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Banking, Money and CostsBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Tokyo - Banking, Money and Costs
There is a good range of international banks and expatriate-friendly banking facilities in Tokyo. Some ATMs have other language options (e.g. English), and convenience stores like 7-11 allow credit and debit cardholders to withdraw money.
As long as you have the proper documents (e.g. valid alien registration card), you will find it easy to open a bank account in Tokyo. Many Japanese use a Hanko (official seal) when opening an account. However, many banks will accept a signature for expatriates. To conveniently withdraw cash, ask for an ATM card (commonly known as a cash card). Most ATMs operate 24 hours but some may have limited operational hours, depending on the location.
You can remit money overseas via banks or post offices. Avoid bringing checks to Japan, as they are not commonly used. There can be heavy fees imposed by banks to cash them.
Major international cards (Visa, MasterCard, Diners, American Express) are accepted in many locations. In some cases, you can even pay for shinkansen (bullet train) tickets by credit card.
Different banks have different policies regarding the issuance of local credit cards for expatriates, such as credit rating, salary package and so on. Annual fees for credit cards can be expensive, so ask before signing up for one. Many credit card application forms are in Japanese, so you will need someone to help you with filling up and translating the form, if you do not speak Japanese.
Costs of Living
Tokyo is an expensive city to live in. In the 2008 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, Tokyo is the second most expensive city in the world to live in, after Moscow and is now ranked ahead of other major cities such as London. The Mercer survey is a common reference tool used by multinational companies and governments in the determination of compensation and allowances for expatriate employees.
Key to managing the high cost of living in this city is to adjust your lifestyle accordingly, and try to depend more on local products and services. If you look around, you will still be able to find cost-efficient products and services. For example, local and seasonal food (seafood, soybean products, rice) purchased at local supermarkets are great alternatives to the western diet of steaks, pizzas and pastas. There are plenty of lunch options that cost between Y500-Y1,000 – look out for teishoku (set menus) or bento (lunch boxes) or noodle shops in large train stations or around business areas.
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