Gots ta pay da bills yo
November 8, 2011 5:32 PM   Subscribe

How do I pay bills in the U.S. from an overseas account (Japan) without spending a lot (er, any, preferably) in wire transfer fees?

Hey ya'll. So, I'm now working in Japan. But, I've got a bunch of bills--school loans, credit cards--I still have to pay in the U.S. I would really rather not be spending ~$50 a month to transfer a chunk of money to pay more money to companies though. I've started playing around with Paypal accounts to try and figure out the best way to do it, but I'm not sure exactly how to manage it. Also, for the record, I have a Shinsei (Japanese, if it's not obvious) account and a USAA (American, if it's not obvious) bank account. My company direct-deposits my salary into my Shinsei account. I have a U.S. Paypal account, and I just signed up for the Mastercard Debit card they offer, which I'll have my folks send me as soon as it arrives. I've been thinking I'll get a Japanese Paypal account too pretty soon now.

You folks who have lived abroad (or in Japan in particular, if there are any peculiarities to living here and paying bills in the states) for long periods with bills due in the U.S. (or otherwise), how have you managed this? Any ideas?

posted by dubitable to Work & Money (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've used Currency Online a few times to move money back and forth between the USA and Australia -- I've had a few good experiences and it looks like they buy/sell Yen (I assume that's what you'd need?).

The exchange rates are approximately at market (they might be making a bit of money here, but it's not terrible compared to some alternatives I've seen) and charge around $12 per dispersement.

I actually created a new spot contract with them last night -- I'm getting paid in Australian dollars but still using my US credit cards, so I need to send cash back home to pay for the things I'm buying in Australia. Weird.

On the US end I wire money in and out of a Charles Schwab investment account.

If anyone has any better alternatives I'd love to hear.
posted by adamk at 6:10 PM on November 8, 2011

When I lived in Canada and sent money back to the States, I used XETrade. Rates were fair (somehow they built profit into the exchange, I don't know how), never had any problems. Bonus feature is you can get a paper foreign draft sent to anybody in the world, in any currency.
posted by calistasm at 6:16 PM on November 8, 2011

Are you able to predict, months in advance, what your U.S. bills will be? If so, you should probably transfer three times as much money a third as often, if you have the cash to spare.

Can your bank provide you with a draft in USD? Obtaining a USD draft and mailing it to USAA may cost significantly less than sending a wire. The obvious downside is that it takes much longer.

If you use XETrade, you should be able to send a domestic wire to their JPY account, and they will convert it to USD for you. If domestic wires are significantly cheaper for you than international wires, it may be worth looking into.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:21 PM on November 8, 2011

I lived in China, so I can't speak particularly about the specifics of Japanese accounts, but what I did was I'd save up good chunks of money (a few thousand dollars or so) and send it to my bank account in the States via Western Union, and pay my bills that way.
posted by so much modern time at 6:22 PM on November 8, 2011

If you know someone with a Paypal account I actually paid my fortnightly mortgage payments by transfering the money by Paypal from a US bank account to an Australian one so it was $8 or so a transfer instead of $25 the bank wanted. This worked because I had my Aussie bank account already linked to my Aussie paypal account and just used my husbands accounts here.

I did this for a year and a half and only had a problem when I got in a mess and sent a payment twice by mistake and sent some back to myself then Paypal contacted me for to see if I was money laundering a problem that was easily sorted out. I told the guy what I was doing and why and they didn't care. Their exchange rate isn't great but for the amounts I was doing about $400 a month it worked out way cheaper than any other option I could find.
posted by wwax at 6:32 PM on November 8, 2011

I use a paypal linked to Japan bank/cc, and another paypal linked to NZ bank, and do all my wires that way.
posted by lundman at 7:36 PM on November 8, 2011

Depending on how much you're sending, Go Lloyds' ¥2,000 fee can be a much lower percentage than, say, PayPal. I routinely send ¥100,000+ at a time to pay off student loans in the US, and at that point we're talking 2% on the total. PayPal comes to something like 3% plus 50¢ or something like that, so depending on how much you're transferring at a time, ¥2,000 can be enough of a drop in the bucket to not hurt (especially with how amazing the exchange rate is right now in favor of the yen).

But yeah, I recommend for that sort of thing. All the expats I know use them for their money-transferring needs.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:10 PM on November 8, 2011

When I was in Japan, I used the post office to send money to accounts in England. I remember it having a fixed, low price, but I can't remember what it was. Ibelieve my American friends did the same thing.

Worth calling in and asking them, anyway. Even in my rural, local post office, they had a translation guide into English for the forms, and the staff quite enjoyed doing something a bit different. Of course YMMV.
posted by fizban at 2:32 AM on November 9, 2011

When I was sending money home, I used the post office money transfer. I don't remember the kanji for it, but it was soukin in Japanese. Pretty low fee, decent exchange rate.

I'm intensely jealous, by the way, that you get to send money home when the yen is so stupendously strong. When I had my student loans to pay off, I think the strongest it ever got was 120 to the dollar, and was usually around 130.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:07 AM on November 9, 2011

The post office has pretty good rates, and it looks like USAA is okay with international wire transfers in. The bigger post offices had little pamphlets on it with English and all manner of other foreign language info. You probably want to tell them that you're looking to do a 国際送金(kokusaisoukin). As of last April it was 2500 yen for however much money you sent. The tiny local post offices couldn't/wouldn't do it for me though, so I'd look for the main local branch. They will tell you their exchange rate and send the money in USD.

My method of paying US bills was kind of a cop-out, in that I just left my dollar savings in a bank account in the US and used that to pay bills.
posted by that girl at 10:18 AM on November 9, 2011

I transfer money between Australia and the US with HSBC. I have to have separate accounts with them in each country, but they don't charge to move money between them. There is an HSBC Japan.
posted by retrograde at 2:19 AM on November 10, 2011

Back in the 90's when lots of Japanese tourists visited, they all used JCB credit cards here. After the initial catch up phase, I think it became as ubiquitous as Visa/Mastercard. Your organizations may accept it already. There is no currency conversion charge, just bills out at the daily exchange rate like your Visa/MC does when you travel in Europe.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 8:38 PM on November 10, 2011

Response by poster: Hi folks, thanks for all the great responses! I've heard some of these (like the GoLlyods suggestion, and the post office) before from other places too, but it's good to hear them again here. I'm going to try a few things and see what works best.
posted by dubitable at 3:48 AM on November 11, 2011

« Older These German historians would to like follow...   |   Traveling sober for the first time-- where should... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.