Banks

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banking_in_korea

[Updated on February 11, 2017]

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 foreigners! Here is a list of banks I have used the past 9 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 9 years of experience living in Korea. I believe I have found the best bank for foreigners. So read on!

woori
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. Withdrawal limit: 700,000

Pros: Many branches and atms available.

nonghyup_bank

Nonghyup

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:

STAY AWAY! Do NOT use Nonghyup BANK. DO NOT EVEN BOTHER UNLESS YOUR LOOKING TO HAVE PROBLEMS. 

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.

Withdrawal limit: 1,000,000

Pros: Good exchange rate

shinhan_bank

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.

Pros: Short wait times for service

KebHANAbank

KEB Hana Bank:

[Update February 11 2017]

I can safely say after 2 years since the merger things seem back to normal. Their level of service is on par to what it was before and their English phone support for both banking and credit cards seem back to normal. The only thing I noticed is the local bank seems 2 times busier now that the local branch services both Hana and KEB bank customers. Normal wait times in the banks range from 15 minutes whereas back in 2014 when I first reviewed the bank it was only 5-10 minutes.  Withdrawal limit: 1,000,000 (300,000 for new customers)

[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.

[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

Pros: Good English phone support

 

 

12 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:

    HI,

    Does anyone have any experience with Kookmin Bank ?

    Thanks!
    regards

  5. Sherry Love says:

    Hi Chirs,

    I will be going Korea for a year soon, what banks would you currenlty recommend. I have read you reviews of the others but this post is from last year. Any update please? Will be very grateful.
    (RELPY TO THIS COMMENT. EMAIL IN THE FIRST ONE IS WRONG) THANKS 🙂

    Thanks
    Sherry

    • chris says:

      Hi Sherry
      I decided to make it a public response since I realized now that your email is incorrect. As of now I would recommend KEB HANA as they have out all the technical issues that happened the first year since their merger. Secondly now that the banks have merged you can withdraw and send money to both banks without any fees which is also a nice bonus!

  6. Thet Me Me Zaw says:

    Hi,I opened an account with KEBhana bank and I was only allowed to withdrawal won 300,000 per day. Do you know any other bank that allowed foreign students to withdrawal money more than that?

    • chris says:

      Hello
      You can ask them to raise your limit. If they can’t do it right away ask them when you are eligible. There might be a new rule in place since the merger of the two banks before the limit can be raised.

      For your own reference. I can withdraw up to: 1,000,000 WON with KEBHana

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