Mizuho Bank has become the first megabank in the country to charge new customers for issuing a passbook, as part of steps to foster a paperless and green society through the use of digital alternatives and cut costs in the face of dwindling profits amid prolonged superlow interest rates.

The bank, a unit of Mizuho Financial Holdings Group Inc., announced Friday that people under age 70 who open new bank accounts from Jan. 18 would be charged ¥1,100 if they choose to have a paper passbook. The bank will also charge the same fee when they need an additional paper passbook issued. People age 70 and older will continue to receive a paper passbook for free.

Mizuho will encourage new customers to use its free online passbook service, with which they can see bank transactions for up to 10 years via smartphone, the bank said in a statement. Existing customers will continue to receive additional passbooks for free.

Rival banks MUFG Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. have also been pushing customers to switch to digital passbooks, and Mizuho's move could have an impact on them and regional lenders.

The bank also said that starting in October, individual customers will be able to make various bank transactions such as money transfers at its branches by typing information onto a tablet without a need to use hanko seals or present a passbook.

Banks in Japan have been under pressure from the double whammy of low interest rates and the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has led to a surge in bad-loan costs.

Some regional banks have introduced a fee to individual accounts if there are no money transactions for at least two years, to shore up fee revenues.

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