One of the first things new residents in Japan need to do is open a bank account. Japan has a large number of different banks to choose from but there is only one Japanese bank that offers a full range of services in English, Shinsei Bank.

Shinsei has branches in quite a few of Japan’s major cities and you can open an account by mail if you don’t live near a branch.

While many people are first drawn to Shinsei because of the English support there are actually many reasons a foreign resident should open a Shinsei account:

  1. Easy to use online banking system available in English and Japanese.
  2. No charge to receive international money transfers. Most other Japanese banks charge 3000yen to 5000yen per wire received.
  3. All Shinsei accounts are multi-currency. If you receive a wire in USD, EUR, GBP, etc the funds will be deposited into your account in that currency.
  4. The best consumer exchange rates you will find in Japan, by far.
  5. No fees to use ATMs at most convenience stores, 24/7/365. Other banks will charge you 108yen per transaction, 216yen per transaction on evenings, weekends, and holidays. Check the link for full details on Shinsei’s free ATM access.
  6. Free domestic transfers for online banking. Standard accounts get one free domestic transfer per month, higher account tiers get more free transfers. After using your free allotment each transfer is just 308yen. Transfers to other Shinsei accounts are always free.
  7. Shinsei is one of the few banks in Japan to provide online bank statements (PDF) instead of using bank books.
  8. The entire application for a new bank account is done on a computer. No need to scribble your details on a Japanese application form that doesn’t have enough space to fit what you need to write!
  9. There’s a prepaid VISA card you can easily get after you open a Shinsei bank account. Many new residents find it impossible to get a non-prepaid credit card in Japan so this is a great way to pay for online purchases. You can charge the card from Shinsei’s online banking system 24/7/365.
  10. English telephone support and telephone banking available, should you need it.

While there are many great points in favor of Shinsei Bank, it is not perfect:

  1. You have to manually enter the account holder’s name when you perform a domestic money transfer (振り込み, furikomi). This is not typical at Japanese banks, usually the account holder’s name is displayed automatically after you enter the account number. The name is entered in Japanese phonetic katakana and it must be entered perfectly or the transfer will fail and the funds will be returned to your account. Shinsei’s online banking does allow you to save the transfer details so if you’re making regular transfers (rent, for example) you only need to enter the account details once.
  2. There is no way to deposit or withdraw coins. Most Japanese banks will take & count even very large quantities of coins but this is not possible with Shinsei Bank. Likewise there is no way to withdraw coins from a Shinsei account as withdrawals are denominated in increments of 1000yen.

If you have any questions about Shinsei Bank or opening an account with them feel free to ask a question in the comments, I’ll do my best to answer!

-i