How to Bank in Korea

The Korean banking system is a system built on pain. To be honest, if I had learned about this chaos when I was younger it might very well have colored my perception of Korea as a technologically forward country. Because this is just nuts. I am hoping to help you avoid my situation by giving you this information ahead of time! This is “How to Bank in Korea.”

Why it’s terrible

The hours are ridiculous. I know it used to be the global standard to only be open Mon-Fri until 4 but I thought the civilized world had moved on. No.

Every appointment takes at least an hour whenever I’m there (I have tallied it up to 6 hours so far and I’ve only had this job for two months).

Everything is “so secure” you can hardly log into your bank account. They often want you to download 3-4 files at any time to “be secure.” It’s times like these that I scream to the heavens “just take my money! It’s not worth it!” Also, my snooty ideals come into play. Why is it my job to keep your system secure? They should do it on their end.

If you have the audacity to possess a middle name they’ll probably need a couple visits to fix your name (we’re on try three).

They assume you only want a debit card to make in person payments. I’ll get into this more later on how insane this is. In fact, they assume a lot of things.

What to Ask for in Your Very First Bank Meeting (with Co-teacher, hopefully)

1. Ask for a T-Money Tap-capable card

This will save you many trips to the convenience store to top up your card. Instead it’s connected right to your bank! If you don’t know what T-Money is, it’s a card that you can reload with money that you can use to pay for most forms of transportation (Buses, Subways, even Taxis sometimes). This feature also gives your card tap capability in general, which is very handy for quicker purchases.

2. Ask for the ability to buy online

Now, sometimes they can only help you so far on this. If your name does not match your phone plan’s name you might have a huge issue until you can make them match. AKA, the issue I’m having right now. Also, when you manage to get the information to buy online, you have to sign up within three days or you have to go into the bank again. Your co-teacher may not think to tell you this, despite the entire document being in Korean…

3. Ask for International Transactions

Like many foreigners, I’m sure, I occasionally want to make an international purchase. I have you to be able to do this. I am not entirely sure what the process is with my bank, as each one seems a little different. Some will simply flick a button to allow it. Others will need to issue you an entirely separate card. Either way, it is really annoying when I’m trying to buy some tea from a neighboring country and I can’t.

4. Ask to be able to make International Money Transfers (and transfers in general)

I think most banks automatically allow you to make domestic transfers, but I’ve learned not to assume anything about the banking system. It is definitely not possible to transfer money to, say, your home bank account without telling them though.


I hope How to Bank in Korea has saved you from this world of hurt!

Check out my other posts on living in Korea!

How to Not Get Taxed in Korea

A Week in Seoul Itinerary

My EPIK Teaching Schedule


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