How to open a bank account in South Korea for Americans

Gabriela Peratello

If you’re moving to South Korea to live, study or work, you may be wondering how to get started. Opening a bank account is a crucial first step that’ll help you settle in and access essential services.

If you’re currently planning your move, check out this guide for how to open a bank account in South Korea, featuring all you need to know about fees, options and more.

📑 Table of Contents


Can Americans open a bank account in Korea?

Many South Korean banks allow foreigners to open a bank account. The majority of banks offer services in English as well as other languages.

Most banks allow new arrivals to open an account, but in general online applications aren't available.

Can you open a temporary bank account overseas in Korea?

Opening a traditional bank account in Korea as a foreigner will usually mean visiting a bank in person.

You’ll also normally be required to show your proof of immigration status and residential address, making this quite tricky if you’re only in Korea on a temporary basis.

Can you, as an American citizen, open a joint bank account in South Korea with a Korean citizen?

Different banks have their own policies on offering joint accounts. To check if you’re able to open one at your preferred bank you’ll need to visit a branch or call.

Opening a bank account in South Korea as a non-national: step by step

To open a bank account in South Korea, you’ll usually have to visit a branch in person.

The major banks have dedicated branches where English speaking customer service staff are available — some may even have a variety of languages on offer. It’s worth noting that the Korean banking system may feel quite different to the US.

Even when information is provided in English, you might need to have a local friend or a member of bank staff talk you through the differences between different account products, cards and so on.

Don’t assume the systems will work as they do in the US. To give a simple example, although many banks offer weekend branch openings, not all services may be available at these times¹.

And when it comes to signing up for online banking, there may be an entirely different process to follow involving resubmitting ID documents, even after you’ve opened your account in the first place.

Once you’ve got to grips with the differences in account and service types, opening a Korean bank account is relatively straightforward²:

Step 1. Choose the right bank and account for your needs

Step 2. Check your eligibility and the documents needed

Step 3. Visit a bank branch in person — choose one with international services or take a Korean speaking friend if you’re still learning the language

Step 4. Hand over your paperwork and complete the application

Step 5. Check over the account options, including the types of card you can get, how to sign up for internet banking and so on

Step 6. Once your account is verified you’ll be ready to go

What documents do I need to open a bank account in South Korea?

The documents you’ll need to take with you to the bank to open an account are:

  • Your passport
  • A valid visa
  • Alien Registration Card (ARC — a South Korean residency card)

The ARC will have your address printed on it, but you should also bring in a copy of your address written in both Korean and English, so the bank can properly capture it.

Can you open a bank account in Korea as a foreigner without ARC or with a foreign address?

Several of Korea’s major banks have specific services for new arrivals. If you don’t yet have all your documents, you may find that these banks can offer support and advice. KB Kookmin and Hana Bank are good places to start — we’ll look at them in more detail next.

In general terms, if you can’t provide all the paperwork usually required by a traditional bank, you may be allowed to add in ID from your home country, plus a proof of your legal residence in Korea, to get your account set up.

What’s the best expat bank account in Korea?

Some of the most popular South Korean banking choices for expats are KB Kookmin Bank (one of the largest banks in South Korea), HSBC South Korea, Hana Bank, Citibank South Korea and Woori Bank.

South Korea also has plenty of international partners with ATMs available across the country, such as:

KB Kookmin Bank Korea³

KB Kookmin is one of Korea’s biggest banks, with a strong branch and ATM network. Here are some KB Kookmin products to look out for:

  • KB welcome services for foreigners (checking or savings account, free transactions)
  • Personal banking including overseas remittances and investments
  • Corporate banking
  • Student account with basic functions (if you have ARC card)

Hana Bank⁴

Hana Bank is another large provider with a range of services. Hana Bank has a focus on foreign exchange services, and offers currency conversion and payments to a broad range of countries. Here’s what to look out for with Hana Bank:

  • Easy-One foreigner service (online banking and services in Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese)
  • Savings accounts, day to day accounts and loans
  • Corporate banking accounts

Citibank South Korea

Until recently, Citibank has had a considerable presence in South Korea, offering retail services like personal banking and foreign exchange services.

However, Citi recently announced that they would withdraw from the South Korea market⁵, and only offer institutional services throughout the region.

Kakao Pay⁶

Kakao Pay isn’t necessarily a solution to managing all your day to day finances in South Korea, but can offer a few neat options for paying friends and settling your bills.

Kakao is basically a digital wallet service, which has opportunities for budgeting and managing your money, and earning rewards as you do.

The one downside of it, though, is that the interface has a limited offer in English. If you speak Korean you’ll be able to use services to its fullest extent.

Can you find South Korean banks in the USA?

Yes. There are a few South Korean banks which have a US representation, such as Hana Bank⁷ and KB Kookmin⁸.

If you’ve opened a South Korean bank account already and need support when in the US, you may be able to get through to a local team via their US offices.

Costs and fees of having a South Korean bank account

There may be a small fee for receiving your ATM card from some banks. Most banks will only allow you to have one ATM card.

When it comes to ATMs fees incurred by withdrawing money from the ATM of a different bank, each bank has a different policy. All Korea Exchange Bank ATMs are free of charge, no matter which card you have.

Korean banks don't charge monthly fees for your account. You only pay for the transactions that you make, such as using a bank’s ATM that's outside your network, or using your bank’s ATM outside of banking hours. Using tellers may also result in a small service charge.

International banking fees

When it comes to foreign exchange, you'll also see a service charge. Fees greatly depend on the bank you choose.

Korean banks may mark up the mid-market exchange rate, or the true exchange rate at which banks buy and sell currency.

There's another option, if you want to avoid unfair fees and poor exchange rates, you can use Wise to transfer money using the mid-market rate.

Send money from and to your Korean bank account with Wise

If you have to send money to Korea you need Wise. Wise international money transfers offer the real mid-market exchange rate with no markup, and low, transparent fees⁹ which can work out cheaper than your normal bank.

Because Wise processes payments through its own payment network, it’s fast, too. 45%+ of Wise payments arrive instantly, and the majority are where they need to be within 24 hours¹⁰.

Set up your payment online or in the Wise app easily, and see instantly how much it’ll cost, how much your recipient will get — and when your money is likely to arrive. See how much you can save with Wise today.

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  1. Hana Bank - Service hours
  2. Hana Bank - Useguide
  3. KB Kookmin - New arrival banking
  4. Hana Bank - Newcomer service
  5. Reuters - Citi exiting South Korea
  6. Kakao Pay
  7. Hana Bank US
  8. KB Kookmin US
  9. Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information
  10. The speed of transaction claim depends on funds availability, approval by Wise’s proprietary verification system and systems availability of our partners’ banking system, and may not be available for all transactions

Sources checked on 08.22.2022

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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