How to Open a Bank Account in China

Opening a bank account in China gives many benefits. Here’s a quick guide to help you to choose and open the one that you need.

Overseas students are suggested to open a Chinese bank account when they arrive at the university. In China, some universities will help international students open bank accounts; while in most cases, some university require students to open Chinese bank account themselves and it’s important for you to get the knowledge of how to open a bank account in China.

Even if you are in China for a short period of time, opening a bank account in China can make your life easier for multiple reasons:

To get a Union Pay debit card

In China, very few businesses accept payment by international cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express. The majority of businesses in China only accept payments with cards from Union Pay, which is the Chinese bank network. Opening a bank account in China will allow you to easily obtain a Union Pay debit card.

To use WeChat or Alipay to pay

WeChat, despite being called the Chinese WhatsApp, is much more than that. WeChat and Alipay allows you to make payments at businesses, book taxis, order takeout and much more. To use these options, you will need to have a Chinese bank card.

To shopping online

Most Chinese websites such as Taobao (the Chinese Amazon) or the official trains website do not allow payment with international cards, and the only way to pay is via the online Chinese payment system.

To pay less commissions

The commissions for exchanging money or withdrawing money at Chinese banks are much smaller if you have a Chinese bank account.

Choosing a bank

Individual customers can choose among various commercial banks. The largest banks in China are:

Bank of China (BOC)

China Construction Bank (CCB)

Agricultural Bank of China (ABC)

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)

These banks usually offer great conditions and savings rates, however, they might be stricter to foreigners that are applying for their services.

For the average person, there’s not a huge difference between these banks. You need to choose wisely which bank should you open an account with and prioritize convenience. It would be better if you choose the bank or banks that are nearest to where you live and they should be at least district-level sub-branches (In some middle or small cities, you may have to go to a city-level branch),for not all of branches are familiar with foreign business.

If you open an account for your salary, check with your employer in China which bank they prefer you to bank with (if they have any preference at all). This is because it is cheaper and faster for companies to pay their employees if they use the same bank. Often, people have accounts with multiple banks just in case.

Required documents

1. Passport. The most important thing that you need to provide is your passport. It is the most important ID in China. In order to avoid unnecessary problems, we recommend that your passport should be valid at least 6 months into the future.

2. Working certification/ Student ID. If you are working in China, a certificate which can prove your working position provided by your company is necessary. Your work card may not be recognized as a “certificate”. As a student, the offer letter from your university would be helpful.

3. Local telephone number. At the majority of banks during the account opening process, to be able to carry out transactions as well as use online services and mobile applications, your bank will send you security codes to your cell phone.

4. Some cash (RMB). Aside from the documents above, you also need some money that will serve as an initial deposit. The amount is usually from 10 to 20 Renminbi (RMB), but some banks will require you to pay for the card that will be given to you, so bring a total of 40 RMB just to make sure.

5. Certificate of your address. Some banks may request the evidence which can prove your address. Lease contract, certificate from your neighborhood committee or certificate from police department may be acceptable.

6. Certificate from local police department. Some banks may ask foreign customers to provide certificate from local police department. Don’t worry, it does not mean you have any criminal record. Some cities just have the regulation that your identity has to be approved by police before opening an account. It is not common in most cities, so do not panic.

Opening an account

Once you’ve picked the bank and put your passport and cash in your pocket, set aside an hour or two and head over to the nearest bank branch. Having a local friend to accompany you might speed up the process. But since the application is not complicated, that may not be really necessary. You should be able to do this by yourself.

Go directly to the information desk to speak with the banking staff and get your wait number. Inform them that you are interested in opening a bank account with them.

Most of the time, they will assist you in filling out the form. There are times when they provide a form written in English for your convenience and process a duplicate of your passport and visa for your later use.

After your number is called, hand them over the filled out form and your passport as well. You will need to sign other documents, and you will be informed of how much the deposit is going to be. While processing your application, you will be required to enter a password which is usually a 6-digit number. At the same time, you will be provided with a new UnionPay Bank Card.

They’ll also likely go make a copy of your passport and visa that you’ll need later.

When your number is called, provide them with your passport and the form. They’ll have you sign a few other documents, tell you how much money is required for deposit and hand a new UnionPay Bank Card.

*If needed, make sure to request online banking and mobile services from your bank in China.

Importance of your name

When you open a bank account, it is important that there are no spelling errors in your name (which is common), as theoretically it has to exactly match the name printed in your passport. If it doesn’t, this can cause problems when you use the online account or WeChat at a later date.

This becomes more complicated when names are not of Anglo-Saxon origin, as they can contain characters that the Chinese do not know how to write, such as the ñ in Spanish (the Chinese use English keyboards). In terms of sound markers like the diaeresis and accent marks, this is not something you have to worry about, as they are just going to ignore them.

Keep in mind that computer systems are designed for Chinese users, in which names are a maximum of 3 characters with the last name first. Because of this, a Spanish name such as Juan Pérez Núñez will be a challenge for the bank employee, not only because of the characters that are not present on the keyboard (ñ and the accents), but also because of the fact that the employee has to understand that Pérez is the first last name and not a middle name. In addition, sometimes the software will not allow such a large name.

Area of bank service

Lastly, you should avoid using different brands of the bank. If you have an ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) card, don’t go to China Construction Bank to withdraw money, although you can view your balance for free, you have to pay a small admin charge for withdrawals using a different bank ATM, so that’s why it’s important to have branches near your house, university etc.

Resource Reference: CSapore di Cina; Global From Asia

*Please note that we hope that more people can get the first-hand information. For cited images and articles that we have the footnote of the sources at the bottom, the copyright belongs to the original writer, and we've done our best to proofread the content.