Friday, December 30, 2011

Banking in Japan #4: Internet Banking and Net Banks

While banking online in Japan hasn't quite caught on to the extend that it has in other countries, banks offer plenty of services to help you monitor your cash flow. In addition, several large companies have opened up net only banks.

In this section we will explain how to bank online in Japan as well as the various net-banking options.

Setting up Online Banking
After opening up a bank account you will be able to sign up for online banking if your institution offers it. In order to set up online banking you must apply either in person or fill out the forms by hand and mail them in. Every bank has different rules so make sure you inquire when you open an account.

Generally speaking, after processing your application your bank will send you a card that usually has a unique log in code which you can use to start setting up your online banking. Other banks have additional security including a string of random numbers attached to certain characters that you must enter before completing online transactions. In the event that you do lose or forget something you can always ask your bank to send another copy although it may take several days.

This service is not necessarily free. Be prepared to shell out 100yen or more a month.

Finally, many online banking services are not open 24 hours. As nutty as that sounds, many banks shut off various services in the evening and late a night. Hours vary by bank, but generally speaking inter-bank transfers stop at 3:00 and can be reserved for the next business day until some time in the evening. Balance checks generally stop before midnight. Make sure to ask your bank about their schedule as well as their maintenance times.

Net Banks
In the last few years banks that operate only on the internet have become increasingly popular. Some of the big players include Japan Net Bank, Rakuten Bank, and Sumishin SBI Netbank. In addition to operating entirely online, these banks offer cheap bank transfers and superior online banking portals geared towards people who engage in a lot of e-commerce. 

That being said, net banks are still subject to the same rules and regulations as regular banks so you usually have to sign up manually. You'll still need to request and complete the forms by hand. Some banks may require additional information to verify your address such as a recent utility receipt or tax slip.

Generally speaking, putting money in and taking money out is done via bank transfers although some net banks have deals with convenience store ATMs and other big banks that allow you to use their network for deposits and withdraws (for a fee). 

Other Posts in This Series
# 1 The Basics
# 2 Opening an Account
# 3 Savings and Fixed Deposits
# 4 Internet Banking and Net Banks 
# 5 J-Debit and Pay Easy
# 6 ATMs
# 7 Domestic Money Transfers
# 8 International Money Transfers


  1. Jonathan Higgins10 January 2012 at 13:06

    Set up a second account with Shinsei Bank and most of your online banking needs will be fulfilled.

    24/7 cash withdrawals from all 7-11 ATMs NO SERVICE CHARGES and Japan Post Office ATMs (again no charges but limited to the Post Office opening times.)

    For all account holders you get one free furikomi transfer a month (if this happens to be your monthly transfer to GoLloyds to pay back your student loan then that's another few hundred yen saved).

    Almost all business is conducted online or via telephone IN ENGLISH if required. I've used Shinsei Bank for over 5 years and have only visited my branch in Nagoya once (when I set up the account). My wife's and niece's accounts were set up entirely by post. Here are the ID documents you'll need

    The online banking has full English menus. However, if you are making a furikomi transfer to another Japanese bank account you'll need to be able to read and write kanji and half-size katakana (Function 7 key followed by Function 8 key BTW). The bank names and branches are all in kanji and you'll need to be careful when entering payee name details. Make a mistake and the transfer will be denied AND you'll have lost your one FREE for the month! It takes a bit of practice!

    I also use Shinsei Bank to make currency conversions. For example, you deposit your Japanese cash at the 7-11 ATM. Then, when the Yen is particularly strong at say, 1.35 PM on a Tuesday afternoon you log into your account and convert 50,000 yen into UK Sterling. The process is instantaneous. The UK currency remains in electronic form until you go to a branch and make a written request to transfer the funds to your UK bank - it costs 4000 yen. In practice I save up my Sterling like this and then visit the Shinjuku branch en route to Narita Airport and make the transfer to my UK bank. It works. I've also done the reverse and transferred Sterling to Shinsei Bank from the UK. I chose to keep the money IN Sterling and it sits in my account here where I can access it at any time and convert it into Japanese Yen (though obviously this isn't something I'm keen to do at the moment due to the incredibly strong Yen).

    The telephone customer service staff speak excellent English and they appear to be based IN Japan so you can mix your expressions e.g. using Japanese for numbers etc.

  2. Jonathan,

    Thanks for the heads up on Shinsei Bank. I know them well from when I used to live in Kansai. The only downside is that they lack the branch network of a big city bank or banking cooperative but their English support is unmatched. I believe that they were bought by a US turn-around firm some years back but they are now independent.

    They part about using ATMs in 7-11 and the Post Office is new to me as well as the currency conversion info. I keep most of my investments in yen and, for tax purposes, keep my long term securities in the US so I don't find the need for much in the way of conversion or hedging money. However, I am sure many ex-pats will find that very useful.

    Thanks for the great advice and sharing your Shinsei experience. It definitely seems like the best international banking option out there!

  3. Ah, I wanted to set-up a Shinsei bank account. But when I went, they said I couldn't open an account because I had a prepaid cellphone plan. :c