After ensuring I’m not a dirty foreigner and getting myself officially registered (part one and part two), the next big administrative thing to do was getting myself a Korean bank account.

It was important to get my account as quickly as I could, as my school won’t pay you until you have a Korean account and I’ve been broker than broke.

As soon as I had my Alien Registration Card (you cannot get an account without it) in hand, I took that, my passport, and a letter from the school to Woori Bank to open my account. Why Woori? Well, that’s what was recommended to me by my school. I don’t know much about the different banks in Korea anyway, so it seemed as good a choice as any.

I got in right for the bank open at 9am so I could get the account opened before school started. I was customer 001 so got started right away.

The woman who helped me didn’t speak much English, but she seemed to understand what I needed and got to work. She needed my ARC and my passport, and did have to call the school (thank goodness I had that letter, eh?) for some reason.

After typing a bunch of stuff into the computer, she printed out some forms and asked me for my “name and sign” in a few places. Again, nothing like signing a document where you don’t understand a single word on the page. You have to trust a lot when you are in Korea, to just trust that you are being steered in the right direction. And happily, you usually are in my experience.

The best part was that they have a card printer right in the bank. I think all banks should get on board with this. She popped my “foreigner debit card” (it literally says that on it) into the printer and it popped out with my name and stuff on it. She shoved it into another machine, I entered my “secret number” and it was active. How awesome is that?

So that was all there was to that. I took my passbook and my new debit card, and I was done. Took less than an hour to open my account and get a debit card. Well done, Korea!

A few interesting things about banking in Korea:

The Passbook

Remember when you had that paper book where you could update with all your transactions? Those are still really common here. You can pop it into the ATM to access your account and update your book. It’s actually pretty cool. I usually don’t look at my statements very often, but I find with the book I check out my transactions more regularly.

The Debit Card

The debit card I have cannot be used online, which is both good and bad for me. It means that if I want to buy anything off the Internetz (like games through Steam or apps for my iPhone or iPad… or shoes) I have to transfer money to the UK and then buy it. What a pain in the arse! Bad news bears if I want to buy something in terms of convenience, but probably for the best as that will really curb my impulse buying!

The Secret Number

One thing that is weird about the debit card system here in Korea is that you don’t always need your pin. In fact, you seem to only use it for the ATM to get out cash. In some shops, you have to “sign” (most people just seem to scribble… not very secure) for your debit card purchase. In some places you don’t have to do anything at all. They just take the cash for you. There doesn’t seem to be a rule for this, I paid for 44,000 won of postage yesterday and didn’t have to sign for it. Remind me to keep an eye on my card!

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