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How to open a bank account in South Korea

South Korean's popularity as an expat destination continues to grow as it lures people in with a mixture of amazing nature, the world’s fastest internet connections, a thriving technological culture, and of course its people who are friendly to foreigners and are a charming bunch. Whether you want to stay in Seoul, the country's bustling capital, experience traditional Korea in Jeonju, or teach English in Suwon, a province teeming with historical sites and rich culture, a foreigner have many options of places to stay.

With the language and all, westerners may see it as a challenge getting started especially when figuring out how to get around, the country’s cultural differences and the overall expat which can be a lot.

Opening a Korean bank account is not too difficult at all. If you are looking to make it your home as a student, worker or investor, here is our guide on how to open a bank account in South Korea.

Documents needed to open a bank account in South Korea

Here are the requirements you need to bring with you in order to open a bank account in South Korea

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Alien Registration Card (ARC*) which is a residence card
  • A copy of your address in English and in Korean
  • Certificate of Employment (students can ask their school about special arrangements they may have with banks)
  • A Korean phone number (you can use a friend's number if you don't have one yet and later change it when you already have yours)

Most banks will have the aforementioned requirements, but there are exceptions. As a rule of thumb, it is important to call the branch or check their website and find out the actual requirements.

You may stumble upon some bank branches where you can open a bank account even if you lack any of the documents they require. However, you may enjoy fewer services, such as an account with no ATM card.

Can I open a bank account without ARC?

An ARC provides your account more options making it more functional, such as access to an ATM card, online banking, and overseas money transfers. You may still open a bank account without an ARC. However, you'd enjoy limited services. For instance, you may need to transact with a teller as your account may not come with an ATM card.

Can I open a bank account in South Korea as a non-resident?

Yes, there are many banks that allow foreign nationals to open a bank account in South Korea. These financial institutions also offer customer service in English which can be handy for those getting started.  It is likely that because you aren’t a resident you will not be authorized to perform many types of transactions using ATMs or online tools. That changes from bank to bank and your specific case. 

Can I open a Korean bank account online?

Yes and no.

Yes, if you already have an existing account with an international bank that also has operations in South Korea, then you can open a bank account without going to the branch in person.

No, if you don't have such account. You must personally visit a branch to make an application. 

Other Banking Options in South Korea

Another option for your banking needs in South Korea is using a foreign currency or multicurrency account. Intended to help account holders manage their account anytime, these accounts are usually online. With a foreign currency account, you can keep your money in South Korean won (KRW), US dollars (USD), or several other currencies in one account.

Best Banks in South Korea

There are hundreds of banks in South Korea including all the major international players which either are present there, partnered with local banks or have outright purchase operations of South Korean banks.

All major banks in the country provide online banking, with options to choose English and a number of other languages. Do not expect though for complete menus as these typically just provide access to the usual transactions. Some services that are available in Korean may not be available when using the English option. 

Some of the most popular banking institutions in South Korea are KB Kookmin Bank, Citi Korea, HSBC South Korea, Hana Bank, Citibank South Korea, Woori Bank and many others. They all have headquarters in Seoul.

  • KB Kookmin Bank: With over 1200 branches and an additional 1200 ATMs, there are plenty of options to perform banking operations if you choose KB Kookmin Bank. They have a special help desk for expats, personal and corporate bank accounts, as well as options tailor made to students.
  • Hana Bank: With 40 branches, over 40 ATMs and a wider reaching ATM partner network, their key selling point is specialization in opening accounts for expats from China, Japan, Vietnam and English speakers in General. They are also a fully featured corporate bank.
  • Citibank South Korea: With 1200 branches and over 1200 ATMs as well as a welcome service desk for expats, they are a really good option. They have an excellent foreign exchange program, special gold accounts and a selection of basic bank accounts for students, workers and investors.

Generally speaking, you can easily open a bank account in South Korea. You take a ticket from the ticketing system and wait for your turn. After a series of documents and basic procedures, you should be able to walk out with your bank account ready to go. In most cases, your ATM card will be issued right there in the branch. It won’t be a debit card: that you will need to request separately.

Minimum Deposits and Bank Fees

Take note that there are fees involved with your South Korean bank account. This is important to know because although South Korean bank won’t charge monthly fees to have an account, there will be fees for using ATMs outside your network and even using ATMs outside normal hours of operation which may vary from bank to bank. You may be exempted from certain fees if you sign up for a special account. Tip: Korea Exchange Bank ATMs are free to use.

Transacting with a teller also involves a sort of service charge as well as transacting online. However, the latter will be lower than the former. You can find Korean financial institutions that do not require a minimum deposit.

The virtual bank account alternative

It is expensive to do international money transfers from South Korea

If you need to move money from South Korea to anywhere in the world, chances are, you are using your bank and they are charging too much for it. This happens because banks transfer money to each other using the mid market rate which is very low yet they have to charge a lot more in order to cover their costs. For example, if you need to transfer 10 thousand dollars worth of rupees to India, you end up getting only about 9 thousand dollars worth of rupees when it is all done. That is right, it gets 10% in fees and that is too much. It takes long too: up to 2 weeks for a transfer to India.

With a virtual bank account by B2B Pay, you get 9900 dollars worth of rupees back in India, saving you 900 euros or so in the process and the money gets there usually in 24 hours. 1% is better than 10% we reckon. You also get your own European IBAN which is a bank account you can use to send and receive money within SEPA and send money in 32 currencies to 200 countries for the same 1% low rate.

 

How to open a bank account in Europe

We have a few guides to guide you through the process of opening a bank account in multiple European countries and explaining why a virtual bank account with B2B Pay may be a better alternative if you are transferring money outside of Europe and taking advantage of a better rate.



How to open a bank account overseas

We have a few guides to guide you through the process of opening a bank account in multiple countries all over the world and explaining why a virtual bank account with B2B Pay may be a better alternative if you are transferring money outside of Europe and taking advantage of a better rate.


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