Most Saga JETs have an account set up by their BOE with Saga Bank. Your supervisor will help you get your account set up once you have received your inkan (personal stamp) and residence card. Your salary will be directly deposited into your account, and it will be possible to have the majority of your regular monthly expenses automatically debited from this account.
Some JETs may also choose to open a Post Office Bank Account which will function in much the same way but has the added benefit of being accessible at all post offices throughout the country, and allowing international money transfers.
Accessing Your Money
Japan is essentially still a cash-based society. Credit/debit cards may be accepted in larger stores, cities, and hotels, but almost all small shops, bars, restaurants and ryokan (Japanese inns) will all require cash payment. It is therefore not uncommon to walk around with a lot of cash on you. This may take some getting used to but it will save you trips to the bank and ATM fees.
The Japanese banking system is not networked to the same degree as your home country and even though they are electronic, ATMs will have “business hours” and are not open 24 hours a day. Depending on the time of day you use an ATM there may also be a service charge.
Saga Banks ATMs are “open” from 8:00am – 9:00pm on weekdays and from 9:00am -7:00pm on weekends and holidays. There is no service charge for withdrawing your money between 8:45am – 6:00pm on weekdays and there is never a service charge for depositing your money. There will be a service charge if you withdraw money from an ATM belonging to a different bank (ex. Fukuoka Bank or Oita Bank) and some banks may not accept Saga Bank. For information see Saga Bank ATM fees.
When traveling it’s wise to research your bank’s branches and ATMs before you leave. Saga Bank has an app for cell phones, smart phones, and tablets that makes finding a branch office or ATM very easy. It is free and requires no registration. For more information see here.
There are ATMs operated by 7/11, Family Mart, and Lawson, which will allow access to most bank accounts (and definitely Saga bank). These machines operate 24 hours a day, but even if the ATM is open, your bank still may not allow access to your account. This is especially true late at night, and on weekends and national holidays. During long holidays such as Golden Week and New Year’s, you may not be able to withdraw money for several days. Please plan accordingly.
If you have a Post Office Bank account, you can access your money with no fees at any post office location throughout the country. This makes accessing your money while traveling very easy. The only downside is that ATM and post office hours will vary by location.
In you need to access money from a foreign bank account 7/11 ATMs and Postal ATMs allow for withdrawals using certain foreign ATM cards and cash advances with credit cards. If your home card has a symbol such as the Cirrus one you can often use it in Japan.
Home Country Credit/Debit Cards
PLEASE WARN THE ASSOCIATED INSTITUTIONS BEFORE INTERNATIONAL USE.
If you don’t advise the credit companies about the move beforehand, you run a great risk of having your account locked as a form of protection. Please warn the issuing bank BEFORE traveling abroad and be sure to inform them of the duration of your stay. Most local stores within Saga will not accept credit cards (usually mom and pop shops will not have a way to process the cards), but larger department stores, clothing stores and the like will offer you two options, payment plan (bun-katsu) or one time (ikkatsu).
Japanese Credit/ Debit Cards
While Japanese credit cards have a reputation as being very hard for foreigners to get, there are some that are more “available” than others. The card viewed as the “easiest” to obtain is the Rakuten Card, but that being said you may still be denied.
During the application process they will call the work number you marked down to confirm that you are in fact employed. Japanese credit cards in general don’t seem to offer the flexibility in choosing when to make payments that may be offered by credit card companies back home. You can set up automatic payments from your bank, but you won’t be billed until over a month after your purchases, so make sure you keep track and have enough money in the bank. You can also keep track of purchases and upcoming bills with the Rakuten Phone App 「楽天カード」. Rakuten, however, is infamous for its torrents of spam mail, and, while you can try to adjust your settings, you will still probably get all sorts of annoying updates. It’s recommended to create an e-mail filter. Department stores, airlines, and electronic stores supposedly have less strict standards for the credit cards they offer.
It is possible to add Debit Card functionality to the cash card you get with a Post Bank Account
Things to bring with you to Japan
If you plan to use any international transfer services or just check on your credit/bank balances, you will possibly need your bank account number, your bank’s routing number (ask your bank for this or see their website), and your bank’s address and telephone number.
It is best to check with your home country banks to see if there are any special procedures for sending money home, accessing your money abroad, or other relevant money matters. For some banks, internet banking services now require security tokens to facilitate some or all transactions. This is a physical piece of hardware from which you receive a code to input on the website. If you are planning on using internet banking services, you should check with your local institution as to whether you will require such a token. Although it can be posted to you in Japan, this will take some time, so its best to acquire one before you leave if necessary.