Posted by: thewhitesintokyo | September 27, 2009

More banking fun

dollar yenAs you may have read before, banking in Japan falls somewhere between a carousel ride at the county fair and the last episode of Glee.  There’s always something unexpected that will make your head spin.

Our health insurance here (more on this soon) basically works like this: 1.) Get hurt. 2.) Go to the doctor. 3.) Pay your full bill out of pocket. 4.) Upload your receipt online. 5.) Get a big check back in a few weeks.

We had one bigger bill last spring and returned to Tokyo with a nice check for $750.00.  Whoa!  That was great…especially since we’d paid off the bill and basically forgotten about it already.  The only hitch is that the company, located in the United States, of course sends the check in U.S. dollars.  But, I have a “Mulit-currency” account at Citibank, so I thought I’d be able to deposit it there.

As it turns out, I could have deposited the check at a converted yen rate into our normal Japanese checking account. BUT…here’s the kicker…because of the low yen/dollar rate right now, we would have only gotten $667.00 in the end.  So, I asked if I could deposit the money in dollars and transfer when the rate came back up.

The woman behind the counter gave me a ticket with a number on it and literally a second and a half later the number was announced on a sign above a marble staircase.  She said politely, “You must go upstairs for this transaction.”

I know…DUN, Dun, dun.

As I climbed the (marble) staircase, everything turned to gold.  Literally.  I was entering the CitiGold area of the downtown Shibuya bank branch, which is only for high-flying investor types with tons of money.  I, on the other hand, am not one of those people, but only have a check from my American insurance company that I want to handle well so that I don’t lose a bunch of money. The banisters were gold, the desks were cherry with marble touches.  Three men, looking like black-suited identical reproductions of one another (like the bad guys in the Matrix), stood up simultaneously, welcoming me with a deep bow.  Then, two of them pulled out my chair with more finesse than your grandpa’s moonshine, and I took a seat.

I then sat for 15 minutes as we filled out my personal account information (with a gold pen, of course) and I answered questions to determine my “Risk Profile.”  Seriously, just to deposit a check.  In the end, it took nearly an hour for the whole thing to finish up.  The three men again attentively pulled my chair and escorted me to the front door before bowing again.

Awesome.  Right?

It turns out that it takes 3-4 weeks for that check to actually make it into my account.  Not cool.  Good thing I didn’t need that anytime soon!  Here’s my summary of our bank experiences so far: finding an English-speaking bank was tough but doable, banking hours here are impossible, Rachael isn’t allowed to touch our accounts because of her visa status, it once took five employees almost an hour to count out my piggy bank into cash, and it takes a month to deposit a check.  It definitely pays to be patient with the timing of your currency transfers (we made $443 just by sending my check home this week rather than a few weeks ago when the yen was higher), but somehow my head is always spinning when I exit a Japanese bank.

DollarPast banking blog posts:

Banking in Japan

Apartment/Phone bill outrageous costs

Pocket coins…memoir

Paying bills at the convenience store


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: