Navigating the banking system in a foreign country can be a daunting task. This is especially true in Japan, where language barriers and unique banking practices can create challenges for foreigners. This guide aims to simplify the process of opening a bank account in Japan for expats.
Why Open a Bank Account in Japan?
Having a Japanese bank account is crucial for foreigners living in Japan. It facilitates daily transactions such as paying bills, making purchases, and withdrawing money from ATMs. Most employers in Japan will only pay their employees through direct deposit into a bank account. Additionally, having a bank account in Japan can make it easier to receive international money transfers and send money to other countries.
Moreover, if you’re planning to rent an apartment in Japan, most landlords and management companies require tenants to have a Japanese bank account for the monthly rent payment. This is because the rent is typically deducted automatically from the tenant’s bank account each month. Therefore, having a Japanese bank account is not just a convenience, but a necessity for living and working in Japan.
Eligibility and Requirements
To open a bank account in Japan, foreign residents must have a residence card (zairyu card) to complete their application. Only foreign residents with long-term visas (over 6 months) and those who have resided for longer than 6 months in Japan can apply.
The requirements for opening an account differ from bank to bank. In general, you may need your passport, resident card (zairyu card), a certificate of residence (jyuminhyo from your local townhall), your personal seal (inkan/hanko), your telephone number (fixed line or mobile), verification of your address (like a copy of your electricity or water bill or envelopes addressed to you), a business card or other verification document that shows your name in katakana.
Understanding Different Types of Bank Accounts
Before you proceed with opening a bank account, it’s important to understand the different types of accounts available to you. Here are some of the most common types of accounts:
- General deposit account (Futsu yokin): This is the most common type of account for everyday banking needs.
- General savings (Tsujo chokin): This is a post office account and generates a slightly higher rate of interest than a general deposit account.
- Time deposit account (Teiki yokin): These accounts usually have higher rates of interest but may require notice for withdrawals.
- Current account (Toza yokin): These accounts usually provide the option of using checks, but are mostly for businesses.
- Foreign-denominated currency deposits, foreign-currency term deposits (Gaika yokin, Gaika teiki yokin): These accounts are useful for those who need to handle transactions in foreign currencies.
The most widely used accounts are general deposit accounts and general savings.
English-Speaking Banks in Japan
Several banks in Japan offer English-language services and options to open an account online. Here are some of the most foreigner-friendly banks:
- PRESTIA (SMBC Trust Bank Ltd.): Offers English telephone and online banking services. No personal seal (inkan/hanko) is required to open an account.
- Sony Bank: Allows you to open an account via an app in English.
- Rakuten Bank: Provides an English online application process via PC or smartphone.
- SEVEN BANK: Offers 3 types of accounts with instructions in English.
- Shinsei Bank: Provides English telephone and online banking services.
- Japan Post Bank (Yucho): Allows foreigners to open an account without the requirement of a 6-month-residence in the country.
Each of these banks has its own unique features and benefits, so it’s important to choose the one that best suits your needs. For example, if you frequently send money overseas, you might prefer a bank like PRESTIA or Sony Bank that offers competitive international transfer rates. On the other hand, if you prefer face-to-face service, you might choose a bank with a large network of branches and ATMs, like Japan Post Bank.
Step-by-Step Guide to Opening a Bank Account
- Choose a Bank: Consider factors such as English-language services, online banking options, fees, and the proximity of branches and ATMs. Research each bank’s offerings and choose the one that best fits your needs.
- Prepare Your Documents: Gather all the necessary documents mentioned above. Make sure all your documents are up-to-date and accurate to avoid any issues during the application process.
- Visit the Bank or Apply Online: Depending on the bank, you may be able to complete the application process online. If not, visit a branch in person. If you’re visiting in person, it’s a good idea to call ahead and confirm their business hours and whether they have English-speaking staff available.
- Fill Out the Application Form: Complete the application form in English or Japanese. If you’re applying in person and don’t speak Japanese, it’s advisable to bring someone who can help translate. Be sure to fill out the form accurately and completely.
- Make an Initial Deposit: Some banks may require you to make an initial deposit. This can be as little as ¥1,000 or some banks ask none. Be prepared to make this deposit when you submit your application.
- Receive Your Bank Card: Most banks will issue your bank card immediately after your application is approved. Some banks also provide a bank book that includes your account details.
- Set Up Online Banking: If available, set up online banking to manage your account conveniently. This will allow you to check your balance, make transfers, and pay bills online. Be sure to set a strong password to protect your account.
Remember, all banks have different procedures, and it’s important to check the specific requirements and processes of the bank you choose.
Sending Money Abroad or Receiving Money from Abroad
If you need to send money abroad or receive money from abroad, there are several options available. WISE (formerly TransferWise) is a popular choice for major currencies due to its affordable cost. The website and app are both available in English, making it easy for foreign residents to send Japanese yen or any of 50+ currencies at mid-market exchange rates and upfront fees.
Opening a bank account in Japan as a foreigner may seem complex, but with the right preparation and understanding, it can be a straightforward process. By choosing a foreigner-friendly bank and ensuring you have all the necessary documents, you can navigate the Japanese banking system with ease.
Remember, while this guide provides a general overview, it’s always best to check the specific requirements of the bank you choose. Happy banking in Japan!