Banking in Japan is unsophisticated by the standards of most other developed countries. Banking hours are short, waiting times are long, and the services offered are limited.
Foreign nationals working and residing in Japan may wish to open a local yen bank account for daily living and local expenses. In this way, fees for withdrawing money from overseas and punitive exchange rates can be avoided.
Dealing with Japanese banks can be difficult, especially if you do not understand the Japanese language or banking system. There are several banks that offer English services and have English speaking staff that can assist with any banking functions. Another consideration to keep in mind when opening a local bank account is the availability and location of ATM machines and branches.
In Japan, most all of your banking, including paying bills, can be done on ATM machines. However, most banks are only open from 9AM to 3PM, Monday through Friday and, of course, closed on National Holidays. In addition, many ATMs do not operate 24 hours a day – some closing as early as 7PM – and, like banks, close on National Holidays. So it’s always a good idea to open an account at a bank with a branch close to your home or office.
Each bank offers specialized savings accounts and the operation and fees of their ATMs also vary. Many banks and convenience stores charge fees for after-hours withdrawals, as well as when making payments or other personal banking on their ATMs.
When opening a local yen account, you will need to bring your alien registration card or receipt, Certificate of Registered Information form and show your passport visa page (as most banks do not allow tourists to open an account). Japanese banking regulations do not permit joint bank accounts so it is recommended that you request an additional bank card for your spouse, which will be issued for a nominal fee. The bank will process and then send the bank card(s) by registered mail to the address listed on your alien card or Certificate of Registered Information.
It is possible to set up automatic withdrawal from your bank account to cover major utility costs – which is very convenient when you consider the automatic bill payment service is free and the alternative is to bring the bills each month to a convenience store or bank and make cash payments – since Japan is still a cash-based society and there is no checking account system in place for everyday use. You can request the form to set up automatic payment when you open up a yen bank account.
To check the locations of 24 hour ATMs:
Shinsei Bank www.shinseibank.com/english
Convenience Store Banking
More and more Japanese convenience stores have installed 24 hour cash machines. 7-Eleven ATMs are conveniently located throughout Japan including major airports and accept overseas bank cards and credit cards.
Cash is still the most popular method of payment in Japan, but credit cards have gained popularity and are accepted by department stores, online shopping sites, some hospitals and clinics, gas stations, supermarkets, etc.
Foreign nationals should be aware that their Japanese credit card application might be rejected even though they have credit history in their home country. However, you will be able to use your home country credit card for most transactions.