Foreigners in China- how to open a bank account

Bank of china building with logo to help foreigners in china
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Foreigners in China- how to open a bank account

When you travel to China frequently, opening a bank account in China has many benefits. Even for foreigners in China this can be very useful! In China very few stores accept payments with international cards. Most businesses in China only accept payments with Union Pay cards, the Chinese banking circuit.

Opening a bank account in China will allow you to easily obtain a Union Pay debit card. With a Chinese bank account you’ll be able to pay through WeChat or Alipay, purchase whatever you want on Chinese websites (ex. On TaoBao) and you’ll also withdraw your money paying less commissions. To open a bank account in China requires time, but overall it’s not particularly complicated. The key is finding a bank branch that has experience working with other foreigners in china before and that is willing to accept your particular visa/resident’s permit.

Here are some of the main Chinese banks that will allow you to open a bank account:

  • Bank of China (中国银行)
  • Bank of Communication(交通银行):
  • ICBC 中国工商银行 (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China)
  • ABC 中国农业银行 (Agricultural Bank of China)
  • China Construction Bank 中国建设银行
  • China Merchant’s Bank 中国招商银行
Unionpay logo for foreigners in China

But what do you need to open a Chinese bank account? These are the documents that usually are requested:

  • Passport: you need to bring your passport along with your valid Chinese visa.
  • Chinese phone number: the bank account will be linked to your phone number, so that you can also manage online banking. Before going to the bank to open an account, you need to get a Chinese SIM and a local phone number.
  • Work permit or student ID: banks usually ask for a student ID or work permit before opening the account. This doesn’t happen all the time but it is worth remembering before going to the credit institution.
  • Proof of residence: this is not always necessary, but some banks require it. Examples of proof of residence could be a receipt from the hotel where you live, or your residence permit.

Opening a bank account in China was easy before, but things have changed over the years. As China develops, it is becoming almost impossible for foreigners to open bank accounts unless they have a residence permit, or study or work there. To open a bank account in China you must be at least 18 years old.

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