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[Updated on June 17, 2015]

Review of the Best Korean Bank for foreigners and expats

One thing I highly recommend for anyone staying long-term in Korea is to open a bank account. I hate carrying cash, especially coins! With a bank card you can pay for literally EVERYTHING. So which bank is the best one for foreigners!?

With so many banks to choose from it can be a bit overwhelming. Even more so for expats! Here is a list of banks I have used the past 6 years. Here are the 4 criteria that I will talk about:

1) English Phone Support
2) In-person banking
3) Online banking
4) Currency exchange

Based on my 6 years of experience living in Korea. I believe I have found the best bank for foreigners. So read on!

Woori Bank

Their English phone support is quite poor as they hire English-Translators and not people that are knowledgeable in bank-related questions. Going back and forth while waiting on the phone can be quite frustrating. What’s even worse is the in-person experience. The 3 times I have been there I waited a long time to finally get a teller to assist me. Average wait time was between 30-40min which I found absolutely ridiculous. I didn’t bother using their online service as I immediately withdrew all my funds due to the long wait times. (Note: I went at 3 different times as well) Their exchange rate is average.



They have good phone support with knowledgeable staff, wait times for in-person banking is about 10 minutes. Their exchange rate is good. However their online banking has caused me nothing but headaches. They are famous for login errors such as KEYLOGGER (you can google it) and has frustrated me in so many ways that my advice for you is to:


They are also very vulnerable to cyber attacks as their security is severely lacking. You can read about the huge cyber attack a few years ago here and the most recent data leak here.


Shinhan Bank

Based on my short experience, they have good English support. The in-person banking is fairly quick with only 5-10min wait times. Their exchange rate is average. However, my friend and I could not get our online banking to work. Both of us got different errors which leads me to believe that like Nonghyup I may have trouble with online banking in the future. I shall update if I can finally get it to work.


KEB Hana Bank:

[Update July 24 2015]

KEB has been the undisputed best bank for foreigners for many years. However, since the merger with Hana bank there has been nothing but problems. Ranging from bank and credit card purchases not working online and in stores. Personally, I haven’t been able to make any online purchases for a week, and when I was at the restaurant my card was declined for no apparent reason. After looking at their facebook page it seems like many other expats are also facing the same issue. In the past, their English support line has been solid, but now it seems like it’s currently not in service.

At this time, I strongly recommend you to choose another bank.

[2014 Review]

The #1 bank in my opinion and for many expats in Korea is the KEB Hana Bank (KEB Bank and Hana Bank recently merged into one bank). They have great English-speaking phone support. The ONLINE banking works flawlessly. Whenever I go in-person the average wait times are short (about 5-10 min) and I get everything I need to get done fairly quickly. They also offer one of the best exchange rates. You can also print out the exchange rate discount coupon from their website. If you forget to do it, simply mention it and there is a good chance they will still give you the discounted rate!

Note: One day I had some problems with my phone where it would disconnect for no apparent reason. I made 2 phone calls to 2 different banks. The first bank I called was KEB. In mid-conversation the line cut off. Within 1 minute, KEB called me back. The second bank I called was Nonghyup (NH) again the line cut off in mid-conversation. Like KEB, I expected a call-back. It never happened. This experience stuck with me as it just showed how each bank handled the same issue. Extra thumbs up for KEB for going the extra mile for their customers!

Merger: Since the merger there seems to be some issues when attempting to make purchases online. I expect KEB Hana Bank to work out the technical issues soon. In the mean time, bank and credit card holders should be aware that any purchases made online on Korean websites such as on GMARKET, will require you to use the Korean version of the website.

English Banking Line: 1544-3000 (Press “0” then “9”)
English Credit Card Line: 1544-3500



8 comments on “Banks
  1. James says:

    Standard Chartered Korea is also a great option. Full English site and app for smart banking.

  2. John says:

    I am a current user of Korea Exchange Bank (KEB) and would not recommend it at all. Very difficult to make purchases online and overseas with KEB cards. No one at the branches ever seems to be able to answer my questions. I am constantly having problems with this bank.

    • chris says:

      Hi John
      When your at the branch ask them to call the ENGLISH translators and they can help you out as some branches won’t have English speakers if there isn’t a heavy concentration of foreigners in the area. There seems to be an issue/bug with online purchases as I was having the same problem as you were when I was trying to make purchases on GMARKET and other Korean websites using the “ENGLISH” version of the sites. However, when I switched to the Korean versions then there was no issues and my card went through smoothly. I can’t really comment on using the card overseas since I have never done so. Perhaps you can recommend another bank?

  3. Raikiri says:

    Have gone to Woori and Nonghyup and their service was so bad that I wanted to smash my face in the wall. Shinhan is not bad at all except for the fact that their internet service has a couple of flaw. KEB is one of the best banks and foreigner friendly but sometimes their service can get annoying in person but overall they are better than the latter by far.

    • chris says:

      I agree with everything you said above. Ever since their merger with Hana there was some minor annoyances that I also experienced. However, I will give them some time to work out their kinks and will re-evaluate them again.

  4. Melissa says:


    Does anyone have any experience with Kookmin Bank ?


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