As a bank manager in the U.S., I was in complete shock with how convenient banking in Korea is. In the U.S., it seems that there was so much paperwork and red tape that you needed to do just to get tasks accomplished. Shortly after you arrive to teach in in Korea you will quickly realize how convenient and efficient banking is compared to back home.
1. Setting up an Account:
When coming to Korea, it may seem like a daunting task to set up your checking or savings account. Luckily, many of the larger bank locations have an English speaker on hand or at least can get you in contact with an English translator to help you with your needs. The easiest way is to have a Korean speaker come along and help you, but if one isn’t available, there are other options. When I was in America, many of the checking or savings account had a fee attached to it. The basic ones here in Korea usually have no fee attached and you can get your debit card made on the spot. How convenient! Just remember when you are
setting up your account, bring these following items:
A. Your ARC and Passport (you may be able to set it up with just one of these, but bring both).
B. Your address in Korean and a phone number
C. Your work contract (some banks want to see proof you do have a job here)
After completing the application, they will give you your bank book and debit card within a few minutes. It was so great to see how efficient Korean banking is!
2. Setting Up a Remittance Account:
If you do need to send money back home to your home country, a remittance account is the way to go. It is way cheaper than sending a wire (usually less than 10,000 won). A remittance is best if you need to send money on a monthly basis (if you need to pay student loans or credit cards). To set this up, you need:
A. Your home bank’s address
B. Your account number and their routing/SWIFT number
3. Paying your Bills:
Paying bills in Korea is pretty easy and relatively cheaper than it is in the U.S. Many times you can go ahead and just have the money for your bills directly taken out of your account (i.e. cell phone bills). But if you like to go ahead and manage your accounts more thoroughly and control what goes in and out, you can bring your bills to your bank’s ATM and make the transfer there. Fees are usually less than 1,000 won or even better no fee at all! You should know the name of the different banks that are on your bills (electricity, water, housing maintenance, Internet) because they are written in Korean. For me, this is the fastest way for me to pay my monthly bills. If you are having trouble, you can take the bills into your bank and the tellers/bankers can make the transfer for you. On a side note, you can bring cash to some GS25 convenient stores to pay your internet bills. If you are late on paying your bills, the overdue charge is significantly less than the charges in America.
4. Getting a Credit Card:
This may be a little bit difficult for some, but as a foreigner, you can get a credit card while you are here in Korea. Some banks are fearful that you may run out on your bill once you leave Korea. However, if you plan on staying for awhile and and want to get deep discounts on movie tickets, restaurants, and taxi fees, then a credit card may be something that you may want to look into. In Korea, many of the credit cards have a 10,000-15,000 won yearly fee, but if you shop and spend enough, you will make it back in savings. Furthermore, you can accrue points for bigger discounts or gifts later on. If you are interested, I would suggest trying
Shinhan or KEB bank. They seem to let help foreigners get cards much faster than other banks. Make sure to bring:
A. Your ARC and Passport
B. Address written in Korean and phone number
C. 3 months worth of banking statements (to confirm your salary)
D. Employment certificate (재직증명서) – This is different from your contract but is a
both just in case)
certificate that shows that you do work for the company
E. Your academy’s phone number and address
Within 4 calendar days, I was able to get approved and have the card in my hand having it sent to the bank next to my academy. Now, I can build up my Korean Air/Asiana Airlines mileage points for when I want to travel. If you get rejected, go ahead and try a different location because it seems that each banking branch has its own policies.Don’t think banking in Korea is that difficult. With these tips, banking and living in Korean can be quiet simple.
Marc has been living in Seoul and working at the ChungDahm Learning' s Gangdong Branch for 4 years now. He has worked his way up from being a teacher and to a faculty manager for that location. He majored in Finance and Marketing at the University of Nevada Las Vegas while working as a manager for a national bank. In his spare time, he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking the numerous mountains around Seoul and biking along the massive Han River. To know more about him and his adventures living in Korea, follow Marc on Twitter @geonmakku and on Instagram @geonmakku.