If you’re looking to open a Korean bank account as a foreigner, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’re going to share who can consider banking in South Korea, the steps to open an account, and the challenges you’ll face.
We’ll also take a look at how South Korea stacks up against alternative banking options, such as opening a bank account in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan.
Feel free to use the table of contents to jump ahead to the sections most relevant to you.
Table of Contents
- Banking in Korea for Foreigners 101
- Can a Foreigner Open a Bank Account in Korea?
- Challenges When Opening a Bank Account in Korea
- How to Decide If You Should Bank in Korea or Not
- Ready to Open Accounts?
Banking In Korea for Foreigners 101
Before you rush out and try to open a South Korean bank account, we have some good news and bad news to share with you…
The good news is that foreigners can open a Korean bank account.
The bad news is that it’s going to be one of the most frustrating experiences you have ever experienced.
While South Korea is viewed as one of the most efficient, stable, and successful nations in all of Asia, it’s also one of the most annoyingly bureaucratic places to bank. This is true whether you are opening a personal account or a business account.
That said, South Korea has a well-developed banking system and even has some interesting private banking options for foreigners seeking more exotic options.
It’s also home to a wide range of foreign banks, with more than 38 foreign financial institutions licensed to operate locally.
But, when it comes to opening a bank account as a foreigner in South Korea, the process and requirements are not easy to navigate.
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Can a Foreigner Open a Bank Account in Korea?
Yes, most banks in South Korea do allow foreigners to open a bank account. But there are some South Korea-specific requirements you’ll need to meet first.
Of course, each bank will have its own particular requirements. And, if you do not have a clear connection to South Korea – such as a long-stay visa or a valid reason to bank in the country – bank employees will probably view your application with skepticism.
Nevertheless, here are some typical requirements that foreigners will see when applying to open a Korean bank account:
- Local phone number
- Local address
- Valid passport
- Valid visa to stay in South Korea
- Certificate of employment (if employed locally)
- Educational documents (if studying locally)
- Alien Residence Card (ARC) (if you are a Korean resident)
Challenges When Opening a Bank Account in Korea
If you want to open a Korean bank account you will most likely be required to show up in person. This is required by most South Korea banks.
So, if you’re planning to move to South Korea in the future, it will be difficult to open accounts ahead of your arrival.
Additionally, English-language support is concentrated at specific branches in urban centers like Seoul and Busan. Foreigners trying to open accounts in other locations (or at the wrong branches) could face some language issues.
If you are obtaining local residency, keep in mind that it takes some time to obtain your residence card, and opening an account without an ARC can be challenging.
Korean Debit Card for Foreigners
Debit cards are more commonly known as “check cards” in South Korea. After opening an account with a bank here, your “check card” is delivered and can be used for ATM withdrawals as well as in-store and online purchases.
Some banks offer check cards tailored to the needs of foreign account holders and international travelers, including perks like airport lounge access and no fees on overseas transactions (outside South Korea).
That said, if you’re looking for cards with more attractive rewards, consider applying for US credit cards. US credit cards offer the biggest and most attractive perks, travel rewards, and signup bonuses in the world.
Opening a Bank Account in Korea Without Arc
Yes, it is possible to open a Korean bank account without an ARC. However, in most cases, the account will have restrictions and limited benefits.
Additionally, most banks that open without ARC tend to focus on individuals who are waiting for their ARC to arrive. In other words, the applicant has already started the process and has not yet received their final documentation.
How to Decide Whether to Bank in Korea or Not
When deciding whether or not to bank in a specific country, consider your in-country banking requirements, ties to the country, and reason for wanting to bank there.
In the case of South Korea, if you do not have substantial ties locally, you’ll most likely be better off choosing another Asian (or international) banking hub.
For example, if you are looking for private banking, you might want to consider Singapore, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, or other private banking hubs. If you want a basic transactional account for day-to-day expenses, options like US, UK, Europe, Singapore, and certain offshore financial centers might be worth looking at. On the other hand, if you’re looking for business banking, depending on your corporate structure and where you do business, you might want to consider the United States, Europe, Singapore, or even the Caribbean.
Ready to Open Accounts?
If you would like assistance navigating your account opening options and the jurisdictions that you can realistically access, we can help.
You can access GlobalBanks IQ, our international banking intelligence platform, in just a few clicks. Unlock our bank database, individual bank profiles, account opening strategies and reports, banker scripts, and more.
But, if you want a 100% personalized account opening service that taps into our team’s expertise and provides direct banker introductions, you can get started with GlobalBanks Insider.
Of course, if you have any questions before deciding which solution is best for you, don’t hesitate to contact us directly!