There are three main ways of transferring cash, all of which rely on automated inter-bank networks. That's not to say that cheques (kogitte 小切手) don't exist, they are just very seldom used outside of specialized business transactions.

1. Furikomi (振込み)
This method of inter-bank transfer is by far the most popular means of moving money around. Despite this, they are not often free:

Banks will usually charge for transfers under 30,000 yen (something like 210 or 420yen) and increasingly more after that. In general, if you call or go directly to the service desk you will be charged much more. Fees can differ by bank and destination, but here is a sample fee table from Mitsubishi Tokyo-UFJ Bank (in Japanese). Some banks offer free transfers between user accounts or within the same bank branch, and discounts for using online banking are also often available.

Beware that most ATM menus will only be available in Japanese.

You will definitely need to know the following (in kanji and phonetically):
  1. the payee's bank account number
  2. bank name
  3. branch name 

Here's the typical process (expect some variation):
  1. Press the button that says 振込み
  2. In most cases, the ATM will ask you if you want to pay by putting cash (genkin 現金) directly in the machine or from a bank account (koza 口座
  3. The ATM will ask if you have a furi-komi card (振り込みカード see number 13 for details). If you don't have one...
  4. Insert your bank card or pass book and enter your PIN
  5. Many banks ask where you want to transfer money to: "this bank" (toginko 当銀行) or "another financial institution" (hoka kinyukikan 他金融機関 or hoka ginko 他銀行)
    1. If you select "this bank" the next option will usually allow you to pick "this branch" (doshiten ate 同支店宛) or "a different branch" (hoka shiten 他支店) which you can look up using the first hiragana letter in the branch name and then selecting the kanji (so have the kanji name at the ready).
    2. If you select "other financial institution" then you must look up the bank name manually. For the most part, the ATM will ask you to select the bank type (see the first article in this series for details) then the bank name, followed by branch name, by selecting the first hiragana.
  6. Enter the account number. Some banks allow you to enter a reference number after this such as an order code/customer number etc.
  7. Enter the transfer amount.
  8. A screen should come up confirming all the details. The name of the payee should also be displayed, albeit using abbreviations, which you can interpret using our furikomi abbreviation guide. Make sure the names match up!
  9. The fee will be displayed. If you pay with cash, the ATM allow you to insert you bills and coins. If you pay by bank account then you may have to enter the PIN number again.
  10. Done. 
    1. Most banks allow you to save the details for future use. Usually the option will read something like 情報保存 (joho hozon) with a yes/no.
  11. The machine will print out a receipt and sometimes a furikomi card storing details for repeat payments.
  • If you need to make a regular deposit (such as rent), you can enquire about setting up an automated transfer, called a fixed automated remittance (teigaku jido sokin 定額自動送金). You usually have to fill out a form and pay various fees.
  • Transfers made before 3:00 PM on a weekday will be deposited instantly and transfers initiated after this time won't arrive until the next business day. 
  • Services such as paying with cash through the ATM may not be available during holidays and weekends. 
  • By law, furikomi are limited to 100,000 yen unless you present a valid ID to a bank attendant.

2. Yubin Furikae (郵便振替)
Called furikae for short, this method is only available within JP Bank.

Many JP Bank ATMs have a furikae menu in English. All you need are the record number (kigo 記号) and an account number (bango 番号) of the payee (both can be found inside a bank book or on the front of the JP Bank card). You might also be asked for a check digit (usually a zero or one) between the record number and the account number. Whether or not an account has a check number depends on where and when it was opened.

The furikae process is almost the same as furikomi except the cut off time for deposits is 2:30PM.

  • Note that JP Bank now accepts furikomi from outside institutions although you need a special account number to receive one, which can be found on the first page inside of your JP Bank bank book.

3. For Bills, Tuition, Etc.
Unless you set up automatic bill payment for your home utilities, your bills will arrive in the form of a furikomi iraisho (振込み依頼書) or "request for furikomi payment." 

These can generally be paid at convenience stores (provided they have a printed bar code) or at a bank teller. In the case of very large bills such as school tuition, car, house, etc., you will be sent a request which must be processed by a bank teller (don't try this at home).

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

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