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I have some money I saved up in my Japanese bank account from my time working there and I avoided transferring it so far for fears of losing 4-5% form bad bank conversion rates.

I don't know much about credit card payments in foreign currencies, but if something like using my Japanese credit card to buy myself things like a car in Canada and "use" all my money little by little instead of transferring it, I wonder if that would be a way to avoid the whole mess, or would the credit card company charge me fees and nasty exchange rates as well?

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but if something like using my Japanese credit card to buy myself things like a car in Canada

A specific case of car, there may not be many dealers who would offer it as they loose around 2.5%. i.e. if you swipe for 100, the merchant only gets around 97.5 or 98. So he may sell the car at higher rate and not negotiate even if accepting cards.

"use" all my money little by little instead of transferring it,

You can use it little by little for other purchases.

would the credit card company charge me fees and nasty exchange rates as well?

Yes the card companies do charge. There is a Fx conversion applied by card network [Visa/Master] plus a spread by your Bank. In past this was quite high. Today it is more in line with normal banking fx exchange rates.

  • If credit cards use rates similar to banks...I would be better off transferring everything with wire transfer one time, then use it normally? Buying stuff instead of transferring the money will never be a more "profitable" solution? – stack reader Mar 15 '17 at 9:12
  • @stackreader Yes it would make sense to wire transfer. Buying stuff is not profitable, in fact there may be small loss. Banks generally give a better rate for large amount than standard, you speak to someone in the Branch. Card companies apply standard rates. – Dheer Mar 15 '17 at 10:01
  • Only partly correct. There are many credit cards that offer fee-free (and no-spread) international charges, so you could effectively use up your money at interbank exchange rates, which is the best possible rate to get. – Aganju Mar 15 '17 at 12:31

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