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Here’s how you can open a Chinese bank account as a foreigner

Here’s a brief instruction

chinese bank account

Here’s how you can open a Chinese bank account as a foreigner. Source: unsplash.com

China has quite a tightly managed banking ecosystem, with the state being the main controller of financial services provided on its territory. It may seem hard for a foreigner to get a Chinese banking account, especially if they want to do this online. Physical presence at the bank branch is required practically in all cases, plus many employees do not speak the English language. However, in reality, opening a bank account in China is nothing extraordinary.

Prepare the documents

Besides the obviously needed IDs, foreigners in the country need to prove their legal residence in order to get access to banking services. Thus, you should prepare your residence permit, work permit, work visa, enrollment documents from the educational establishment, etc. The proof of address will be required too (rent contract, utility bills, etc). Some banks will allow you to provide an email address instead of a physical address if web-based correspondence is enough for them. However, you’d better be prepared for the maximum requirements.

If you need to open a business account, the additional documents that prove your corporate activities are: proper registration proofs, such as a valid business licence, enterprise code certificate, tax registration certificates or Articles of Association; list of directors’ names, along with IDs for legal representatives of the company; details of the company structure and ownership.

Keep in mind that in most cases, you will need to visit the bank in person in order to open an account and bring the original documentation with you. You’ll also need an initial opening deposit (the amount depends on the institution and account type). Some banks might charge customers for the card linked to your account as well. Thus, bring some money with you. Furthermore, all Chinese bank accounts need to be tied to a Chinese phone number. If you haven’t already got one, do it before visiting the bank.

Choose the account and bank

The most important factor to consider when choosing your bank is convenience. At least, there must be a branch near your place of residence/work so that you can easily get there for opening an account. If you further have any issues with that account like changing your PIN, reporting a stolen card, etc, you will need to visit the same branch too. Thus, make sure it’s not too far. Also pay attention to the ATMs near you, in case you need some cash.

Please, mind that not every bank or branch will allow a non-Chinese person to open an account. Therefore, you’d better consult the branch of your choice in advance.

The different types of banks in China are:

  • Specialised banks – majorly state-owned institutions that accept deposits and conduct banking business.
  • Specific lending purpose banks – policymaking institutions.
  • Commercial banks – offer consumers and businesses basic banking services including deposit accounts and loans.
  • Foreign banks – foreign-owned institutions that are less competitive against local rivals, due to national regulations.

The top banks in China include: Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), China Construction Bank (CCB), Agriculture Bank of China (ABC), Bank of China (BoC), China Development Bank (CDB), Postal Savings Bank of China (PSBC), Bank of Communications (BoCom), Industrial Bank Co Ltd, China Citic Bank Corp, China Merchants Bank.

As for the accounts available, they don’t differ much from those functioning elsewhere (current account, joint account, deposit account, savings account, etc). In addition, some banks offer “all-in-one” solutions that effectively combine a few types of accounts. Despite the similar purpose, some account names might confuse a foreigner (e.g. lump-sum term deposit from BoC), so you’d better read the description of a banking product before choosing a suitable one.

In addition, the accounts in China are divided into RMB accounts (for local currency only) and foreign exchange accounts, that allow depositing other fiat currencies.

Some particular types of foreign exchange accounts include:

  • Non-residence Account(NRA) – not available to foreign individuals, only entities, used primarily for capital investment from overseas corporations into China;
  • Offshore Account(OSA) – treated in the same way as accounts opened in foreign banks, only four banks in China are legally permitted to open this type of accounts;
  • Hong Kong Bank Account – facilitates business between the free trade zone of Hong Kong and Mainland China, helps to avoid the strict restrictions imposed on exchange currencies in Mainland China;
  • Overseas Bank Account – opened in one country while the account owner is registered or resident in another country.

Tourists are able to open limited bank accounts for the purposes of converting their currency to RMB for convenience.

Foreign businesses most often use the following types of accounts:

  • RMB basic deposit account – designed for cash collection and payments, cash withdrawal, daily fund transfers, salary distribution, and tax payments.
  • RMB general deposit account – used for fund flows resulting from deposits, payments/receivables, borrowing proceeds, debt repayment and other settlements.
  • RMB/USD capital account – used to receive capital injections from foreign investors, as well as payments under current items and capital items approved by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE).
  • USD settlement account – for cash withdrawals limited with business purposes (e.g. for overseas travel expenses).

Apply

As you already know, in order to open an account, you must visit a bank branch with the required documentation and fill in the application form. All application forms will be given to you at the bank. Some forms are available in English-Chinese variants, though others may be in Chinese only. Ask the bank employees for assistance, if you have troubles with translation or filling in the form.

After your application is accepted, you should make your initial deposit. Only then your Chinese bank account will be officially established.

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