Top English-Friendly Japanese Banks for Foreigners in 2024
If you don’t speak Japanese but you need to open a Japanese bank account to send or receive money, then this article on the best international banks for expats is for you.
Today, we’re listing the most English-friendly Japanese banks for foreigners in 2024—so that you can open a bank account even if you can’t speak nor read any Japanese.
Point #1—Eligibility: Who can open a bank account in Japan?
Before we cover the top international banks in Japan, here are 2 essential points to assess before we go further.
To open a bank account in Japan, foreign residents must have a residence card (zairyu caado) to complete their application. With few exceptions, anyone on a 90-day tourist visa won’t be permitted to open a bank account in Japan.
Essentially, this means that only foreign residents with long-term visas (over 6 months) and those who have resided for longer than 6 months in Japan can apply.
Exceptions to this rule include opening a limited-type account that allows for cash deposits and withdrawals.
Point #2—Personal ID: What ID is required to open a bank account in Japan?
Banks may differ in their requirements for opening a bank account, but in general, the following are typically required when opening a bank in Japan.
Your residence card (zairyu card)
A residency certificate (jyuminho)
Your phone number
Verifying documents or receipts that prove your address
Your business card, or another verifying document that shows your name in katakana
Coming up, here are the best bank accounts for expats that have an English-language online banking interface, where you can open a bank account in Japan with zero Japanese ability, using an English application form—so you can get on with daily living activities.
1. Shinsei Bank—top choice for best English interface
A long-time popular choice among foreign residents in Japan, Shinsei Bank’s English online banking interface makes this a solid option for foreign residents in Japan who are looking for the best international bank for expats.
This is one of the few banks in Japan that allows you to complete the application entirely in English (see "Open an account"). Additionally, they have toll-free English-speaking customer support call lines.
You can mail-in your English application form, saving you a trip to a local branch. There is an app where you can send in your application online, but this is only available in Japanese. Please note, they do not accept applications for corporate bank accounts via the mail-in method.
Overseas remittance fee: JPY ¥2,000 per remittance/not dependent on the amount you remit.
Monthly maintenance fee: There are no account maintenance fees.
Domestic ATM fees: ¥110. Free for those with over 1 million yen in their account.
2. SMBC Trust Bank—top choice for heavy bank users
SMBC Trust Bank runs a close second to Shinsei Bank. In fact, for foreign residents with large sums of foreign currencies to deposit, this might be a preferred choice, as the bank allows you to deposit savings in 17 foreign currencies (Shinsei allows 13).
Additionally, their application process does not require a personal seal (inkan/hanko) for the procedure, which many other Japanese banks still require.
Customer support and online banking interface are all in English.
Monthly maintenance fee: ¥2,200 for those who do not have a monthly average balance of ¥500,000 or the equivalent of ¥200,000 in foreign currencies.
Domestic ATM withdrawal fees: ¥0 for withdrawals at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation ATMs. From ¥110 to ¥330 at Domestic Affiliated Financial Institution ATMs.
3. Sony Bank—top choice for personal use
With no physical branches, Sony Bank is entirely online and provides an all-English experience and an English-friendly application process.
Considered by many in Japan as the best bank to use internationally, Sony Bank handles 11 foreign currencies and deposits and transfers are at comparably reasonable exchange rates and foreign transaction fees. Please note, some restrictions surround Sony Bank use. For example, businesses cannot use Sony Bank to open corporate accounts, and you cannot make foreign currency remittances for business-related purposes. But for personal use, it’s aces.
Monthly maintenance fee: No account maintenance fee.
Domestic ATM withdrawal fees: ¥110 per withdrawal. However, fees are waived, depending on your Club S level.
4. WISE (formerly TransferWise)—top choice for cheap overseas transfers
While not classified as a bank, WISE is a money transfer payments provider that offers international transfer services at an affordable cost.
The website and app are both available in English, making it easy for foreign residents to send Japanese yen or any of 50+ currencies at mid-market exchange rates and upfront fees.
A study conducted by Alderson Consulting, found that Wise transfers are on average 7x cheaper to send money compared to 5 other Japanese bank accounts: MUFG, Rakuten, Shinsei, SMBC, and Sony. So if you've been looking for the best bank for foreign transactions, WISE might be a good alternative.
Pricing details here.
Overseas remittance fee: Fees vary by currency. Starts from 0.41%. Use their price calculator.
Monthly maintenance fee: None.
Withdrawal fees: Free to withdraw 30,000 JPY per month/2 or less withdrawals.
5. Japan Post Bank (Yucho)—most common bank account type in Japan
Japan Post Bank, yucho ginko in Japanese, is one of the most common bank account types held by the average Japanese individual.
It is also one of the few banks in Japan that will allow foreign residents to make accounts without requiring 6-months of residence in order to apply. (Although services are restricted to only deposits and withdrawals until you reach your 6th month of living in Japan.)
You can apply to JP Post Bank online in up to 16 different languages, including English, Chinese, Vietnam, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, French, Spanish, etc. Applying via this method, you will not be issued a bankbook, but you will receive a yucho bank debit card and a checking account which you can use to check your balance and make transfers.
The following video provides a look at applying online to Japan Post Bank Plus.
Video. “How to open a bank account in Japan,” by Elpmis Japan.
If you wish to apply in person, there’s a high chance of finding English-speaking staff if you’re applying in Tokyo. Refer to this English PDF for guidelines on who can open an account.
Overseas remittance fee: Fixed fee of ¥7,500 per remittance, regardless of amount.
Monthly maintenance fee: None.
Withdrawal fees: Free at Japan Post Bank ATMs (located in post offices throughout Japan).
6. Rakuten Bank—online application form available in English
This is a good option if you can handle reading some Japanese. Rakuten's online bank application process is now available in English, with an English explanation of the application fields that you will be required to fill out, but there are some places where you will need to be able to type in Japanese.
For ID, you must submit a photo of your residence card or your special permanent residence certificate.
Those who are ineligible to use this application process include non-residents, corporate applications, Japanese nationals, and those under 18 years old.
Keep in mind that once the application process is complete, the desktop banking dashboard is entirely in Japanese. Rakuten has a mobile banking app that includes a partial English interface. But transactions like making transfers must be done in Japanese at this point in time. However, that could change with time. Among Japanese companies, Rakuten tries to be progressive in its use of English.
Overseas remittance fee: 750 yen per transaction
Monthly maintenance fee: None
Withdrawal fees: Free domestic withdrawals from ATMs up to 7 times if you enter their Happy Program.
Frequently asked questions
What should I consider when choosing the best bank for foreigners in Japan?
When selecting a bank in Japan, consider factors such as accessibility (branch locations and ATMs), English language support, online banking services, fees, international wire transfers, account opening requirements for foreigners, and overall customer service.
Which banks in Japan provide English language support for foreigners?
Several banks in Japan offer English language support, including Shinsei Bank, Sony Bank, and SMBC Trust Bank. These banks have English-speaking staff and provide English-language services for account openings, inquiries, and online banking.
Are there any banks in Japan that have dedicated services for foreigners?
Certain banks in Japan cater specifically to foreigners' needs. For example, Shinsei Bank and Sony Bank are known for their services designed to meet the needs of foreign residents and expatriates. They often offer multilingual support, international money transfers, and specialized services for non-Japanese customers.
Which banks in Japan have a wide ATM network for easy access?
Japan Post Bank has one of the largest ATM networks in Japan, with ATMs available at post office locations throughout the country.
What are the fees associated with banking in Japan?
The fees vary among banks in Japan. Common fees may include account maintenance, ATM withdrawal, wire transfer, and foreign currency exchange fees. Review the fee schedules of different banks and compare them to find the one that best suits you.
Can foreigners open a bank account in Japan?
Foreigners can open bank accounts in Japan. However, the account opening requirements may vary among banks. Generally, you must provide identification documents, such as your passport and residence card, and proof of address in Japan. Some banks may have additional requirements or restrictions, so contacting the bank directly to confirm the necessary documents and procedures is advisable.
Can I make international wire transfers from a bank in Japan?
Most banks in Japan offer international wire transfer services. However, it's essential to inquire about the fees, exchange rates, and processing times associated with international transfers. Some banks may have specific requirements for initiating international wire transfers, such as additional documentation or online banking registration.
Are there any online banking options available for foreigners in Japan?
Many banks in Japan provide online banking services that are accessible to foreigners. These services allow you to check account balances, pay bills, complete transfers, and manage your accounts online. When choosing a bank, consider the functionality and user-friendliness of its online banking platform.
Which bank in Japan is recommended for foreign students or temporary residents?
Japan Post Bank is often recommended for foreign students or temporary residents in Japan. It offers relatively simple account opening procedures and a wide ATM network. Additionally, Shinsei Bank and Citibank Japan are known for providing services tailored to the needs of foreigners, including students and temporary residents.
Can I receive customer support in English at banks in Japan?
While not all banks in Japan provide customer support in English, several banks, such as Shinsei Bank, offer English-language support for customer inquiries. This includes assistance with account-related matters, general banking inquiries, and guidance for non-Japanese customers.
There you have it—banks in Japan that don't require you to know how to type in Japanese! Requirements and policies surrounding Japanese bank accounts for foreign residents change intermittently.
Please refer to each bank’s official site directly to confirm whether you are eligible for opening an account and what you need to prepare for the procedure.