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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  1. This is extremely helpful. I wish I had known about credit/debit cards the first time I went to Japan. I literally came with no more than $600 which was worth next to nothing. $6000 seems a little excessive to me to have even if you store it “safely”, but if you have that kind of money then that’s perfectly fine.

    I am more concerned this time around with being able to pay tuition. Due to extenuating circumstances, my four-year scholarship here may not pay for my study abroad even though this study abroad is expected of me. Hopefully things work out, otherwise I’ll be taking out substantial loans because I really should go back to Japan before long.

    I hope you are enjoying yourself Sarah. Keep on blogging!!!

  2. Hi Lindsay!

    The $6000 mark isn’t meant to be kept in cash – I merely suggest that amount to be kept in a bank account and to be drawn from when necessary. As things are going now, even I won’t have that much with me (too many unexpected expenses recently), but I’ve decided to forgo most traveling and just chill in Tokyo.

    I hope things work out for you! Japan is an amazing place (most of the time) and I know it would suck to miss out on returning. Good luck, and thanks for the comment!

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