2 thoughts on “Opening a Bank Account in China: A Guide for Expats in 2023”

  1. Bank Accounts
    -Credit Card Accounts, These are complicated for foreigners to get. In most case you will just get a no when you enquire even if your spouse has one and they are supported by you. The crux of this complication being you have no I.D. Card. Many, nowadays maybe all, systems seem to depend on this vital ingredient. One solution is a Green card.
    If your passed that hurdle, One must provide evidence of personal finances: real estate certificate, certificate of tax payments, cash flow statement, income statement, certificate of employment. In nearly all cases, the bank will need your employer to vouch for you. All in Chinese of course. Oh and don’t be surprised when they ring you up because you have not pad off all the outstanding balance at the end of the month.

    -Fu Cards
    If You do happen to have a Chinese spouse then get them to get and give you a FU card. It is attached to their credit card account but you can use this second card much the same as if it were yours. If you have a Chinese spouse this is definitely the way to go and is much simpler than you having your own account.

    -Joint Bank Accounts
    Chinese banks do not do joint accounts. Only one name can be used when setting up a bank account and only one debit card is issued. (see Fu Card above).

    -“China Merchants Bank may have a very good list of functions provided with its All-In-One-Card on its website. You can see all of the accounts capabilities here”. But I have had very big problems with their clearing system and on multiple occasions not be able to bring in cash from abroad. I no long use it
    -ICBC has a very good English-language list of all their different types of accounts. To be honest ICBC is probably the most easy to use for most of us, but!

    Foreign funds can be exchanged into RMB up to a maximum of US $50,000 equivalent per annum per person. The same limitation applies to RMB to foreign exchange; plus this has restrictions on source of funds for non Chinese Nationals.
    -The advice about different cards in different cities is well passed it’s sell by date. For a long time now it has been mandatory; One Bank, One Account, nationwide and it applies equal to Chinese Nationals and Foreigners. Charges for moving money from one province to another have been removed. Although if you applied said advice to mobile phones it is still relevant.
    -You can only withdraw a maximum of CNY20,000 per day at any ATM in China and each transaction is usually capped at CNY 2500 or 3,000 on old machines and CNY5000 on most machines (in line with many western limits). In order to withdraw your money, you might have to do a few transactions over several days or find the time to queue up in the bank to take it all out at once from the teller. However this is a relatively dated approach as most people us Alipay or WeChat Pay (much the same as Google pay is used in the west). These being linked to your account. Around 80% of all transaction in China are now digital. As cash withdrawals are in decline, nowadays, in some areas, more of a problem is finding an ATM.

    -International Banks
    There are foreign banks that have operations in China and you can open an account with them, may be?.
    Citibank China
    HSBC China
    Standard Chartered China
    These banks focus on high net worth individuals and often have higher minimum deposits for foreigners in China. For example, the most basic account at HSBC is the Advance Account. This requires you to maintain a balance of CNY100,000 at all times and the HSBC Premier account requires you have CNY500,000 for your opening deposit.
    Also remember that they still have to comply with China’s banking regulations, so just being international doesn’t mean that it will be easier to transfer useable money in or out of China. Any foreign funds can be exchanged into RMB up to a maximum of US $50,000 equivalent per annum per person.
    Their functionality within China might be more limited than the same bank in your own country.
    There are really no benefits to having an account with these premium international banks even if you have the CYN to afford it. They are kind of like flying first class. They offer premium services in fancy offices, they have staff with multilingual abilities and short waiting times but your on the same plane as the crowd. Yes, you can access your money and banking information anywhere in the world 24 hours a day. You can continue to use them when you leave China, and their currency exchange rates are usually better than the board prices at other banks. Other than the Language option and the availability of sugar for your coffee, all major branches of the Chinese banks offer the same services at a lower initial deposit. , and their VIP currency exchange rates are usually much better than the board prices. But you still are restricted by Chinese banking rules and the US $50,000 whether you are in an International or Chinese Bank. However The main drawback for the International banks is lack of convenience with their limited numbers of branches compared to local Chinese banks. Also when you enter one of these branches in most instances you are destined to be disappointed as they only deal with commercial not personal banking. As for the benefits of dealing with an international bank forget it. I had to provide something for a western expat bank they told me to go into the local branch in China and they could deal with it. I questioned this as from general experience it did not seem likely to happen. I was repeatedly reassured yes it can be done. After driving 3 hours there and not looking forward to the return journey. The local Bank flatly refused to help me, no reason given and even after the branch manager was consulted I left defeated. After discussing this with the western branch they in turn passing it to a higher level, a week later they told me no this was not an option. No explanation. No refund for the petrol used was offered! And I missed out on the sugar, no coffee, I did not bank at that Branch.

  2. It is a year old and it was out of date as written. Bank Book? That needs a paragraph in itself explaining the history and it is history.
    -Register at your local police station to receive a residency certificate before you try to open a bank account. And if you have not been living in a hotel risk the possible consequences because you should have done that within 24 hrs of arrival, or not living in a hotel (the hotel will do the registering for you during your stay with them). Oh and Yes if you are living in a hotel then you will possibly need a contract to prove that you will live there for a long time before you get a residence cert. It depends on the local security police.
    -It is now extremely difficult to open a bank account as a Foreigner. OK, I have not tried Beijing, Shanghai for a few years but I have tried several Provincial Capitals and it pretty much seems to be that it has reverted to what it used to be 25 years ago. Bank of China Man Branch is about your only hope. Oh and at some point they with require your CN tax details be it latter if not sooner. Working for a non Chinese company? You need to get this sorted.
    -Tourists and newcomers can still use western credit cards at ATM’s of main Banks. Basically those listed earlier in the article and Principally Bank of China. Other ATM’s may or may not accept your card. Plan on the fact that nowhere other than a 5 star hotel will except you card and you will not be disappointed. The other way is to get a Union pay card out of Hong Kong and top that up. Western Union is pretty much of a joke here.
    -WeChat can be extremely difficult for foreigner’s to set up a bank card associated with the account. Alipay is relatively easy but you will probably need a Chinese friend to do it for you. Easy way to use WeChat is to transfer from your Alipay to friends phone and then they transfer to your WeChat account. Using your QR code is about the best and sometimes only way to keep your WeChat operational and you will need; it many small operations only use WeChat.
    -“Ask your employer which bank you will receive your salary into”. Well yes if you are working for a Chinese entity if not tell them after you have setup the account and tried transferring money into it from abroad (good luck). Remember getting any remaining money out of China can be a problem.
    -“Documents for making a bank transfer out of China” well the hinge pin for this is a proof of source of funds i.e. Letter from employer. However this is not much good if you are selling your apartment. (good luck). Oh and there is an annual limit of US $50,000 equivalent. Who wants to work abroad for this salary?
    Getting money into China can also be a problem depending on how its done. receiving money from a company may mean a visit to the bank and providing a letter to explain the source & use of transferred money. Money Transfer company’s (Wise etc) can only transfer money to a Chinese National. Any foreign funds can be exchanged into RMB up to a maximum of US $50,000 equivalent per annum. Once you have paid for your up town apartment and a driver and/or Translator you maybe having to eat at corner food stall as most of your expenses are gone.
    -Be prepared to have to go back to the branch or at least area the branch is in, if the card has a problem. Which includes lack of new visa details. This is not always the case but can be. So if your card is issued in Chengdu and you are in Chongqing you may have a problem. Got that T shirt.
    Get online banking in the branch and set it up there and then. It is needed for signing up for WeChat Pay and Alipay. But you will need a Chinese person to assist unless your language skills are high.
    -Give yourself several hours if you need to visit a bank; lines can get long. Forget the lines in my last two visits I have spent a minimum of an hour and a half at the window once my number has been called. My last visit was just to empty my account in to my wife’s account (she is Chinese) so just a straight forward transfer and the same bank!
    -Now my wife tops up Alipay and WeChat and I have no Bank; life is so easy.
    Note the US $50,000 equivalent for foreign currency exchange was the same when I arrived in 1995


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