Friday, October 15, 2010

Finding your ATM bank balance in the land of the rising yen

By Carole Goldsmith Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved
Withdrawing cash from an ATM and getting your bank balance with a foreign (non Japanese) bank keycard is not so easy in Japan, unless you know how.

First - about the rising yen against the $Australian - As a regular traveler to Japan and an Australian, I have watched the rise of the Yen against the $Australian ($AUD) over the past 25 years. In 1981, my first trip to Japan, the rate was around Yen 300 to $1AUD. In 2008, $1AUD fetched Yen 105 and in early April 2009, $1AUD (cash) was buying only Yen58 and $1AUD (travelers checks) brought slightly a higher Yen rate of 67. So although prices are around the same in Japan for hotels, food and travel, because of the low $AUD against the rising yen, everything was costing me around 40 percent more than last year in April 2009.

Finding your bank balance and withdrawing cash in Japan
So getting back to the cash withdrawal and finding your bank balance at an ATM in Japan, it is more than a frustrating challenge. My ATM bank keycard has the Maestro and Cirrus symbols on the back .I can use that at bank ATMS in many other countries to withdraw cash and check my balance. This is not so easy in Japan. When I was staying in the Tennoji area of Osaka. I knew that I had been paid for a job back in Australia, so I went to the Post Office ATM to withdraw cash and check my balance. The ATM instructions were all in English and withdrawal was easy, the ATM slip gave me the withdrawal amount but no balance. I asked the postal staff how I could check my balance (zandaka in Japanese). They said that I could only check my balance if I had a Japan Post Account. Then I went nearby to the UFJ bank and tried my key card there. All instructions again in English, all went smoothly, but the ATM slip reported it was an invalid card and could not handle my transaction. I asked a bank staff member for assistance and they were very helpful and went through the ATM enquiry process with me, however my key card did not work in their machine.
I tried the ATM at Lawson’s Convenience store, but it was all in Japanese with no English version. I can read Hiragana and Katakana, but Kanji is a little difficult for me to master the bank instructions.

 Later I was walking around the Osaka Port Area and I came across a 711 store (and they are all around Japan). Much to my delight, there was an ATM with the Maestro and Cirrus symbols, plus instructions in English. Hooray, I could check my balance and withdraw cash; either transaction would cost me 210 Yen. The balance was in Yen or $USA. The friendly 711 staff lent me a calculator to convert my Yen balance to the $Aussie balance - I was happy, finally I had my current balance. I recall now seeing some advertising that 711 had ATM’s for Maestro and Cirrus cards.

711 to the rescue and a great help to travelers wanting to check their bank balance in Japan

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