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How to Open a Bank Account and Apply for Credit in South Korea

March 20 , 2021 by: Filipa Alves

Once you’ve arrived in South Korea and start settling in, one of the things you’ll likely think of doing is open a bank account. And while some people don’t necessarily have one, opening a Korean bank account can come in quite handy in the future. For example, did you know that most Korean e-commerce websites will only accept Korean card payments?

If you’re not sure of which bank you should visit, what documents you’ll need to have at ready, and what the process for applying for credit is like, do not worry – we’ll be covering everything in this post.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that South Korea is a rapidly changing country and that all information provided here will be true on the date of publication. Always make sure to call the bank beforehand to find out exactly what you will need to open an account.

 

Korean by Stephane Tampigny on Pixabay

 

Do Bank Employees Speak English?

You’re probably worried about whether the bank tellers will be able to understand you and ease the whole process by not having a communication barrier. Although many Koreans indeed speak or at the very least understand English, most banks will make sure to have at least one employee that can speak English, especially in large branches located in neighborhoods with many foreigners.

But of course, not everyone is going to be starting fresh in Seoul or Busan, and if that’s your case, there’s always the chance that there’s not a single English-speaking person in your branch.

One solution for this is to bring a Korean speaker along or to have one on hold on the phone in case you need assistance. If you don’t have any Korean-speaking friends yet, you could get help from the Korea Travel hotline by calling 1330.

Another one is downloading a trustworthy translation app like Papago – it worked for me when I first arrived and didn’t have anyone to come with me to the bank.

Changdeokgung Palace Garden by Stephane Tampigny on Pixabay

Choosing Your Bank

Sometimes, employers or academic institutions will request you to open an account on a specific bank, and they will even facilitate the process. Other times, you’ll be totally on your own and have to make the choice yourself.

Below are the three major banks in Korea. There are also the most popular with foreigners and the ones with the biggest number of branches and ATMs available throughout the country:

 

What You’ll Need to Prepare Ahead of Your Visit

Below is the list of documents that most banks in South Korea will request you to prepare to open a bank account. There may be some variations depending on the bank you pick.

 

Application Process

Generally, if you’ve gathered all the aforementioned documents, you’ll be directed to a counter once you get to the bank or be given a waiting number. They’ll generally request you fill out a form (if you haven’t beforehand) with details such as your full name, address, phone number, etc.

They will usually be a very small fee when opening the account. Most banks will charge only KRW 2,000.

Should everything be in order, most banks will give you your bank book and ATM card right away. And make sure to keep that bank book safe because it might be requested in the future.

Online Banking

All major banks offer an online banking service, with some even providing an English option. It’s not mandatory to have but highly recommendable! This is because many payments may also be made via account transfer.

They will request you set up a password different from your card’s, which you can later change at any point in the bank, in case you forget it.

And to be able to make online transfers, you’ll need to request a digital certificate. This is essentially a digital file that proves your identity and keeps your account secure.

 

International Transfers to Other Banks

If you’re hoping to send money back home, you will have to request the Foreign Designated Bank option. This is because if you don’t set it up, the option to send money abroad will sometimes not show up on ATMs. You will essentially provide a foreign bank account number and that will be the one you’ll be able to transfer money to (may be subject to daily limitations).

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

 

Applying for a Credit Card

First things first, always make sure to call the credit company ahead of time to make sure you fulfill all the requirements as these vary. Then, gather all the necessary documents, which will often consist of:

Again, it might be helpful to bring someone who speaks Korean, if you’re not able, or to use any of the other solutions provided above.

 

Dress up nicely enough and bring all the documents to the branch where you will be taking care of all the paperwork. Most credit card companies will have a T-Money function available, too – it will allow you to pay for transportations fees (bus, subway, taxi) and be charged at the end of the month.

It will usually take around 2-3weeks to hear back from the bank. They’ll usually have the credit card delivered directly to your house and you’ll also have to show your ARC to the messenger and sign for the delivery. You can activate it by phone or by using it in a nearby ATM.

If you’re not sure which credit company to go with, the most popular are Samsung CardLotte CardShinhan Card, and Shinhan Security Card.

Now that we’ve gone over all you need to know to open a bank account and apply for credit in South Korea, we hope you are better enlightened and will be able to do it on your own.

 

Good luck!

 

Filipa Alves

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