Banking in Japan

Banks in Japan - Opening Hours & ATMs

This article is primarily aimed at those who are intending to live in Japan, need to know how banks work in Japan, and how to open a bank account.

A general overview of banking services, and related information, for those who are passing through Japan as tourists or on business can be found at Banks & Money in Japan.

Japan bank opening hours are from Monday through Friday, 9am to 3pm.

Japanese banks can provide an excellent service if you are familiar with the many facilities they provide. However, at first, some things may seem not all that convenient.

For example, ATMs do close. Many close at 5:00pm every day (and most at 5:00pm on Sunday, too); others stay open until 7:00pm or 8:00 pm; and even the machines in convenience stores may close, although later; however, many are now 24-hour.

Citibank Japan.
Citibank (SMBC Trust Bank/Prestia) has a number of branches in Japan's larger cities including Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Kyoto
Japanese bank.
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) Bank

It is more difficult to get cash before 8:00am. Many machines are closed on holidays as well, so be sure you have a full wallet before a national holiday. There are signs posted well in advance, so check your bank before you depart. Japanese ATMs allow you to withdraw large amounts of money, so you can have plenty for traveling around during those holidays.

There is a charge for after-hours withdrawals from ATMs even at your own bank's ATM. During bank hours, there isn't a charge at your own bank's machine, but if you're using another bank's ATM, the charge applies.

Opening A Japanese Bank Account

You need to open a bank account to get a phone line or cell phone in Japan, so it is on the list of first things to do once you get to Japan as a new resident.

To open a bank account in Japan you will need to show your Alien Registration Card, an ID card that all foreigners are legally obliged to apply for after an initial stay of 90 days. You will also need a personal seal (inkan) registered at your local ward or city office, although with some banks just your signature may suffice.

Except at branches of Citibank (SMBC Trust Bank/Prestia), English language assistance will not be available.

Having a bank account is also convenient for automatic payment of bills. Doing the paperwork for this service is well worth the effort, especially if you are not fluent in the Japanese language.

Working out bills, late fees, and payments may be difficult if your Japanese language skills are not the best. Remember that personal checks are not used in Japan, so you cannot put a check in the mail; however, you can pay your bills at any convenience store - along with, perhaps, your lunch and choice of beverage.

You can also pay your bills at the banks, but banks in Japan operate at snail's pace, and even transactions as simple as this involve a lot of waiting. Setting up payments to come out of your account is much easier in the long run. Banks do not charge for bill payments or automatic transfers.

Inside a Japanese bank.
ATM machines at a Japanese bank
Yucho, Japan Postal Bank.
Yucho - the banking arm of the Japanese Post Office

Cashing Checks (Cheques) in Japan

Japan is predominately a cash society so there is no checking, and cashing a check sent from overseas can be a problem. Charges for depositing checks are substantial. It may take three or more days to have a check deposited, and checks are not usually cashed on the spot. Citibank (SMBC Trust Bank/Prestia) in Japan offers check depositing services for 1000 yen per US check, more for other currencies, and free for checks issued by Citibank (SMBC Trust Bank/Prestia). Checks can take up to a month to be credited at Citibank (SMBC Trust Bank/Prestia).

Overdrafts in Japan

There are no overdraft services for personal accounts in Japan. Japanese banks will not cover part of an expense, so if you don't have sufficient funds in your account, a debit card transaction (rare as debit cards are in Japan) will not go through. There are no charges for attempted but failed purchases, but it may be a cause of embarrassment.

Banking Services in Japan

When you open an account, you receive a bankbook and a cash card. Most Japanese banks also now provide telephone and internet banking services.

The ATM updates your bankbook automatically. There is a slot for your bankbook which lights up after you have inserted your cash card into the machine. The ATM updates your passbook with your withdrawals and deposits, bills paid, and anything else that has happened in your account since it was last updated.

All you have to do is open it up to the current page of entries, put it into the machine, select "Update Bankbook" (通帳記入) and listen to the printer do its thing. If you just feel like updating the book, you don't even need your ATM card. Just press the "Update Bankbook" key on the ATM, and watch for the flashing light above the bankbook slot.

Japanese ATM machines are multi-functional. Not only do they take and dispense money and keep your bankbook current, they allow you to buy such things as airline tickets and, chances are, anything else that requires a deposit.

Japanese ATMs usually offer their services in other languages, nearly always English, but often Portuguese as well.

Yucho, Japan Postal Bank.
Yucho ATMs - the banking arm of the Japanese Post Office

ATM Bank Transfers in Japan

To pay a deposit or send a bank transfer from an ATM, enter the required information, which includes the name of the intended recipient, the recipient's bank and branch, their bank account number, your information, and the amount being sent.

There is a charge for doing this, and the charge depends on the amount of money you're sending and the bank it is being sent to. The ATM lets you know what the charge will be and you must indicate if you're willing to pay it or not. If you are transferring money to someone's account, and you expect to make a payment to the same recipient in the future, you can choose to have a transfer card printed.

With a transfer card, you never have to go through all of these screens on the ATM again, filling in the numbers and checking if everything is right. The next time, you just slide the transfer card you got from the ATM back into the machine when it asks for it. That's it! All of the account and payment information is recorded on the card. You just press in the amount you want to pay, and it's done.

If you have to see a teller at a bank for any reason, things are not so simple. Firstly, if you are used to Western-style banking, the pace is plodding. Also, be aware that most banks close at 3:00pm. In smaller banks you just walk up to the teller, but the bigger banks require you to take a number from a dispensing machine and wait your turn. Even after you have spoken to the teller, you could well be asked to sit back down and wait some more while the transaction is painstakingly processed.

Links to Major Japanese Banks

Citibank Japan
Sumitomo Mitsui
Yucho (Post Office Savings) Bank

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