival points. As an international gateway, there are several money exchange places that offer a service for people arriving and departing. Narita airport no longer includes a link to exchange rates (as at mid-2017), but a representative rate can be found at MUFG http://www.bk.mufg.jp/gdocs/kinri/list_j/kinri/kawase.html The following table shows the cash buy and sell rates, and the spread as extracted on 17 Aug 2015.

 

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Currency Code Sell Buy Spread
US dollars USD 127.23 121.43 4.8%
Euro EUR 142.81 134.81 5.9%
Canadian dollars CAD 103.86 86.66 19.8%
UK pound GBP 206.33 182.33 13.2%
Swiss franc CHF 132.47 122.67 8.0%
Danish krone DKK 20.89 16.29 28.2%
Norwegian krone NOK 17.46 12.86 35.8%
Sweedish krone SEK 17.09 12.29 39.1%
Australian dollar AUD 101.47 82.07 23.6%
New Zealand dollar NZD 90.19 72.79 23.9%
South Korean Won KRW 1213 913 32.9%
Hong Kong dollar HKD 18.48 13.62 35.7%
Singapore dollar SGD 94.87 83.21 14.0%
Thai baht THB 4.00 3.06 30.7%

The two images below show the rates at Narita from February 2015. The first board quotes 122.94/111.97 and the second quotes USD rates as 121.90/116.10. It should be fairly easy to see that the first exchange has a spread of 9.8% between rates while the second one is only a 5.0% spread. Assuming the middle is the real rate, the difference here is 2.5% or $25 on USD1,000 for the sake of knowing which window to walk to. In this case the MUFG rates are better.

Narita Exchange Board Narita Exchange Board2

A couple of the other currencies are worth looking at:

In Japan - Banks:

MUFG (24 Mar 2015)

SMBC (24 Mar 2015)

Before you leave:

The following rates are picked off various banks web sites. We have included New Zealand because that is where we are based, and we are pretty happy with the local rates (compared to our neighbours in Australia). In case you get confused about which rate is which, it is always the one where the bank wins and you lose (sorry about that).

US Dollars

Quotes retrieved 24 Mar 2015.

Canadian Dollars

Quotes retrieved 17 Aug 2015.

Australian Dollars

Quotes retrieved 24 Mar 2015.

British Pounds

Quotes retrieved 24 Mar 2015.

New Zealand Dollars

Quotes retrieved 24 Mar 2015.

Hotel Currency Exchange:

Don't - I am yet to see any hotel have anything close to a reasonable conversion rate.