So you're in Japan now, what happens when you want to get a local bank account? - Waku Waku

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So you're in Japan now, what happens when you want to get a local bank account?

Lifestyle

So you're in Japan now, what happens when you want to get a local bank account?

I’m sure going to stay on a medium to long term basis in any country, one would need a bank account. So what is it like to interact with Japan banks? Read and find out!

Nikky

Nikky

Published on 13 Mar, 12:00

First to start off, some background on Japan banks:

There are roughly about 200 banks in Japan, but the three megabanks are Mizuho bank, Mitsubishi bank and Sumitomo Mitsui bank. Sometimes Resona bank is included in the list and the four will be called the "mega 4".

One of the main reasons people choose these banks is because of their widespread of ATM's across Japan, as cash withdrawal can be costly if you start to withdraw from other bank's ATM.

So where do we start, of course, to open an account!

To open a bank account in Japan, one would need the following:

1. Hanko (personal stamp)

2. Residence card

3. Any other documents required by the specific bank

An example of bank account application form, my own example when I was applying
An example of bank account application form, my own example when I was applying

Because Japan bank's becoming much stricter than in previous years, the four megabanks above mentioned usually also require the applicant to have lived in Japan for at least 6 months or more, which when foreigners become a legal resident in Japan.

One thing to be prepared for is to have your Hanko (personal stamp) ready as it is extremely important for applying for a bank account in Japan. It basically acts as a signature and authorization for your bank account.

Some banks such as the Post Bank (ゆうちょ銀行) may allow foreigners, who have not resided in Japan for more than 6 months) to open accounts but with limited functions.

So what are the limited functions?

Limited functions can be such as limitations on internet transactions. You cannot swipe the cash card at stores or restaurants, cannot withdraw cash overseas etc (it may differ from each bank and each individual)

My personal experience was that I couldn't do anything other than withdrawing from ATM's and also receive my overseas money into my Japanese account.

But you would ask if there are limited functions, when would you need a bank account in Japan?

Usually, digital payment methods in Japan, such as Linepay, Rakuten pay etc. would sometimes require a bank account to be tied to. Some centres such as boxing gyms, yoga studios would also require bank account information when applying for membership.

Most importantly to receive your wage/salary from your part-time work or to receive money from your family overseas, especially for students studying in Japan.

Receiving my card by post, initial cash card
Receiving my card by post, initial cash card

So what have I experienced?

During my first month in Japan, I tried applying for a bank account at the Post bank (mentioned above) and was rejected due to not being in the country for more than 6 months and my lack of ability with the Japanese language.

In the second month because I was enrolled and studying at Waseda University, so the University organized a group session to apply for bank accounts for students with their cooperating bank.

Although I managed to get a bank account, my functions were limited. However, after being in the country for 6 months, the bank called me to go to the bank to receive a new card that had a wider range of functions. So, my card changed from a cash card to a debit card which had a visa logo upon it.

I could start using the online payment functions, swipe the card for purchases and transfer money to pay for my apartment rental.

An example of a passbook from the bank, my own passbook
An example of a passbook from the bank, my own passbook

So how do banks in Japan usually contact you? One thing that foreigners dread in Japan is to receive a call in Japanese!

I found this one particularly interesting, in my home country the bank would usually call or send an email or short message service but in Japan, a lot of the transactions done are notified through post mail.

Only since I started using the bank app (after being in Japan for 6 months, this function was activated) I started receiving email notifications. So sometimes if I missed the post and when my family sent me money from overseas, I could only go check my balance on ATM machines to confirm if the money has arrived yet.

** One more friendly reminder is that once your residence card expires, the bank will contact you via post to confirm your new residency status and you will need to send back your new residency card. Failing to do so will result in your account getting blocked!

Letter from the bank requesting a renewal of residency status, an example I received in the post
Letter from the bank requesting a renewal of residency status, an example I received in the post

Lastly, overall how do I feel about the bank system in Japan?

  • The banking industry is a lot stricter and formal than in my home country
  • The system can be not so user friendly for foreigners, especially if Japanese language ability is limited
  • There is a lot of paperwork to be filled out so if you find yourself unfamiliar with paperwork in Japan and kanji then its best to take a friend who can communicate and read Japanese to help you out!

Some useful words in Japanese relating to banks:

So you're in Japan now, what happens when you want to get a local bank account?

Hope you find it useful and see you soon in my next article!

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Nikky

Nikky

Born: Taiwan Raised & Education: South Africa Background: Int Telecommunications. Currently living: Tokyo, Japan. Studied @ Waseda university. Current Job: @Tokyo in Technology Consultancy. Interests: Love exercise, Food, travels! Follow me for more insight into Japan life!

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