Banking in the United States and in Japan are similar in some ways and different in others. I definitely think U.S. banking is a lot more convenient than Japan’s in many respects.
For example, I remember banks having the drive though areas back home where a patron could pull up, conduct a transaction with a live teller using an intercom and these plastic containers with vacuum tubes. I haven’t seen any drive-through banking here in Japan (maybe limited space prevents it). Also, has anyone ever had an issue with pulling money out of a Japanese ATM when you REALLY need it? I’ve been there. It’s after 9:00pm and I can’t use my ATM card to pull out money from anywhere. I don’t like that at all. In the U.S. you’re able to get money twenty-four hours a day unless there is an ATM malfunction. I’ve forgotten if ATMs shut down on the holidays in the U.S..
This isn’t to say that Japanese banks are bad. The staff members are EXTREMELY courteous and really go out of their way to help you, at least from my experience anyway. There are aspects of Japanese banks that I think are quite cool. When I deposit cash into my bank account (oazukeire, あずけいれ), the money is instantly accessible…no waiting for the money to process (I’m sure checks are a different story, but I’ve never tried). Transferring money is incredibly easy on the Japanese ATMs once you’re all set up. One other thing I truly like are the super convenient, bank books…
Your Japanese bank book is more precious than you may know. In America, after the advent of electronic banking, I didn’t see a whole lot of use for my bank book/balance book and they’d usually sit around collecting dust somewhere. In Japan, it’s different though. There is no writing required whatsoever. You put your bankbook into the ATM, and after a bit of buzzing, processing, and printing sounds, it’s updated for you automatically. So it’s quite easy to always know where your bank account stands (in my case, generally on the “not so much in there” side).
There is one other feature many bank books have, that I didn’t know of until recently (me being a bit of laggard once again). You can actually use your bank book to withdraw money and conduct ATM transactions. I talking about no ATM card required! Neat, huh? I’ve done it several times now. It’s super quick and easy. You just put in your bank book and conduct your transaction as you would normally.
Your bank book is an essential part of signing up for just about everything in Japan, too. From getting a gym membership to securing an apartment to getting a cell phone, I’ve needed my bank book to do these things.
Your bank book also has important bank info, so treat it just like you’d treat your ATM card. You wouldn’t just give your ATM card to anybody, would you? It’s a good idea to think of your bank book in the same fashion.
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