Jul 23, 2018

Do you like your Japanese Bank?

Hey expats, do you like your Japanese bank? Better than your banks back home? 

Do you like your Japanese Bank? photo

I’ve lived here a few years now and have banked with three different places—more out of necessity and location than anything. We’ve used Japan Post bank, a big national non-JP bank, and a regional bank, and there are pros and cons to each.   As an expat, chief among considerations are transaction fees and access to ATMs.  For example, there are no SMBC banks in the local area, meaning that if I have any transactions to do, I've got to use the 7-11 ATMs, which offer limited services and high fees.  If I use my local bank, however, I can get free transactions at both the banks and the convenience store ATMs.

In any case, overall, I’d say that Japanese banking is okay. It gets the job done, though I've got a real love/hate relationship with certain aspects of it:

Things I love:

Japanese ATMs: As long as you can read Japanese (I’ll explain more about this below), Japanese ATMs are great. They allow you to do perform a wide range of banking options and are relatively user friendly. It also means that you can make transactions outside of normal business hours or without having to wait in line for a bank teller.

Furikomi (bank transfer): So for those of you who aren’t aware, banks in Japan allow you to transfer money using an ATM. As long as you have the destination account information handy, you can transfer a pretty significant amount of cash. I’ve used it to pay rent, order gifts, etc. Bank transfer is a great way to handle transactions where you want instantaneous deposit and receipt.

Passbooks: Many countries use passbooks—America is not one of them (at least with any of the banks that I’ve used). I like having access to account information digitally, but there is something nice about having a paper passbook handy for tracking your account activities. The fact that you can use it in lieu of a debit card is great, as well.

Things I hate:

Japanese credit cards: I won’t ever use a Japanese credit card. The whole system of credit and payments is foreign to me. Have you noticed that whenever you make a big purchase with a credit card the cashier always asks you how many times you want to charge your card? Someone once tried to explain why someone would use multiple charges for a single purchase, and it didn’t make sense to me why Japan would do it that way. I get it, Japan has been principally a cash society, but it’s got a long way to go before catching up in the world of credit.

Lack of online banking services: none of the banks that I have used in Japan have online banking services (or if they do, it's not foreigner friendly).   They really need to move into the 21st century because having to go to a brick-and-mortar bank to do basic transactions is silly in this day-and-age.

Lack of English options on ATMs: It really irks me that Japanese banks don’t have multiple language options and that even when they do, they often limit the options available. For example, one of the big national banks reduces the English language banking options to deposits, withdrawals, and passbook update, meaning that if I want to do a bank transfer, I have to use all the Japanese steps. That’s fine for me, but what about folks with limited Japanese capability?

How about you all? Yea or Nay for Japanese banks? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!



Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.

Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).


  • helloalissa

    on Jul 23

    It can be inconvenient that banks in Japan all close at 15:00, so the ATMs are a must. I haven't had a problem doing anything in Japan, but accessing my yen from elsewhere was impossible. Having online banking set up before leaving the country would have solved that problem.

  • Candiajia1

    on Jul 23

    My husband has account with alarge Japanese bank with some online feature ( our Japanese friend helped with the set up) but doesn’t really use them. I’ve gone to the JA bank to make deposits and even with my limited Japanese and their limited English we’ve managed to complete them fairly easily. I just wished though that they’d use more English especially for documents that are sent to English speaking customers.