Options for English internet banking in Japan

by Danielle Tate-Stratton

Back home in Canada, actually going in to the bank is not something I’ve done often in the last several years. Thanks to the ease of internet banking, I can make payments, check accounts, and even open a new account or buy life insurance without ever leaving the couch!

Luckily for anyone who, like me, would rather do just about anything than stand in a long line at the bank, there are a few options for internet banking, in English, being offered to foreigners in Japan. While we may not be able to manage every minute aspect of our finances online, banks such as Shinsei and Citibank certainly provide for more than the basics.

Citibank Japan (www.citibank.co.jp/en), known for its foreigner-friendly services, has a comprehensive and well-written English website which goes far beyond the frustrating English-front page but Japanese-sub pages design of so many supposedly English sites. The list of online services Citibank offers includes checking basic account balance information and making transfers, but also allows you to set up an investment account, buy mutual funds, and examine daily performance graphs for financial markets around the world.

For the less technologically inclined, Citibank has made it easy by including detailed instructions, with screenshots, for several types of transactions including making transfers. In addition, DoCoMo network users can scan a QR code from the website to access limited services.

Another bank known for its English service is Shinsei Bank, which also offers internet banking at: www.shinseibank.com/english. Security-conscious users will appreciate the multi-step sign-in process, which requires your account number, pin, and internet password (entered using a security, or scrambled, on-screen keypad). In addition, each user is mailed a unique security card, which has a grid of letters and numbers on the back. During the login process, you are asked to provide three of these from different coordinates each time.

Once in, users may check account balances and information, as well as make transfer payments, which Shinsei has recently made easier by implementing a new ‘easy-input’ system for the singlebyte katakana required to name your ‘payee’ before you transfer funds. Other services include bill payments and currency exchanges. Although not as comprehensive at Citibank’s, Shinsei’s website is certainly sufficient and easy to navigate and, should you get confused, the bank offers phone support in English as well.

These two banks are making great strides towards bringing internet banking, such as that which many expats have been using for years, to those of us in Tokyo who want to be able to check a balance at 2am, move funds at 7pm, or simply avoid that lunchtime lineup!