Inside a Korean Bank - Help for First Time Customers
The following information should help you get around easily the first time you enter a Korean bank.
High Counter and Low (seating) Counters:
The majority of banks offer you the choice of high counters where you stand to conduct your banking business and those where you can sit.
High counters are most often nearest the entrance and are intended for quick transactions such as withdrawals, deposits, local transfers, bill payments, etc.
Low (seating) counters are for transactions that can take a little longer to complete – opening a bank account, applying for a loan or credit card, overseas transfers, currency exchanges, questions about one’s account or credit card statement, etc. Although there may be an English teller at the high counter, the low counter is where one is most likely to find English-speaking tellers or services targeting foreign clients.
Queue Ticket Machines
When you come into the bank, you should ‘take a number’ and wait your turn. Your number will appear on an electronic board and tellers will often call it out (in Korean) as well. Both the high and low counters generally each have their ticket dispenser. Sometimes these are found together somewhere near the entrance, while in other instances they may be near the relevant counter. The low counter machine may be identified by a sign saying something like ‘ Currency Exchange’. Even in the banks, where there are designated tellers for foreign clients, there is rarely anything in any language letting you know which ticket machine queues you for that/those teller(s).
People will sometimes try to cut the queue, but this doesn't happen as often as one might expect given Korea's "Hurry, Hurry (Bali, Bali)" culture. Generally, no one says anything, especially if the person cutting ahead is elderly.
Deposit/Withdrawal/Transfer and other transaction form can be found at high tables near the entrance or near the counters. They will all be in Korean, but not to worry, the tellers will help you fill them out. If you can’t identify which is which, the teller will have some at her/his counter.
Paying Utility Bills
If you haven’t set up an automatic payment process for your monthly utility bills, you can make your payments at the banks. In many branches, there are special machines available that you can use rather than queue for a teller. In fact, even if you’ve waited for a teller, s/he may send you to use the machine. Payments can be made from your account or with cash. The security staff or another customer are usually very helpful and will show you what to do. Note that you can only use the utilities payment machine if you have an account with the bank in which you are using the machine.
Languages: In some bank branches, all ATM machines have English (as well as Chinese, Japanese and sometimes other languages) functions, while in others there may be only one, or even, none. The same applies to ATM’s with global access. The odds of finding non-Korean functions and global access are higher in areas where there are likely to be more foreign residents or visitors.
ATM transactions in Other Languages: Non-Korean language functions are limited to no more than deposits, withdrawals, local transfers, account balances (inquiry) and passbook updates. (If you read Korean, you will have a great many more options).
Hours: The ATM’s are usually open by 8:30AM and close between 10PM and Midnight, depending on the bank and/or location. Each bank sets its own ATM operating hours with some starting as early as 7AM and closing as late as midnight. A limited number of 24-hour ATMs are available.
Withdrawal Limits: As of September 2015, bank customers withdrawing cash from an ATM must wait 30 minutes between withdrawals if they wish to take out more than one million won (this is down from the previous limit of 3 million won). The new policy is intended to combat fraud and phishing. The change also applies to bank transfers via ATM.
Bank Transfers (Within Korea)
In Korea, money generally moves via bank transfers. These can be done either via a teller or ATM. The service fees are slightly less for transactions via ATM during banking hours (if you don’t go through a teller).
Name Showing for Receiver: If you want your name to show on the transfer payment (i.e. if you’ve made a reservation for an events, etc.) you’ll have to go through the teller unless you use the ATM's Korean language functions..
Transfer Without Account: If you don’t have a bank account, you can still transfer money to another person’s local account. All you have to do is make the transfer (with cash) through the teller of any bank. You can also transfer funds via an ATM but this option is only available in Korean. See for the Banking Without a Banking Account page for more details, incuding step-by-step instructions in Korean.
Using Trays for Exchanges with Tellers
You will see small ‘trays on the counter on the customer’s side. These are used to hand over cash as well as your bank card or passbook. Traditionally hand to hand exchanges of money or documents was not done in banks, and to some extent, that is still the case today.
You will find that your documents, especially your passport, will be required and will be photocopied each time you make an overseas transfer, exchange money, etc. You will sometimes be asked for your passport when you make a local transfer via a teller - this is the way the teller asks a non-Korea for ID. You do not need to show a passport for a local transfer, but ID may be required to confirm that you are who you say you are and not someone transfering money with 'ill-will or bad intentions'.
Not so long ago when non-Koreans exchanged currency or made overseas transfers, the teller would write the amount of the transaction on the back page of the customer's passport. This is still done when taking amounts over W1million in cash. (Allegedly protests by some embassies have not resulted in ending the practice).
K4E Note: Korea4Expats does its best to ensure that the information we provide is complete and accurate. Should you notice any errors or ommissions in the above text, please let us know at email@example.com.
Last Updated on 2015-11-18
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