Opening A Bank Account (Painlessly) In Tokyo

Before opening a bank account in Tokyo, I went online and researched what people had to say about banks. Shinsei Bank seemed to be the best choice as it was the most foreigner friendly one, so I headed over to Roponggi Hills to open my account. Note : the Roponggi Hills branch is now closed.
If you’re not going to go with a Japanese friend or colleague, make sure you call Shinsei bank first to check which of their branches have English speaking staff. You also need to ensure you have your residence card and a phone number. Please make sure you’ve gone to your ward office and registered your new address onto the residence card or you won’t be allowed to open your account. My boyfriend went with me but because he had no phone number, he wasn’t allowed to open the account. So do make sure you have your phone number before heading to the bank!
I found Shinsei bank relatively painless – it does take a while though, or maybe I got too spoilt by Singaporean efficiency. I ended up spending about 45 minutes in the branch. The process was simple, filling in a form, picking a color for my ATM card and then just waiting. However, in Japan, the ATM card works only to redraw money, and you cannot use it as a debit card. I’m also finding applying for a personal credit card very tricky. I tried applying for one at Shinsei but they told me they only have Japanese only cards where all communication would be in Japanese, and they gave me the phone number of American Express instead.
A girlfriend of mine applied for a Rakuten credit card, but she’s been rejected 4 times. I’ve heard it’s very common in Japan for foreigners to be rejected for credit cards. I actually have not gotten around to applying for a personal credit card because the process seems to be so painful!
Another colleague of mine went to Mizuho bank to open her bank account, and she came back 2 hours later with a giant scowl on her face and no bank account. In Mizuho bank, you need to have your ‘hanko’ which is a personal stamp that acts as a signature. She didn’t have a ‘hanko’ and I think in the branch she went to, the staff was probably not very proficient at speaking English. No Hanko, no English speaking staff = no bank account for you.
Internet banking also seems very painful here. I have no idea how to transfer any money – my rent is actually deducted directly from my salary which I am quite relieved with. We pay bills at the ‘kombini’ (convenience store) and my credit card deducts the amount due from my bank directly. OK, I do have an idea of how to transfer money but I haven’t gotten around to it. You will need a special number called the MYNUMBER, which you should not lose once it’s been mailed to your house. Maybe I shall go look for mine…
One thing I discovered was that the ATM has different functions for English and for Japanese. If you are on the Japanese menu, there are a lot of things you can do with the ATM – transfer money, pay credit card bills, and a whole lot more. With the English menu, all you are allowed to do is withdraw money. So if you are looking to do something a litle bit more complicated with the ATM, my advice is to bring a Japanese friend.
To sum up, opening a bank account here for sure is possible, but expect to spend a little bit of time on it!

Ann Jie

Loves good conversations and hates small talk. Finds people fascinating and wonders why meanies exist. Loves writing violent, graphic short stories but finds horror movies too scary to watch. Follow me on Instagram @annjieslices or tweet me a slice of YOUR life at @annjieslices!

  1. My bank account opening was rather painless! I went to Mizuho bank, but the big one at omotesando, so they have fluent English Speaking staff who helped me to go through all the filling forms process, and of course luckily I did bring my hanko (I think as a Taiwanese I do have this default mind set that hanko is a must bring stuff whenever you visit banks) so i didn’t get troubled with that.

    good thing was, when I was filling the form,
    there is a credit card info section, and she just asked me “do you also want to have a credit card?”
    of course I do!
    “do you want your card to also have SUICA function?”
    of course I do!
    and in the end this multi-functional one card ended up having bank card, credit card and SUICA 3 uses!

    the only painful thing was after I finished all the process,
    it took more than 1 month for the actual physical card to be delivered,
    at that time I was almost about to move out of my service apartment,
    but thank God it arrived in time like 2 weeks before I moved out.

    my suggestion is, mizuho bank is good, but hanko is a must
    and go to the BIG omotesando branch (aoyama branch) to have English speaking staff helping you!

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