Things to Know: MoneyTokyo, Spring 2012
Quick - look at the back of your debit card. Does it have the words PLUS or STAR on it? Congrats – that means you can use it overseas! This will make your life a lot easier. Now, IES states that you should arrive in Japan with a few hundred dollars worth of yen. You could do this by exchanging money in your home country and subsequently get ripped off by the ‘commission’ you are charged alongside the exchange rate. Or, you could do it my way and simply withdraw money from the ATM machine in the airport once you arrive in Japan. You’ll still be charged a fee, but the exchange rate, in the end, will be much more favorable. Plus, depending on your bank, your withdrawal fee may be waived. I use PNC bank and as long as I keep $2000 in my bank account, they will refund all withdrawal fees (which usually add up to around 30-50 dollars for a semester). I recommend taking out the max you can withdraw every time you use the ATM’s. This protects your money from currency changes (if the yen drops in value, your cash stays the same), and it also saves you from too many ATM withdrawal fees that will be issued by your bank. You don’t need to carry all the money with you – store it someplace safe for emergencies. Before you leave, you’ll need to make sure to call your bank to make sure they know you’re traveling overseas. If you forget, the bank may freeze your card and you may be unable to make withdrawals. Also, if you can, I recommend temporarily adding a parent or guardian to your bank account. I did this with my mother and she was able to not only keep track of my money when I couldn’t, but it also enabled her to deposit money into my account with ease. It’s nice not having to worry about finances while overseas. Finally, Japan is expensive. You’re going to need spending money. If you don’t intend to take many trips, party a lot, or do lots of fun things, you’ll probably be able to get by with $3000 for the whole semester. This is what I did for my first semester and ultimately I regretted it. All of my friends were able to run around and do fun things while I was stuck eating dorm food and finding places close-by to occupy myself. If you want to have some serious fun, I recommend having at least $6000 to play around with. That should enable you to travel, eat what you want to eat, party where you want to party, and buy cool things. As always, leave questions in the comments box (if you have them) and I will be sure to answer them.
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