The problem with Japanese banks is that English support in-branch is virtually non-existent. While ATMs may have limited English menus for withdrawing & depositing funds, they often leave out menus for advanced functions such as making bank transfers from account to account. Online banking, while also available, is only in Japanese. Therefore, most expats choose to open an account with one of the below banks that provide English support.
SMBC Trust Bank Prestia
SMBC Trust Bank Prestia is a brand formed by SMBC Trust Bank after their purchase of Citibank Japan. They offer a good standard of English-language support, both in branch and online, and provide a supplementary card for spouses (although there are no joint accounts in Japan).
A drawback is that after the first three months of opening an account, a minimum average balance of JPY 500,000 (JPY 200,000 if denominated in foreign currency) is required in order to avoid the monthly account maintenance fee of JPY 2,000 plus sales tax, as well as that you have to pay a small fee for withdrawing cash from all non- SMBC Trust Bank Prestia Brand ATMs if your average monthly balance is below JPY 1,000,000.
- + Good standard of in-branch English support
- + Supplementary card for spouses
- – Average minimum balance of JPY 500,000 required to avoid maintenance fees (JPY 2,100/month)
- – Fees for using non-SMBC Trust Bank Prestia Brand ATMs
A Japanese bank which has copied many of Citibank’s services. Although the standard of English-language support available in branches is not as good as you get with Citibank, the online banking facility is very good. Advantages of Shinsei Bank are that there is no account keeping fee, and withdrawals from ATMs at post offices, 7-Eleven convenience stores, and major Tokyo area banks are free.
However, Shinsei Bank will only issue one ATM card per account, and you may not be able to easily get a credit card through them. You can, however, still apply for a card through Citi Cards, as it is not necessary to have an account with Citi Bank.
- + No minimum required balance or account maintenance fees
- + No ATM fees when withdrawing from ATM machines of Shinsei, 7-eleven, and major Tokyo area banks
- + ATM Card available in various colors
- – Limited in-branch English support; they redirect you to their English call center
- – No supplementary cards for spouses