Once you have your Residence Card, you are ready to set up your bank account. Some banks require a hanko as well, but others such as Citibank and Shinsei Bank don’t – you can just use a normal signature. Your supervisor or one of the English teachers at your school should go with you and help you set up your account. Most schools/BOEs require that you use a designated bank since they usually deposit your salary automatically every month, so you may not have the opportunity to choose which bank to use.
Many JETs set up a postal saving account in addition to their normal banking account. This can be more convenient since Postal ATMs are open longer than most bank ATMs (at least in more rural areas), are always free of charge unlike other banks that may charge a fee during certain peak hours (see chart below), and you can use your postal account nationwide (many local banks do not have branches outside of Hyogo.) Also, all postal ATMs have an English button, where as many rural bank ATMs are Japanese only. To sign up for an account, just go to any post office with your Residence Card and a minimum deposit (¥10 will suffice.) You can sign the form using your signature so you don’t need your hanko.
Most banks in Japan are open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Thursday, but close at 3:00 pm on Fridays. Banks are not open on weekends or national holidays.
The Best Banks
Shinsei Bank is a shining light within the archaic Japanese banking system:
- Online banking/website in English
- No account maintenance fees
- Free transactions on many ATMs in Japan (please check their website)
- ATM cards are on the Plus System, meaning you can withdraw from your Japanese account overseas
- Branches open for longer hours at much more convenient times
- No hanko needed – your signature is fine
Even if you have to use a designated bank account for your salary, a Shinsei account still comes in very handy – especially if you go overseas. You will not be able to withdraw money overseas with many other bank ATM cards.
If you are far away or don’t want to go into a branch to open an account, you can just do it online. Opening an account in Motomachi is a great experience though – you sit down, put in your details, and they make your ATM card for you on the spot. You even get to pick your favourite colour.
Citibank also has excellent features:
- ATM cards are on the Plus System for overseas access
- Website/service in English
- No hankering for a hanko
However, the basic account has a monthly maintenance fee of approx. 2000 yen if the average balance is below 500,000 yen, and fees apply when using your card at most non-Citibank ATMs. If you’re going to keep a bit of money in it and use Citibank ATMs (and perhaps when traveling overseas) it’s worthwhile, but otherwise it comes second to Shinsei Bank.
- Balance Inquiry – 残高照会 (zan-daka-sho-kai)
- Bank – 銀行 (gin-ko)
- Bank Account – 口座 (ko-za)
- Bank Account Number – 口座番号 (ko-za-ban-go)
- Bank Branch Number – 店番号 (mise-ban-go)
- Bankbook – 通帳 (tsu-cho)
- Bankbook Update – 通帳記入 (tsu-cho-ki-nyu)
- Cancel – 手続き取り消し (te-tsuzuki-tori-keshi)
- Change/Correct/Revise – 訂正 (tei-sei)
- Confirm – 確認 (kaku-nin)
- Deposit – お預け入れ (o-azuke-ire)
- 1Direct Cash Transfer – お振り替え (o-furi-kae)
- 2Transfer – お振り込み (o-furi-komi)
- Withdrawal – お引き出し (o-hiki-dashi)
- Withdrawal after checking balance – 残高照会後お引き出し (zan-daka-sho-kai-go o-hiki-dashi)
- Yen – 円 (en)
- ￥1,000 notes – 千 (sen)
- ￥10,000 notes – 万 (man)
ATM Hours & Fees
Major urban banks sometimes have 24-hour ATMs available, but most ATMs will typically close at 7:00 pm on weekdays, at 5:00 pm on Saturdays, and have limited afternoon hours on Sundays. Many convenience stores have ATMs, and these are usually open later.
ATMs charge different fees depending on the day and time you use them, and whether or not you are using your own bank’s machine or that of another bank:
|Monday – Friday||Saturday||Sunday|
|Time of Day||Before 6 pm||After 6 pm||9am – 2pm||2pm-5pm||Varies|
- Your ATM card cannot be used as a debit card. If you wish to use a card for purchases, you must apply for a credit card. It can be difficult for foreigners to be approved for credit cards in Japan, but you might be lucky. Try applying for a credit card at the bank where you have an account, or make a postal savings account and apply for one then. The post office seems to give credit cards to foreigners more readily than many other (especially rural) banks.
- Personal checking does not exist in Japan. If you wish to send money to someone else, you must ask for their bank account details and then perform a bank transfer into that person’s account using your bank ATM.
- When you make a bank transfer into someone else’s account, you will be asked if you want to record a transaction. This recording saves all of the details of the particular transfer and will save you the time of entering all the information again if you make another transfer to the same bank account again in the future.
- Japanese banks do not send their customers bank statements each month. Instead, it is up to you to regularly update your bankbook (“tsucho”), which takes the place of a bank statement, by inserting it into your bank’s ATM. It is a good idea to do this a few times a month. If you wait a few months between updates, you will have to wait for ages as it prints out pages and pages of transactions.
- Choose the transaction you want to make before you put your card in (if you just put your card in without making a selection, it will automatically take you to the withdrawals screen.)
- When making a withdrawal, enter the amount you want followed by the yen key (円). You will receive your card and receipt first and then the cash.
- You will be asked after making a deposit whether or not you want a receipt. It is a probably a good idea to get one in case you ever need to dispute a transaction.
- When you deposit cash at the ATM, you don’t need a bank deposit slip. Just put the money in the slot (some even accept coins, but confirm this before you put them in), enter the amount you are depositing on the screen, and that’s that.
- ATMs give withdrawals in ¥1,000 and ¥10,000 bills.
Withdrawals from Your Home Country Account
If you want to withdraw money from your home country checking account, you have three options: post office ATMs, Citibank, or 7-11. For post office ATMs, push the English button, and follow the cues to withdraw from your home account. You can choose from either your savings or checking account. For Citibank, visit the following URL for a list of Citibank branches in Japan: www.citibank.co.jp/en. In addition, al 7-11 ATMs now allow withdrawls from foreign accounts.
A guide to using Japanese ATM’s is available here. Please note, this file should be used as a general, in-principle guide for using an ATM in Japan. It was compiled for use with a specific bank, and it is highly likely that the steps/screens your bank will use are different. That being said, many of the general principles and kanji are the same so this guide should be of use to you.