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How to Open a Bank Account in China as a Foreigner

Whether you are relocating due to new business opportunities, sourcing products, or importing goods from China, having a local bank account simplifies and makes domestic transactions more convenient. But how easy or troublesome is it to open a bank account in China as a foreigner or non-resident?

In this article, we have gathered the essential information you need to know to open a bank account in China as a foreigner, including the general requirements, types of accounts, and bank options. Let’s begin with the different types of bank accounts in China.

Different Types of Bank Accounts in China

It’s crucial to understand the different types of bank accounts available when opening a bank account in China, as each type has unique features and benefits. The common types of accounts banks in China provide include:

  1. Savings Accounts: Provided by most banks for both individual and corporate clients. They can be used for daily expenses and receiving salaries, with the primary purpose of saving funds.

  2. Current Accounts: Ideal for individuals and businesses handling frequent expenses and payments. Current accounts generally offer little to no interest, as their primary function is facilitating transactions.

  3. Fixed or Time Deposit Accounts: These allow you to earn a higher interest rate than savings accounts when holding your funds for a fixed term.

  4. Foreign Currency Accounts: Suitable for individuals and businesses in international trade, travel, or investment with frequent transactions in foreign currencies other than RMB.

Most major banks in China also offer business banking products and services, including corporate accounts, merchant accounts, and payroll accounts. It is important to note that the specific features and benefits of an account can vary significantly between banks, and certain types of accounts may not be available at some banks.

Offshore Accounts

If you are a foreign company incorporated and registered outside China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Macau, you can choose from the following account options for non-resident business entities:

  1. Free Trade Non-Resident (FTN): Made for overseas companies and only offered in the Hainan and Shanghai free trade zones. This account allows holders to enjoy convenient investment options and great currency exchange tools.

  2. Non-Resident Account (NRA): Can be opened with any Chinese bank, available in both Renminbi (RMB) and foreign currencies, preventing foreign exchange risk exposure. NRAs are not available for individuals but only for overseas corporations, primarily used for capital investment from overseas corporations in China.

  3. Offshore Accounts (OSA): A rare form of a Chinese bank account, used for conducting operations in foreign currencies, not RMB. The funds can only be sourced from and used for businesses outside China. You can only open OSA at China’s Merchants Bank, China Bank of Communication, Pudong Development Bank, or Ping An Bank (formerly Shenzhen Development Bank).

What Documents Are Required to Open a Bank Account in China?

When opening a bank account anywhere in the world, you must provide the necessary documents to proceed. To open an account with most Chinese banks, you will have to provide the following required documents:

  • Completed application form with your personal details

  • Valid passport and visa details

  • Proof of address

  • Chinese phone number

  • Valid work permit, business license, or documents supporting employment or student status

In some cases, you may also be required to meet the bank representative in person to open a bank account in China.

Important: Different banks may require additional documents or details. We recommend checking with your chosen bank for accuracy.

How Much Do I Need to Open a Bank Account in China?

The minimum deposit amount and account opening fees for a bank account in China may differ based on the bank you choose and the type of account you decide to open. However, you can prepare around RMB 100 to 1,000 (about USD 15 to 150) to cover potential fees or charges. You may check with your preferred bank in advance if they require any initial deposit.

Tip: Knowing how to use your RMB deposits outside China is essential once you have your Chinese bank account.

How to Open a Bank Account in China

The account opening process may vary slightly depending on each bank’s specific requirements, the type of account, and whether you are a Chinese citizen or a foreign resident. Opening corporate accounts with banks in China also involves a more complex process than opening personal accounts, and banks may take longer to approve your accounts.

The general account application process typically follows a standard procedure:

  1. Choose a Bank: Consider factors such as bank reputation, digital banking capabilities, and ease of opening the account. You can choose from the major banks in China, subsidiaries of international banks, or traditional banking alternatives.

  2. Select an Account Type: Choose the type of bank account that suits your purpose.

  3. Prepare Required Documents: This typically includes your passport, a valid visa or residence permit, proof of address, and a work contract. Some banks may provide a document checklist in advance.

  4. Visit a Branch: Generally, foreigners must open an account in person for identity verification. Some banks may require you to make an appointment in advance to ensure that you visit a branch accustomed to dealing with foreigners.

  5. Complete Application Forms: Fill out the necessary paperwork, which could be in Chinese. Some banks provide English forms or assistance for non-Chinese speakers. Ensure that you provide accurate and complete information.

  6. Set Up Banking Tools: You will receive a bank card and instructions for setting up online banking, mobile banking apps, and other banking services. You may also have to make initial deposits.

  7. Verify and Activate Account: Some banks may require additional steps to verify and activate your account, especially for online and mobile banking services.

The “Big-Four” Banks in China

China is home to some of the world’s largest banks, mainly because they are government-owned and due to the centralized nature of the country’s financial system. There are currently 4,561 banking institutions and 184 registered commercial banks in China, including branches and subsidiaries of international banks such as Standard Chartered and Citibank. In 2022, the Chinese banking industry held a value exceeding 23 trillion USD, according to Statista.

To help you narrow down your bank options, let’s look at the “big four” Chinese banks.

Bank of China (BOC)

The Bank of China is a major state-owned commercial bank, providing various financial services to individuals and enterprises. The Bank of China also has branches in multiple countries, regions, and major cities, including Hong Kong, the US, and the UK.

Key Services Offered by the Bank of China:

  • Current All-In-One-Account: A current deposit account for personal use, allowing users to hold deposits in RMB and other foreign currencies, including USD, EUR, JPY, SGD, and HKD.

  • Personal Foreign Exchange Savings Account: Includes current savings, term deposit, and call deposit accounts that can hold multiple foreign currencies.

  • Corporate Demand Deposit Account: A business account for holding deposits in RMB and other foreign currencies without a savings term.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is currently the largest bank in China and the world, with a total assets value of USD 6.12 trillion in 2023. ICBC has a substantial network of branches and subsidiaries in China and worldwide, renowned for its digital transformation and financial inclusion measures.

Key Services Offered by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China:

  • Current Deposit Account: An all-in-one current account allowing clients to deposit and withdraw cash in RMB and other foreign currencies.

  • Corporate Current Deposit Account: A current deposit account for corporate clients to save and manage cash in RMB.

  • WeChat Banking: Provides the flexibility to contact the help desk, access accounts, and get financial information through WeChat.

Agricultural Bank of China (ABC)

The Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) is another central Chinese bank with branches across China and a few overseas, including the U.S., Australia, and Canada. It provides various financial products and services, including RMB Demand Deposit Accounts and the Farmer’s Benefit Credit Card. ABC is commended for supporting China’s agricultural sector and rural development.

Key Services Offered by the Agricultural Bank of China:

  • RMB Demand Deposit Account: A personal banking account for depositing, transferring, and withdrawing funds in RMB.

  • Personal Fund Collection: A service designed to centralize fund management across various accounts.

  • Corporate Demand Deposit Account: An RMB deposit account for enterprises to receive, pay, and settle funds.

China Construction Bank (CCB)

China Construction Bank (CCB) is another large state-owned commercial bank, recognized for its efforts in fintech and sustainable development. CCB has almost 15,000 branches across mainland China and many more worldwide, including Europe, Australia, and Hong Kong.

Due to its expertise in asset management, CCB is a good option for companies in the manufacturing and construction business.

Key Services Offered by China Construction Bank:

  • All-in-One Account: A multi-currency current deposit account offering a seven-day call deposit with higher yields, requiring a minimum balance.

  • RMB Deposit Accounts: Clients can choose between demand deposit and term deposit accounts to deposit funds in RMB.

  • Corporate Notification Deposit Account: Designed for enterprises with a minimum deposit of RMB 500,000, offering higher interest rates than demand deposits and more flexible withdrawals than term deposits.

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