Banking & Finance

Following an agreement with the prefecture, all Tochigi JETs are automatically required to open a bank account with Ashikaga Bank, and your salary will be automatically deposited in here. While this is a fine bank found all over the prefecture (and outside at 7-Elevens), it has room for upgrade. Many foreigners find Japanese banks to be incredibly inconvenient compared to banks back home–they have short hours (often closing before the workday ends, and sometimes even on weekends), and the ATMs typically leave much to be desired (closing times, fees for using outside of certain hours or at certain locations, etc.).

Therefore, here are a few things to help you survive with Japanese banks:

Make an online banking account with Ashikaga Ginko

Unfortunately, while often taken for granted in many other parts of the world, Japan hasn’t come around to automatic online banking yet. However, if you sign up (the process is very similar to actually opening your account), you can transfer money at reduced (or sometimes no) extra cost and no longer need to lug around your bankbook since you can use the Moneytree app (see below). See my guide here for how to start online banking with Ashikaga Bank.

Open a Shinsei Bank account

Shinsei is one of the most user-(and foreigner-) friendly banks there is in Japan. You can open a Power Flex account online (after which the rest of the process will be done through the mail), which has many perks–free use no matter the time at ATMs in most major convenience stores and extensive English support, just to name a couple. Many JETs use this as an emergency fund (especially useful for when traveling outside Tochigi) or as a savings account (you can set up a savings account for real easily within the Power Flex account as well).

Use Moneytree

When I realized that my Level app isn’t compatible with non-US bank accounts, I had a minor panic attack. With my first real job and all the cash just flowing in and needing to pay my rent and utilities completely on my own for the first time, I was afraid I would lose track horribly of all my expenses and would fail pretty hard at adulting. But fear not, Moneytree has you covered! While it’s not quite as good as Level in my opinion, it is definitely awesome–and since it was made in Japan and run mostly by foreigners, it is incredibly applicable to life as a foreigner in Japan. You can use this app (in English, although their official website is only in Japanese) to track your expenses, hook up your bank, credit card, and point card accounts, and basically just keep track of your financial life. As of now, it is only available for iOS, so sorry Android (or Blackberry) users.