Question What is the best Japanese bank to open an account?

Mr. James

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I require a Japanese bank for salary direct deposits. Does anyone have a recommendation for the best bank to do this with? I may need to access on mainland Japan as well, so I'm looking for a bank that I can access there as well as Okinawa.
 
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David

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Okinawa.Org Staff
No matter where you go, you aren't going to get interest rates as you would in the States; not even close as they've always been next to 0%. So, keep savings out of the equation—you just need an account to receive currency.

You would just have to at this point determine what your short-term and long-term goals are in Japan.

If your short-term goals are to reside in Okinawa, I would highly suggest JA Bank. I believe if you get car insurance with them as well, they offer a slight discount (tip: if your significant other has a Japanese license and it's a gold bar, show them that for a larger discount and not your green/blue bar). The big plus about JA is that they seem to be more rural so you don't need to hunt them down as much as you would the bigger banks closer to the city center.

Another option is OkiGin(kou), or, The Bank of Okinawa, written as 沖縄銀行 (kanji) and mostly identified on ATMs and some buildings as おきぎん (hiragana). This is because they are larger and can be found in more areas than JA. Though, I'm unsure about what other services they offer above just banking, besides having a business loan center.

If you ever see yourself moving from Okinawa around to other prefectures or even staying, JP Bank would be a good option as well. This is because it makes it convenient to not only get your withdraws but to ship packages off at the post office as well (JP Post) as they're typically 1-stop locations.

I personally only have JA as I've been with them so long to get a car insurance deduction with good standing.

If I were in your situation, I'd look at what is offered the closest to you as traffic can be a nightmare and open an account there if you just need quick withdraws and deposits and nothing more (note: some banks allow withdraws at convenience stores but sometimes charge as high as 200 yen per transaction). Afterward, decide on what you are going to do in Japan and what you can consolidate in one place, such as car insurance, life insurance, etc., to make banking and bill payment less of a burden.
 
OP
Mr. James

Mr. James

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OK, thanks for the input. Since I will likely need to access the bank on mainland Japan, I applied for an account at Japan Post Bank (JP Bank). They seem to have branches everywhere.

The process went smoothly, but only because I brought all the required paperwork, and (most importantly), my Japanese speaking wife. I could not have done it alone because my Japanese language skills are not where they should be. Probably the most difficult part is that I had to fill out the form myself (no one could help) which made the kanji portions a challenge. It seemed like a silly requirement to have me fill out the forms (instead of letting my wife fill on certain portions). There were about 4-6 forms in total and I couldn't explain what each one was for, exactly. I just filled them out as I was handed them.

Here is a list of the paperwork that I was required to have at the account opening. There may be other documents required, depending on your situation.

Residence Card showing my visa allowing me to be in Japan. A 90-day tourist visa is apparently not good enough to open an account.
Residence Registration paper from the local city hall showing that I registered my address (which seems overkill since my Residence Card had my address on it).
SSN because I wanted to set up potential future bank transfer to my US bank.
Japan tax ID number, which I received when I registered at the local city hall.
Address and phone number of my Japanese employer. I'm not sure why this was required, and luckily I had it available in an email.
My passport from which they verified my date of entry into Japan.
My Japanese stamp/seal (I believe this is called hanko).

I was able to get my bank passbook within about 1 hour of them processing it. Apparently a debit card/ATM card will follow in the mail.
 

David

Founder
Okinawa.Org Staff
Apparently a debit card/ATM card will follow in the mail.
Hopefully, what you're referring to here is the card to withdraw money from the ATMs that accept the card.

You should have gotten a passbook on the spot that once inserted, prints the outgoing/incoming funds, much like you can with online banking. However, if you did get a "debit" card and think it's the same as a US-issued debit card where it's merely a "credit card" linked to your bank account (i.e. "prepaid debit card"), you are far from mistaken.

Debit cards with Visa, MasterCard, etc. are newly introduced here and the transaction fees are insane at, last time I checked, 200-300 yen per transaction! Be aware if this is what you applied for besides just an ATM card.
 
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Mr. James

Mr. James

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I was under the seemingly mistaken assumption that debit cards worked the same as in the US.
I will find out about the fees, if any.
How about credit cards from Japanese banks?
Do these have high fees for transactions as well?
I was avoiding a credit card at this time because I have zero credit history in Japan.
So I was planning to use the debit card for electronic and convenience payments (until your warning about the high fees).
 

David

Founder
Okinawa.Org Staff
I was avoiding a credit card at this time because I have zero credit history in Japan.
I was given 500,000 yen with 0 credit history in Japan through (KDDI) AU (the cellular phone company). That was scary as we typically start at $300 with a high-interest rate in the US, or even a pre-paid card to an extent to serve as some collateral

I never read into the interest and whatnot with credit as I never used it except to save 300 yen per billing cycle by charging my phone bill directly to the card and then paying it off before anything would incur.

As far as debit goes—money in your bank account to pay for goods or services at a point of sales station (restaurant, etc.)—I am fairly certain there is a per-transaction charge of 200-300 yen, so you might as well use credit if that is still true; my advice would be to definitely look into this, and if I'm wrong, please let us know.

I choose to use a US debit card because the USD/JPY rate is excellent in comparison to a bank, but a little less than an exchange center. That said, I am only buying 500 yen worth of items and won't want to go exchange $5000+ to get an even better rate than posted.
 

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