How to Open a Bank Account in Japan

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Are you trying to make a bank account in Japan? Maybe you’ve just moved from abroad to Tokyo, and need to create a bank account for work related or personal reasons.

We know that the banking system in Japan can be very confusing for people – foreign and Japanese alike. That’s why in this article, we will take you through everything you need to know about opening a bank account in Japan.

This includes:

Documents Required to Make a Bank Account in Japan

To open a bank account in Japan, you will need the following: Your passport (with your visa), Your residence card (在留カード/zairyuu kaado), and a phone number.

Most banks will allow a signature instead of the traditional Japanese 印鑑/判子 (inkan/hanko), so you most won’t need to worry about this.

Please take note: you cannot open a bank account on a tourist visa. So you will need to already have either your student visa or your working visa to open a bank account in Japan.

How to Apply

With most banks, you often have the option to apply in one of the following ways:

  • In-person, at the bank (recommended)
  • By phone (often Japanese-only)
  • Online
  • By Mail

In-person is recommended because often the other options require higher level Japanese, and it’s just easier. Bear in mind that banks in Japan can have inconvenient hours that you may have to work around.

Most banks do not have a minimum balance requirement or charge monthly maintenance fees.

If you decide to apply in person at the bank counter (recommended), just make sure you have all the necessary paperwork, and know what kind of account you want to open (see below).

You will receive a bank book (手帳) – probably on the same day – and a cash card (usually by mail).

Application processes are usually at the discretion of the staff of the specific bank that you are visiting – so although we have tried to make a comprehensive list – please be aware that they may suggest additional documents that are not included here.

Closing Your Account

Except in rare cases, this can only be done in person at the bank.

Best Bank Options for Foreigners

Among the banks in Japan, there are some that are more “foreigner friendly” – and are just more overall easy to use.

These are some of the options that we recommend, although there may be more good options out there beyond just this list.

You do not need a hanko to open an account from any of these 3 banks.

Japan Post Bank

Japan Post Bank (ゆうちょ銀行) is one of the easiest to use banks for foreigners in Japan. They have locations and branches all over the greater Tokyo area. Additionally, the bigger locations often have english speaking staff to assist you.

Part of what makes Japan Post Bank so convenient is its accessibility. They have many ATMs with little-to-no fee access even on weekends and holidays.

Shinsei Bank

Shinsei Bank has been held in high regards by many foreigners in Japan for several years now. The only downside is that, according to changes in government regulation, to open an account with Shinsei bank, one has to have been in Japan for 6 months first. However, this can be waived if you are employed by a company in Japan.

SMBC Trust Bank

This bank has both English and Japanese banking services. Their online banking and telephone services are also available in English, making this a great bank for foreigners in Japan with limited Japanese capabilities.

Japanese Bank Account Types

Japanese bank accounts can offer a wide range of account types depending on your needs. But you will find that they do not differ much from what you may be used to overseas.

Normal Deposit Account – 普通預金

The standard bank account offered by Japanese banks is a normal deposit account (普通預金 / futsuu yokin). This is similar to a regular checking account you may have held overseas. It essentially functions in the same manner.

Normal Savings Account – 通常貯金

Much like the name suggests, the normal savings account (通常貯金 / tsuujou chokin) is a standard savings account.

They offer slightly higher interest rates than the 普通預金 (checking) account. However, these savings accounts may not have the same interest rates you are used to.

Time Deposit Account – 定期預金

A time deposit bank account at a Japanese bank is an option for long term savings. The primary advantage of these account are, like any time deposit, higher interest rates.

The minimum amount requirement for this type of account is often ¥100,000 – but it can vary depending on the bank.

Also, like any time deposit, this type of account may require notice in case of early withdrawal or penalties may be applied.

Larger banks often allow you to deposit into foreign currency accounts (外貨預金/外貨定期預金). Examples of these are SMBC and Shinsei Bank. These often have much higher interest rates than accounts in the Japanese yen.

Important Points About Banking in Japan

Debit Cards are Scarce

In lieu of debit cards, most banks in Japan only have cash cards. With a cash card you can only make transactions at an ATM. You cannot pay bills, or make purchases with it.

If not having a debit card is deal breaker for you, then you should factor that into your banking decision.

Some banks that offer debit cards are Mitsubishi UFJ and JP Post (ゆうちょ).

“Competitive Interest Rates” are Not So Competitive

Unfortunately, most interest rates at Japanese banks are incredibly low. A foreign currency time deposit will probably have the highest interest rates available among Japanese banks.

As of August 2020, Shinsei Bank currently has the highest interest rates for their time deposits on foreign currency.

Also, all earnings from interest (not principle) are subject to taxation. As of August 2020, the taxation on earnings is 20.315% (15.315% National tax, 5% Local tax).

Note: This article is not professional financial advice.

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