Hi, this is D, I am back!
This time, let me share with you my exasperating experience when I tried to open a bank account in Japan. At the end, I hope you learn from my lesson and never have to go through what I did.
In Japan, there are many banks. I have seen so many different names of different banks, both local and foreign, and even banks named according to different prefectures. I have no idea if they allow foreigners to open bank accounts, but from the resources provided by Gaba and as recommended by GJH, I tried my luck with three different banks:
- Japan Post Bank / Youcho Ginko / ゆうちょ銀行
- Prestia / SMBC Trust Bank
- Shinsei Bank
The first bank I tried was Youcho. It is one of the most widely available bank in Japan and from the name, I associate it to our Singapore’s POSB. Youcho is good because they do not charge you for withdrawal at ATMs (in Japan, there’s often a withdrawal fee) and their ATMs are also widely available, at all combinis if I am not wrong. There’s also no account maintenance fee. GJH recommended me to open a Youcho account for the above reasons and that was why we went there first.
The branch that I went to, which is very near to GJH’s place and in the suburbs, is not very English friendly. The staff did not understand English (only natural) and their forms are mainly in Japanese. I am not sure if there are English forms available or that they did not pass us a copy because GJH speaks Japanese. To open a bank account with them, you will need:
- Residence card
- Mobile phone number
- MyNumber information
In general, for all official matters, having the above along with insurance card is always recommended.
So at the bank, it took a short while to fill up the information but GJH and I spent quite a bit of time waiting and waiting. We were called to the counter to answer several questions here and there (if I need credit card or debit card, which passbook design I prefer etc) and after waiting for around 30min or so, we were told that the account is pending approval from HQ. Turns out, they cannot approve the account on the spot because I have been in Japan for less than 6 months and I have no proof of employment i.e. employment contract. So I was told to head home and wait for phone call or letter, as they will request for more documents if necessary. The odd thing is that if I do receive my ATM card, I should not assume that my account is opened until I receive a passbook (Odd? Yeah, totally). So, yeah.
Account opening attempt #1 failed for the time being.
GJH was shocked because he did not foresee such an issue. When I informed Gaba about this, they were equally surprised because their new recruits usually have no issues with Youcho. It seems like it is also possible that my name coincides with a name on their blacklist, so they have to investigate. So… well.
I went to my second bank the next day. This time, Prestia, which GJH says is supposed to be foreigner friendly because it is Citibank (more on this later). We went to the branch at Yokohama and this time, we have a pretty English speaking staff. However, perhaps again because GJH was there, it became a Japanese session anyway, lol. I was given English forms though, which I filled up accordingly.
You guys will not believe it but that day, I was probably the unluckiest person on the planet because, turns out, the very same day that I went to Prestia was the very same day that they STARTED a new policy. Turns out, Prestia, who has merged with Mitsui Sumitomo (SMBC), has to now adopt the same policy as SMBC, which includes having foreign nationals to show proof of employment in order to open an account.
Now you see, this lack of proof of employment is something that I can’t help because I have yet to sign a contract with Gaba. And I need a bank account before I go to Gaba to sign my contract. *slaps forehead* So, Gaba sent me an official letter, stating their intention to hire me and to assure the bank that I will definitely be getting a certain income. I thought that’ll work so I headed back to the same staff, happily thinking I’ll finally be able to open my bank account!
News flash! A letter that says I will be hired does not equate to I am hired. So, no-go. That letter will not do.
So, left with only one other bank, I went to Shinsei this time. Thankfully, there was one near where we were after our failed attempt at Prestia.
The moment I entered the bank, I was very pleasantly surprised because the receptionist speaks English! Good English, okay. She checked with me what I wanted to do and proceeded to pass me a tablet for me to fill in my information for account opening. The application is electronic and it is all in English, super cool. At the counter, the staff, though, spoke in Japanese. She spoke kinda loudly, in very choppy phrases, at a slow pace, thinking that will help me understand what she was saying. =/ I mean, I appreciate her effort because speaking slower helps, but speaking louder doesn’t, lol. It does nothing to help me understand, really. GJH was quite annoyed by that because he felt that it was unnecessary and kinda demeaning, because it makes it seem like she’s talking to a child (me). At that time, I was too caught up with trying to catch what she was saying
and busy feeling relief in my heart that I’m finally getting the damn account to know what was happening around me. But I was to think back, it did feel kinda annoying.
So at Shinsei, you can choose the colour of your ATM card (there are quite a few colours!) and most of the things are done online. It is truly foreigner friendly because I finally opened the damn account, lol.
The downside is that from October 2018, they will begin charging a fee for each withdrawal done at ATMs (~S$1 if I’m not wrong) unless you are Gold member and above, for which you need to fulfill certain condition to be one. The easiest way is to use this ‘cash card’ that they have, called Gaica (almost a mockery because it sounds like Gaijin Card, though I’m sure it does not mean that lol) and top up 10,000 JPY every month into the card. That will make you a Gold member. Alternatively, you can deposit at least 30,000 JPY into the account every month and you’ll also be a Gold member. If you earn more than 30,000 JPY every month and your salary is credited into the account, then voila, automatically you’ll be a Gold member. Then this withdrawal fee thing won’t affect you.
Now, funny thing. A few weeks later, I received both my ATM card and passbook from Youcho, meaning Youcho opened my account for me after all! So I guess you can go to both Youcho and Shinsei but just make sure you give Youcho at least 2 weeks to confirm your account, in case you face the same situation as I did.
So now, I have 2 bank accounts (I only have 1 in SG, lol) and that works too, because GJH, being all prudent with finance etc, wanted me to have 2 anyway, as he wanted me to use one for savings. So all’s good! Yea.
This post took me two weeks to write because I am so swarmed with work at Gaba! I shall write about that soon (it’s coming to 1 month since I joined Gaba) and let’s hope that will not take me another 2 weeks to complete!
That’s all for now, till then! ^-^