How to open a bank account in Japan
If you’re planning to move to Japan – or even if you’re just a frequent visitor there – you may be wondering how to open a bank account in Japan to hold and spend JPY more easily.
There are usually restrictions on opening an account with a Japanese bank as a foreigner – which may mean you need to have been in Japan for 6 months or more, and hold a long term residence permit to be eligible. However, there are alternative options.
This guide has you covered including the requirements to open a Japanese bank account with a traditional bank, and how to get started with some other providers like Wise and Revolut. Specialist providers like these may be easier to use, with lower costs, and options to open and manage your account entirely online.
What documents do I need?
Let’s start out with the documents you’ll usually need to open an account with a traditional bank in Japan. Different banks may have their own specific requirements – so it’s best to double check before you head into a branch to submit your application. However, most commonly you’ll have to bring:
- Printed and completed application form
- Residence card (zairyu card)
- Hanko (personal seal) – some banks also accept a signature from foreign customers
- Proof of address, such as a utility bill in your name
- Student or employer ID card if available
Don’t forget that there may also be residency requirements depending on the bank and account you need. Some banks ask that you’ve already been in the country for a fixed period of time before you can open an account. Others, like Japan Post Bank, require you to have a certain amount of time (3 months or more) left on your residence card in order to open an account.
Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut
Opening a bank account in Japan can be tricky. Alternative solutions like Wise and Revolut can offer an easier way to get set up with an account to hold, spend and exchange Japanese Yen.
Choose a specialist service like Wise or Revolut and set up your account before you even head to Japan, using your normal US proof of identity and address documents. You’ll be able to access a multi-currency account which covers USD, JPY and a range of other currencies, with great international features like low cost payments to people and businesses overseas.
Providers like Wise and Revolut have been built to operate online and in-app – which also means there’s no need to visit a bank branch or wait in line to get your account up and running. Just head to the desktop site or download the app, follow the intuitive prompts to get set up, and you’re ready to go.
How to open a bank account in Japan
It’s pretty common to be asked to visit a bank branch in person to open an account with a Japanese bank. Depending on the provider you choose you may also need to specify the reason for visiting a particular branch – so picking one close to your home or workplace makes good sense.
Banks like Japan Post Bank make life a little easier by offering the option to download the account application form to print and complete at home. However, you’ll still need to head to a branch to hand over your paperwork – and a full suite of supporting documents – in person. If you want to use a Japanese bank but prefer online opening, Rakuten Bank may be an alternative, as a fully digital bank which has some accounts for foreigners.
If you’re not in Japan yet and want to skip this step, you may find it easier to get your JPY account set up using digital alternatives like Wise or Revolut.
Can I open a bank account in Japan before arrival?
You’ll probably find it tricky to open an account in Japan with a regular bank if you don’t have a residence card and proof of address. Where non-resident account products are available they’re fairly restricted, meaning you may not be able to access internet banking or get a card for example. That effectively means applying for a full service account before you get to Japan is normally impossible.
Instead, consider opening a flexible multi-currency account with a specialist provider which operates online and through an app. Options like Wise and Revolut allow you to apply for an account with a US proof of ID and address, so you can hold, exchange, send and spend JPY even before you travel.
Which account is best in Japan for foreigners?
Your options for opening a Japanese bank account may vary based on how long you’ve been in the country, and the type of residence permit you have. Let’s compare a couple of account products from traditional banks against digital specialist services from Wise and Revolut.
|Service||Wise||Revolut||Japan Post Bank||Rakuten Bank|
|Currencies covered||50+ currencies including USD, GBP and EUR||25 currencies||JPY||JPY|
|Open an account online||Yes||Yes||No||Accounts can be opened in the Rakuten app or by post|
|Opening fee||No fee||No fee||Minimum deposit amount may apply||Minimum deposit amount may apply|
|Fall below fee||No fee||No fee||Varies by account type||Varies by account type|
|Maintenance fee||No fee||Up to 19.99 USD/month||Varies by account type||Varies by account type|
|International money transfers||Low fee, varies by currency||Fee varies by currency and payment value||7,500 JPY + intermediary fees + exchange rate markups||750 JPY + 1,000 JPY intermediary fees if applicable|
Wise has accounts for personal and business customers which can be opened from the US before you leave, to hold and exchange USD and JPY, and around 50 other currencies.
Get local account details for USD to easily receive local payments in dollars – plus extra options to get paid internationally in major currencies like EUR, AUD, CAD and GBP. Learn more from Wise Account Review.
Send transfers to 70+ countries, and get a linked Wise debit card to spend and withdraw in 170+ countries easily. All Wise currency exchange uses the mid-market exchange rate with no markup and no hidden fees. You just pay a low, transparent charge for the services you need.
Account types: Wise personal multi-currency accounts are free to open, with no minimum balance or monthly fees to pay.
Eligibility: Available to non-residents using a proof of identity and address from your home country. Not all services and features are available in all locations – full details by location available on the Wise website.
Is Wise safe? Wise is a safe provider which is overseen by global bodies around the world.
Revolut accounts can be opened online or in-app, with fee free standard plans, and higher tier accounts which come with monthly charges but which unlock more features. If you set up your account before you travel to Japan you’ll be able to hold and exchange 25 currencies with some fee free currency conversion depending on the account type you decide to open. All Revolut accounts have a linked debit card plus handy features for saving and budgeting.
Account types: Revolut plans are available for free or you can upgrade to a paid plan for up to 16.99 USD/month. Paid account plans have more features available.
Eligibility: Available to residents with addresses in the EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, the UK and the US.
Is Revolut safe? Revolut is regulated and authorized in a broad range of countries, including both the US and Japan.
Japan Post Bank
Japan Post Bank is a popular option with foreigners in Japan, with a reasonable amount of account and service information available online in English. You’ll be able to download an account application in advance, but you’ll still need to visit a branch to open your account – take along a Japanese speaker if you’re not confident in the language yet. International payments are available, but the fees are relatively high at 7,500 JPY, plus fairly slow delivery times.
Account types: Full range of account services and products
Eligibility: Most accounts are available to Japanese residents aged over 18, with at least 3 months left on their residence card
Is it safe? Yes. Japan Post Bank is a reputable bank in Japan which is safe to use.
Rakuten is an internet based bank with services mainly available online and through the Rakuten app. There are no branches, but you can get a fairly solid range of account options for day to day use, including international remittances and linked cards for easier spending and withdrawal. Rakuten is often described as the best online bank in Japan, although it’s worth noting that most services are only available in Japanese.
Account types: Account services and products available for day to day financial management
Eligibility: Most accounts are available to Japanese residents aged over 18
Is it safe? Yes. Rakuten is viewed as the best internet bank in Japan and offers a range of security features to keep customers safe
What are the costs
It’s worth checking the fees for your new Japanese bank account carefully, as the cost structure may vary widely from what you’re used to in the US. Look out especially for:
- Monthly maintenance fees – or fall below fees
- Cash deposit fees
- ATM fees
- International payment fees
- Foreign transaction fees when spending or withdrawing with your card
- Overdraft fees
- Credit card costs including cash advances and interest
- Account dormancy or early closure fees
Tips for transferring money
If you’re moving abroad, the chances are that you’ll need to send and receive international payments from time to time. The costs of sending money internationally can be pretty high – and come with some unexpected fees, too. Here are a few tips to make sure you get the best available deal for your transfer:
- Compare the bank’s exchange rate against the rate you find on Google to see if a markup is being used
- Send online if you can – it’s usually cheaper than doing so in a bank branch
- Look for intermediary fees – your own bank may ask you to pay extra charges to cover these, which can push up the overall costs significantly
- Consider a specialist provider – alternatives like Wise or Revolut may be able to send your payment for a lower fee
Are you looking to buy Japanese Yen before you leave for Japan? Check out our page on how to buy Japanese Yen in the USA
Conclusion on Opening a Bank Account in Japan for Foreigners
Opening a bank account in Japan may be a bit tricky if you’re not there yet, or if you’re living in the country but only have a short amount of time left on your residence card. You’ll normally need to hit some pretty strict eligibility requirements, and visit a branch to open your account in the first place – a daunting prospect if you’re not confident in the language yet.
If you’re looking for a way to hold, spend and exchange JPY more easily – with online and in-app account opening before you travel to Japan – you may be better off with an alternative service like Wise or Revolut. Compare a few options to see which meets your needs.
Opening a Japanese Bank Account FAQs
- Can a foreigner open an account in Japan?
Foreigners with legal residence in Japan can open an account with a traditional bank – but there may be specific eligibility requirements, such as having 3 – 6 months or more left on your residence permit when you apply.
A smart alternative is to look at specialist multi-currency accounts which cover JPY as well as USD, from providers like Wise and Revolut. These can be opened before you even travel to Japan with your US ID documents.
- How much do I need to open a bank account in Japan?
Opening an account with a regular Japanese bank may mean making a set initial deposit amount, with additional fees when you transact to consider, too. Compare all the costs of your preferred account against a range of alternative solutions to help you select the right one for you.
- Can I open a Japanese bank account online?
Some Japanese banks, like digital bank Rakuten, do offer online account opening for Japanese residents. However, many traditional banks ask you to visit a branch instead, to show your paperwork and get signed up.
- Can I open a bank account in Japan before landing?
Most Japanese banks only offer full service accounts to residents with a legal address and valid residence permit. That means it’s hard to get a regular bank account before you land. Alternative providers like Wise and Revolut may offer a better solution.