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China – Banking in China

Opening a bank account at one of China’s four major banks was once the easiest thing to do, simple and fast, however, the rules have changed. Banks now require that you have a one year visa in order to open an account. If your visa is for a shorter time period than one full year, the bank will likely deny your application. Any short term stay,  expats will not be qualified to get a bank account.

Banks are usually open from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Sunday (except public holidays). During the public holidays, banks may only open for half the day or may shut for the public holiday altogether.

The documents needed to open an account are slightly different in different banks. But basically banks will require a passport with a one-year residence permit, a phone number, home country tax code, Chinese home address, police registration form, labour contract.

For a basic bank account, the bank card will be given to the applicant as soon as the application has been completed. Please note that the bank card can only be used to withdraw RMB and make purchases in RMB, regardless of whether the account is an RMB or a multi-currency account.

Some banks charge a small opening fee or account management fee. This fee could range from RMB 1 through to RMB 10.

It’s easy to open a multi-currency account. A multi-currency account can be used for receiving and transferring foreign currency. Holders of multi-currency accounts (who receive foreign currency from abroad and wish to change it into RMB) must go into their bank’s branch to change currency. It is not possible to withdraw RMB from an ATM with foreign-denominated money in your account. Foreign currency must first be converted into RMB before withdrawing it from an ATM. For every calendar year, a maximum of USD 50 000 (or the equivalent in another foreign currency) can be converted into RMB. If individuals wish to transfer over USD 50 000, they will need to provide supporting documents to the bank to explain the purpose of that money.

Converting RMB into a foreign currency to take out of China can be complicated. The applicant will require their original passport, employment contract, work permit, proof of income from their company (with company chop) and an after income tax certificate which shows how much tax they paid in China.

Most banks provide online banking but some banks have very limited online services in English. Online banking services with good written English are provided by HSBC, Citibank, Bank of China and ICBC.

Last update: 26 February 2020