On a bright and sunny Friday morning, I made my way to Seoul’s main business district, Euljiro. My mission? Compare the Global Center services of two of Korea’s top banks: Shinhan Bank and Korea Exchange Bank (KEB).
I’d gone to Shinhan first, and had been nothing short of impressed by their level of service they had given me. Without even asking, I’d been given a private meeting with the Branch Manager, who gave me excellent information on Shinhan’s banking services for foreigners.
Now, I began the short walk to their competitor’s expat banking center, also conveniently located in the central Euljiro district.
When I entered KEB’s headquarters, I was a little confused about where I was supposed to go. While Shinhan’s ground-level location had three distinctly-marked entrance ways (one for the regular branch, one for the Global Center, and one that led to their corporate offices), the organization at KEB was a little harder to follow.
As I walked through the main door, I wasn’t sure which direction to head in. So, in broken Korean (or Konglish, as some might call it), I asked the man standing at the reception desk where I could find the Global Center. Confused, he finally understood my mini massacre of the Korean language, and pointed downstairs. So, down the escalators I went. However, the Global Center wasn’t there.
So, back up the escalator I went. I noticed that directly in front was a large room marked “Foreign Currency Exchange”. Outside the door was a map of the building. I read it, and noticed that the Global Center was actually inside the Foreign Currency Exchange room. So, I walked in confidently and sat down with a representative.
Like at Shinhan, the atmosphere at KEB was not very busy, as I’d arrived rather early in the morning. However, soon after I’d sat down with one representative, I was quickly shuffled over to another, perhaps because the first didn’t feel comfortable enough speaking English with me. The next teller was able to communicate quite well, but she didn’t seem to understand that I didn’t want to create an account (rather, just compare services) and kept pushing the idea on me.
Since the one-word answers I kept receiving were not very helpful on their own, I asked the teller for some materials in English that I could take with me. She brought back two brochures, which while certainly being useful, were still significantly less than the four brochures that Shinhan gave me (in addition to four fliers).
I left KEB feeling a little dissatisfied. In all fairness, it might’ve been a bit hard to live up to the experience I’d previously had at Shinhan. Even so, KEB’s service wasn’t much to write home about.
Global Branch Features
I’m not entirely sure if it’s fair to say that KEB has a true “Global Branch”. Rather, what they seem to have is a main banking area with a few English-speaking tellers.
In addition to their main location, KEB offers a “Global Desk for Expats” at 22 branches across Korea. seventeen of these are located in Seoul, while the five others are located in Incheon, Ulsan, Busan, Daejeon, and Daegu.
ATMs can be used in 17 different languages, with voice support in 6 different languages.
KEB offers its internet banking services in English, and smartphone banking services in 12 different languages, including: Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese, Nepali, Sinhala, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian, Mongolian, Bengali and Filipino. It was the first Korean bank to offer a multi-lingual smartphone app.
Credit and Debit Cards for Expats
KEB currently offers the following cards for expats:
Expats can also apply for multi-currency accounts. These are available in demand deposit, time deposit, installment savings, and money market demand accounts. No fees are required for opening, closing, or using the account.
For demand deposits, 26 different currencies are available to use. For time deposits, 13 currencies are available. Customers can manage up to 10 different currencies per account. Interests vary for each currency.
Using KEB Overseas
KEB has partner banks in 21 countries. If you take your KEB credit or debit card overseas, you will be charged reduced fees to withdraw cash from any of the partner banks’ ATMs.
KEB also has overseas subsidiaries in the US, Canada, Brazil, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Germany and Australia.
To learn more about KEB’s global network, click here.
International Wire Transfer
International wire transfers can be done in-person at a KEB branch, online, through the phone, or by using a KEB ATM.
Online transfer fees range from 3,000KRW to 5,000KRW, depending on the amount transferred. Transfers done at a KEB branch cost between 5,000KRW to 25,000KRW, also depending on the amount.
Customers can also perform international remittances through KEB’s Easy-One Foreign Currency Remittance Service. The concept is simple: the customer makes a deposit into their Easy-One account, and the funds are automatically deposited into their desired overseas account. Details for the overseas account have to be submitted to a KEB branch during the account registration process, but once the account has been set up, the customer can begin making deposits whenever they choose. A discount of 30% off the regular remittance fees that are normally charged for branch transactions is applied when using the Easy-One account. Customers can perform the deposit through an ATM, at a branch or online.
Web and Smartphone Banking
KEB offers an online banking service for expats. A printed English guide, showing screenshot guides on how to use the online service, can be picked up at any KEB branch.
KEB’s smartphone banking app can be used with Android and iPhone devices, as well as with tablet PCs.
àNote: In order to set up the smartphone banking app or online banking, customers must visit a branch to apply for electronic banking services as an extra security measure.
To set up an account with KEB, customers must bring their Alien Registration Card (ARC) into the branch, along with their passport.
Since financial conditions can vary so much, KEB recommends that expats interested in investing drop by a branch in person. This way, a representative can tailor a specific investment plan to their individual needs.
Gabrielle interned as a Content Creator for Work'n'Play during her exchange trip to Chung-Ang University in 2012-2013. She graduated from Vancouver Island University in May 2014 with her BA in Global Studies. She is now a Master's student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa, Canada. The things she misses most about her year in Korea are: going for makgeolli + jeon with friends, exploring Seoul's new and old hidden treasures and getting to practice Korean every day. You can connect with her on Twitter at @MsGabrielle or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.