Posts Tagged ‘ATMs’

For customers of Japan’s biggest bank, it’s about to become harder to avoid fees

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Mickey Mouse club: passbook and Direct card for MUFG account holders

Mickey Mouse club: passbook and Direct card for MUFG account holders

Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ Bank (MUFG) is Japan’s largest bank in terms of number of branches, but there are none within the borders of the city where we live, which is only an hour by train from Nihonbashi, Tokyo. Since all of our freelance work is paid through the MUFG account we set up in the Aoyama branch years ago, this could be a problem, but MUFG offers online banking services and there are plenty of convenience stores with ATMs within walking distance of our apartment in case we need cash.

But that’s going to change on Dec. 20, when MUFG’s new ATM policy goes into effect. For people who live near a branch of the bank, the changes are a good thing. At present, account holders can withdraw money from MUFG ATMs without having to pay a handling fee if they do so between 8:45 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. At all other times they have to pay an extra ¥105. Starting December 20, the time for free withdrawals is extended to 9 p.m., and that includes weekends and holidays, which will also be free from now on. The ¥105 fee is still in effect from 9 p.m. to 8:45 a.m.

Things are different, however, for convenience store ATMs. Presently, account holders for certain banks can use CS ATMs for free during the day on weekdays. For MUFG customers it’s the same as it is for bank AMTs — no fee between 8:45 a.m. and 6 p.m. But starting December 20, a ¥105 fee will be charged for withdrawals from CS ATMs between 8:45 and 6, and a ¥210 fee for withdrawals at other hours. So that means we can’t avoid paying a fee if we need cash quickly.

But there are ways to circumvent the fees if you’re an MUFG customer, it’s just that they’re not that easy to understand, so we’ll try to make it simple.

In principle, customers who have accounts called Super Futsu Yokin (Main Bank Plus) can withdraw cash from ATMs for free, though it depends on your “stage” and the type of ATM.

White stage: At the end of the month, if your account balance is at least ¥100,000 you can withdraw cash from an MUFG bank ATM for free any time, even in the middle of the night. This also applies to account holders who have an MUFG-issued credit card, in which case a minimum balance is not required. This no-fee condition is effective from the 20th of the following month until the 19th of the month after that.

Silver stage: At the end of the month, if your account balance is at least ¥300,000, or if you receive your salary in your account and your salary is at least ¥100,000 a month, then you can withdraw cash from bank ATMs anytime for free and up to three times during the following month from CS ATMs for free any time. Again, the month is counted as starting from the next 20th to the following 19th. Note that “salary” has to be transferred as such (kyūryō) and printed in your passbook.

Platinum stage: At the end of the month, if your account balance is at least ¥5 million, or if you have taken out a housing loan with MUFG and the balance is more than ¥5 million, there are no fees anywhere for anything. You can also make up to three money transfers (usually ¥315) in a month’s time for free.

One more catch: To qualify for any of these deals you have to register your account for MUFG Direct, which is MUFG’s internet banking service. Good luck.

Telephone swindlers adapt; old folks don’t

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

It sounds so 2004, but the scourge of furikome sagi (bank transfer swindles), formerly known by the less sophisticated term “ore-ore sagi” (It’s me! It’s me! swindles), is still very much a problem even if the media no longer finds it interesting enough to cover. According to the National Police Agency, as of Nov. 10, there were 6,030 reported cases of telephone fraud nationwide for the year 2010 in which a total of ¥7.2 billion had been swindled. And despite the change in terminology and huge publicity campaign that brought attention to the problem, “ore-ore” cases, in which swindlers pretend to be children or grandchildren of the persons they call, pleading for money to solve a pending debt crisis or pay off someone for a slight, are still a popular form of con. However, a more common method in the last couple of years has been callers pretending to be police officers actually investigating swindling rackets. The fake officers tell the people they call that they may be the victim of a bank swindle and need their bank cards and passwords in order to make sure their accounts are safe. Then they drop by, dressed as bank officials, to collect the cards and information. Other con jobs involve the sale of previously unlisted stocks, “fees” for converting television systems from analog to digital, and government handouts (kyufukin), which somehow requires the recipient of the handout to first pay a large amount of money.

It's me!: Poster of swindling suspects in a post office

Even without all the intense publicity campaigns carried out by the NPA and individual banks to warn citizens about the dangers of furikome sagi, one would think that people would be naturally suspicious of anyone asking for such large amounts of money. But it seems people can still be quite gullible, especially elderly people. A recent Asahi Shimbun article related how a woman in her 70s went up to a teller in a Tokyo bank and asked to have ¥1.5 million from her account transferred to another account she had written down on a piece of paper. The teller, trained to intercept such suspicious transfers, asked the woman what it was for. The woman wouldn’t explained and became desperate, screaming at the teller to make the transfer, which the teller did. However, once the woman left the bank, the teller’s supervisor stopped the transfer and checked the receiving account, which he discovered had only been set up a few days before. He then called the woman and told her he thought the account was fake, but the woman still didn’t believe him. “Yesterday, my son called me and said he had guaranteed a loan for a friend who defaulted and had to pay it back immediately,” she explained. When the bank employee asked for her son’s telephone number, she refused. Fortunately, the son happened to drop by his mother’s house that day just as the swindler called asking why the money hadn’t been transferred yet.

This is what banks and the police have to contend with. In the case cited above, the police discovered that the swindling team had information about the woman’s family and were able to convince her that the caller was her son (with a cold, thus explaining the change in tone). However, in more and more cases, at least 40 percent in 2010, swindlers didn’t utilize telephones, opting instead for face-to-face encounters. Last year, police arrested 254 swindlers, 67 of whom were “ambushed” outside victims’ homes. Swindlers also try to avoid ATMs now, since many have security cameras and other devices that can pinpoint when a suspicious withdrawal takes place. In any case, criminals seem to be a lot more resourceful than old people.

Debit cards are the way to go

Monday, January 11th, 2010

The keypad to happiness

The keypad to happiness

Over the holidays I made several major purchases using my bank card rather than cash or a credit card. I’m sometimes surprised that more people don’t use their bank cards (or “cash cards” or “ATM cards” or however you want to refer to them) as debit cards, since most can be utilized that way. Of course the retailer has to accept debit card payments, but I’ve found that many larger ones do.

The advantage of using a debit card is obvious. There’s no need to carry large amounts of cash, and charges are immediately subtracted from your bank account, or on the next business day if you’re making the purchase on a weekend or holiday, or at night. Actually, some people may find this latter point a disadvantage if they aren’t always sure how much money they have in their account at any given moment, in which case a credit card might be better since the withdrawal (assuming you are using your card as a deferred payment card and not as an actual credit card) won’t be made until the next month or whenever payments are normally made from your card-specific account. But I think most people have a good idea how much money is in their account. The most important consideration is that it doesn’t cost you anything to use a debit card.

Continue reading about debit cards in Japan →

Still a plus for Seven-Eleven

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

"Welcome to Japan," but you still have to pay the ¥210 handling charge

“Welcome to Japan,” but you still have to pay the ¥210 handling charge

Most residents of Japan didn’t notice it at the time, but if you were a foreign tourist here in the summer of 2007, Seven & I Holdings made it much easier to travel the country by allowing its Seven Bank ATMs to accept bank cards and credit cards from overseas.

Networks like VISA’s Plus and MasterCard’s Cirrus systems let travelers access bank ATMs all over the world, but  Japanese banks never joined these systems, and until Japan’s post offices signed up earlier this decade, there were very few ways for foreign tourists in Japan to get emergency cash, save for foreign exchange kiosks in airports, some machines run by credit-card companies and placed in or near department stores, and maybe at the front desks of the larger hotels. You could, of course, always go to a teller window at a bank, but many banks outside the larger cities weren’t equipped to handle such transactions as recently as the late ’90s. Anyone who has tried to buy a money order or cut a cashier’s check in foreign currency, even in Tokyo, knows what a pain in the neck it can be.

Continue reading about Seven-Eleven ATMs →

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