Having a Korean bank account and, thus, a Korean debit card can be of great convenience to foreigners staying in South Korea in case they are facing issues with their own cards for payments.
It can be quite a difficult task to get a Korean bank account as a foreigner in South Korea. If you’re not staying for a period of more than 3 months and thereby are staying on a visa other than a travel visa and thus applying for an Alien Registration Card, I do not believe it is possible to open one as a foreigner. I can, however, be mistaken.
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When I managed to open a Korean bank account, I was staying on a student visa (D-2) and was studying as an exchange student at Korea University Business School in Seoul. This guide is based on my personal experience with opening a Korean bank account as an exchange student in 2020.
While there isn’t a set way to open a Korean bank account as a Foreigner in South Korea, your best chance is to ask your school, university, workplace, or other establishment associated with your reason for staying in South Korea for more than 3 months. I managed to open a Korean bank account as an exchange student by visiting the bank branch (Hana Bank) located on campus. You can find more information below.
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How to open a Korean bank account in South Korea
A lot of people are unable to use their debit or credit card from their home country in South Korea, which is where a Korean bank account can come in handy.
If you have a Korean bank account, you’ll get a Korean debit card and are thus able to pay with that card anywhere in South Korea without issues.
In case you’re not staying in South Korea for a period of more than 3 months, I believe it is going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to open a Korean bank account. The reason is that you do not need to apply for the Alien Registration Card (ARC) if you are staying in the country for less than 90 days, and banks do not, or cannot, open accounts for individuals who do not have or have applied for ARC. If you’re traveling to South Korea on a student visa, work visa, etc., where you need to apply for the Alien Registration Card, then you might be able to open a Korean bank account.
To open a Korean bank account in South Korea as a foreigner, you should first ask the school you’re studying at, the company you’re working at, or the organization or establishment you’re connected to for the purpose of your stay. That is where you’ll have the best chance of opening a bank account. If they do not have an option for you to open a bank account, you have to visit a bank directly yourself.
When I was in South Korea as an exchange student in 2020, I was one of the people who couldn’t use my own debit card from my home country, so getting a Korean bank account and debit card made it much more convenient whenever I had to pay for something.
Here is how I opened a Korean bank account at Hana Bank (하나은행) and what documents I needed to bring:
I visited the Hana Bank branch that was located on the university campus (Korea University) and asked to open a bank account and get a debit card for it. As they were located on the university campus, they dealt with regular students’ school bank accounts but also a lot of exchange students wanting to open accounts.
We were then sat down and asked to fill out several pages of documents for the bank account application, like address in South Korea, Korean phone number, age, and name in Korean letters. I’m not sure if you could make a new name in Korean, like Korean people also have an English legal name, but I just put my name into Papago and wrote the characters from there, and they accepted that even though my full name is quite long in Korean letters.
The documents and information that I needed to present for the application were:
- My passport
- My Alien Registration Card application
- Student ID card
- Personal details and Korean phone number
- Cash fee for opening the account + minimum deposit amount (I believe ₩10,000 + ₩1,000)
I did not have my Alien Registration Card at the time of opening my Korean bank account, I had only applied for the ARC, and that was all they needed.
Before I visited the bank branch on the university campus, I went to a random bank branch, which was also Hana Bank, and they told me I needed to have my Alien Registration Card before I could open an account. So, visit a branch connected to your school, work, etc., as they seem to have different requirements tailored to your situation.
If I had waited till I got my Alien Registration Card to open a Korean bank account, I would only have had it for around 1 month in South Korea instead of around 2.5 months. One of the things you need for your ARC application is a passport photo. You can learn how to get passport photos easily and quickly in South Korea here.
The other foreigners I heard that had opened a Korean bank account also did so through their school or workplace.
In case your school, workplace, etc., cannot help you open a Korean bank account, you need to visit a bank directly yourself. If that bank branch is unable to open a bank account for you, ask them if they know what branch or other bank might be able to. When you go directly to a bank yourself, I believe that you always need to have your Alien Registration Card, not just the application document for it.
From what I’ve heard, Hana Bank (하나은행), KEB (also owned by Hana Bank), and Shinhan Bank (신한은행) are the most foreigner-friendly banks, so you might have the best chances at those.
How to easily add money to your Korean bank account
Once you’ve opened a Korean bank account and gotten your debit card, here is how you can add money to your account.
The easiest way is to withdraw cash at a global ATM with your debit card or credit card from your home country and then deposit the same cash onto your Korean debit card using the ATM machine. With this method, you can, within a minute, transfer money from your card from your home country to your Korean card.
To deposit cash onto your Korean card, select deposit instead of withdrawal on the ATM machine and insert the cash you wish to deposit in the designated slot. You’ll also get a slip of paper after making the deposit that tells you the total amount on your card, in case you didn’t sign up for online banking services or don’t want to check your Korean bank account online.
There is a small fee associated with doing this, as you’re making a cash withdrawal at an ATM. However, the fee is likely going to be smaller than if you were to transfer money online from your bank account in your home country to your Korean bank account.
Make sure to find an ATM that says Global ATM, as those are the only ones where you can make a cash withdrawal with a foreign card.
That’s how to open a Korean bank account while staying in South Korea!
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