Tips for setting up Kakao Pay as a foreigner in Korea

KakaoPay is an easy to use money transfer system popular in Korea. Plenty of foreigners (including me) are using it to transfer money and make payments. So I figured I'd pass on some tips from me and some that were shared with me on Twitter by other people who use KakaoPay.

Note: this post has been updated with some newer information. 

Guide to setting up Kakao Pay from Haps Korea Magazine

Guides to setting up Kakao Pay

There are already some good resources that take you step-by-step in setting up KakaoPay on your device. I recommend checking out these posts and following along. Lot of good info here.

Tips on setting up Kakao Pay

On Twitter, some users offered tips and troubleshooting on their own experiences. This is good info that deserves a wider audience so I wanted to share their stories here. Maybe it can help out others.

It's simple to set it up to pay online with, but i had trouble sending people money over kakao with it because my 하나은행 I use as my main bank has my name in 한글 so I need to use my IBK which has my name in English and so matches my phone contract which has my name in English.

Had the same problem and I just went to the bank and told them to get rid of the 한글 name and put my English name the same as my ARC and I have no problems ever since. If the problem still persists the name on the mobile phone contract might need to be fixed.

I tried to ask them to change it to English because of a different issue once but they told me they couldn't change it 🙃🙃 this was a while ago though so maybe I'll try again when I have some spare time

I did the change with Hana and with NH and there is no problem. Just go to another branch and have your ARC and Passport as well. I got asked for both if my memory does not lie to me.

Realised you can even get the card now too, and with MILES! Just applied haha


I got a TOSS [NB: info on Toss] debit card instead of Kakao for that 10% cash back

Easy enough, but only works with my NH account, not KEB or Citi

You'll notice that many of these users had trouble with their names. That was exactly my issue too. I was able to connect my bank account to Kakao Pay very simply with just an SMS code verification, but somehow that only gave me access to viewing my financial transaction records. [Side note: it is actually VERY nice to be able to casually browse my transaction history inside KakaoTalk in a fast, simple, clear way instead of having to open my banking app or worse the bank website]. Somehow I was getting a failure error when trying to actually send money via Kakao Talk.

I went through the settings to ensure my account was connected and found that it was basically read-only. Digging through found the problem: "Names do not match." I consulted my bank passbook and sure enough, I realized that my phone is registered to my name in English and my bank account to my name in Hangul. So I stopped by the bank before work one day, showed them my ARC card and asked them to revise it to match. No problem. They also did a hard sell to get me to apply for a credit card that "works better and more places" than Kakao Pay, with a conveniently higher yearly fee than my current one. Nice try. 

I walked out of the bank with a now English language account name, immediately opened up Kakao Pay, and boom, bank account full connection complete. I sent 5,000 won to a friend as a test, including with a nice virtual envelop congratulating him on his marriage (he's single but I notice he accepted the money and hasn't mentioned anything about planning to pay me back). 

So if your bank account isn't connecting right, it seems like the most important thing is to ensure your name perfectly matches. That's good advice generally for using any service in Korea. 

Some things to remember

One thing to note is that this is for joining and using the Kakao Pay offline/online payment system, which will still need a Korean bank account to connect to to draw funds from. If you don't already have a bank account set up in Korea, you're not going to be able to use Kakao Pay. There are no "cash only" ways of adding funds to your Kakao Pay balance. At least not as far as I'm aware of.  

Additionally, this is for joining Kakao Pay, not Kakao Bank, which is a different financial entity and (currently) does not accept foreigners.
Update: there is now a promotion to apply for a special Kakao branded Samsung Card issued via Kakao Bank (in fact a variety of cards from multiple financial outlets can be applied for) but I highly doubt foreigners will be able to do so via this method. Nonetheless, most foreigners with a basic income can apply and receive a Samsung Card directly, and then can add it to your Kakao Pay wallet. 

Be aware of how it works

Something to note is that your Kakao Pay maintains a balance. You can see here that there is 10,000 won on this account:

The little button at the top, 충전 is for adding funds to the Kakao Pay account. But if you've connected your bank account, the default settings are to automatically withdraw money from your bank account if funds are too low. 

In other words, Kakao Pay does not directly withdrawal money from your bank account in the exact amount of the purchase you made. It withdraws to within the nearest upper 10,000won (or sometimes 5,000 won) figure. You can "recharge" using the button manually if you want. Otherwise, expect to see slightly more 천원 taken out of your bank account when using Kakao Pay. For example, if you only have 3,000 won in your Kakao Pay, and you buy something at a store that is 15,000 won, Kakao Pay will likely withdrawal 20,000 or 25,000 from your bank account to make the purchase. 

I won't say much more because, again, there are now plenty of quality English language guides out there. I'm just trying to fill in some gaps. 

Personal thoughts

First of all, it's great to see other bloggers out there documenting this kind of info. One of the reasons I started this blog was to try to put out here on the web some of the information that was just being passed around on SNS but difficult to find from Googling. For example lots of great real-life experiences and tips are shared across Facebook Groups and forum threads but most of that isn't indexed by Google. 

I encourage anybody who found a neat tip or a good way of doing something in Korea to copy/paste the info from these groups to a blog service or other easily publicly available source. That's basically all I do here anyway. 

I've been using Kakao Pay personally for a few months now, and I find it convenient enough. Yet I still mostly use my actual physical credit card. It's just easier. I find it annoying to have to check to see if a place accepts Kakao Pay or not, and in fact most of my purchases are in locations that do not. Gas station pumps, automatic parking payment machines, mom-and-pop restaurants, McDonald's kiosks. If I'm carrying my phone, ID, and drivers license anyway, it doesn't hurt to keep the card too. 

So I end up using Kakao Pay mostly to send money between friends and occasionally when buying stuff online, but even then my CC details are usually saved in the site (I don't buy from more than 1 or 2 major websites). I look forward to more services accepting Kakao Pay, especially bill payments and more offline locations. But these already grow every day so the future looks good. 

Hope you've found it a useful and convenient service.