How to open a Bank Account in China from the UK
Looking out to How to open a bank account in China from the UK, Think about going to China? You might be there to study, start a business, or work, or you might just be there for a long time to visit friends or family.
No matter what, if you plan to stay in China for a while, you will probably need a bank account.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about opening a bank account in China. This includes any restrictions for foreigners, the documents you’ll need, and any fees you should know about.
Check out the Wise multi-currency account if you want a cheaper and more convenient way to handle your money across international borders.
This lets you send money from the UK to China at a fair exchange rate and with low fees. This could help a lot with the costs of moving in the beginning. Plus, you can use your Wise debit card to pay for things in Chinese Yuan (CNY) like a local.
But first, let’s make sure you have a bank account in China.
Can a foreigner open a bank account in China?
Even if you don’t live in China, you can open a bank account there. But you might find that some banks make it harder than others.
The rules can be different from one bank to the next. Some Chinese banks might not take any applications from people who are not Chinese citizens, and others might not accept every type of visa or resident permit1. At some banks, you may only be able to open a non-resident account or an account for expats.
In short, you’ll have to do some research and maybe try out a few banks before you find the right one.
Can I open a Chinese bank account online?
Most of the time, you have to go to a bank in person in China to open an account1.
This means that you can’t open an account online or from a distance. You’ll need to check with each bank to see if you can at least start the process online.
Can I open a Chinese bank account from the UK?
To open an account at most Chinese banks, you have to be there in person. There are, however, some ways to get around this.
For example, if you choose a global bank like HSBC, which has branches in both the UK and China, this could be a problem. HSBC works all over the world and has services just for expats, as well as international bank accounts and products that work with foreign currency.
The most important thing about HSBC is that you can apply for an international bank account even if you live in the UK2. You can set up your new account before you move, and then you can start using it once you’re living in China. The only important requirement is that you already have to have an HSBC current account2, which should be easy to do.
After you fill out your application online, HSBC will give you a call to help you set up your account in China.
How to open a bank account in China
Depending on the bank, the first step in opening a bank account in China is usually to go to your local branch. But it’s a good idea to check out the bank’s website before you go. This is just to make sure you have the right paperwork and understand how the account you want to open works.
If you don’t speak Chinese, you might want to bring someone who does, like a friend, family member, or an interpreter. It will make the whole process much easier, help you fill out the forms correctly, and hopefully prevent any confusion or miscommunication.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on what to expect:
Stop by a branch. You shouldn’t have to schedule an appointment ahead of time (although check with the bank if unsure).
Go to the information desk, where you’ll be given a wait number and an application form to fill out. You can also have copies made of your passport and visa.
Bring your completed form and ID to the desk when your number is called.
Sign the necessary papers and pay the initial deposit of about 10 to 20 RMB (about £1.22 to £2.45) to open the account.
You should get your account information and your bank card. You may also be asked to choose a PIN code for your new card.
How do I open a bank account in China?
Even though it’s different from bank to bank, here’s what most banks in China need to open an account:
A form that has been filled out
A valid passport
Proof of residence is sometimes needed, but not always. In some cases, your residence permit or the address of your hotel will be enough1.
If you don’t have a Chinese phone number, you can just buy a Chinese sim card.
Your ID for work or school (not always needed).
Some banks may also need a letter from your Chinese employer saying that you have a job.
You’ll also have to put down a deposit, which is usually between 10 and 20 RMB (about £1.22 and £2.45). But it could be more or less, so you might want to bring more cash with you to the bank just in case.
Best banks in China for foreigners
China has a huge number of both domestic and foreign banks to choose from. Let’s talk about some of the best banks for expats in China.
Bank of China
Bank of China is one of the largest banks in the world. It is mostly owned by the government and has branches all over the country. It also has offices in Japan, Singapore, the UK, and a lot of other places around the world.
Bank of China’s website has a basic English version, and both Chinese citizens and expats can choose from a variety of personal accounts.
This includes its Current All-In-One Account, which lets you deposit and save in more than one currency. You can send and receive money through the account, and you’ll get a debit card that you can use to buy things and get money from ATMs4.
China Construction Bank
China Construction Bank is one of the most important banks in the country. It was founded in 1954 and now has almost 40 branches all over China5. It also does business in places like Tokyo, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Sydney, and London.
China Construction Bank has a number of personal and business accounts, like the All In One Account for everyday banking.
You’ll need to keep 50,000 CNY (about £6,100 GBP) in your account at all times. In exchange, you’ll earn interest on your money, get a debit card, and be able to save in different currencies.
China’s Industrial and Commercial Bank (ICBC)
ICBC is another one of the world’s biggest banks. It was founded in 1984 and now has branches all over China and in other countries.
ICBC has a number of deposit, time deposit, and savings accounts, but its All-in-one Current Account is one of the best for expats. This can be used to deposit and withdraw both CNY and foreign currencies. You can take care of your account online, at a branch, or by phone8.
As a foreigner living in China, it might be easier for you to open an account at one of the many international banks there. If you’re already a customer in the UK, you’ll know what to expect from the products and service.
HSBC, Standard Chartered, and Citibank are three of the international banks that expats in China use the most.
You could also open an account at an online bank. These are also called “neobanks” or “mobile banks.” They don’t have physical branches, but you can manage your everyday bank account online or with an app on your phone.
In China, you have the following choices:
Aibank (Baixin Bank)
WeBank XW Bank
What fees and charges can I expect from my bank?
If you want to open a bank account in China, you should carefully read the terms and conditions, especially the part about fees and charges. Most large and international banks have this information on their websites in English, but it can sometimes be hard to find.
A few key charges to look for include:
Monthly fees for keeping an account open
Fees for closing an account too soon
Charges for a dormant account
ATMs that are not in a network charge fees to withdraw cash.
Transfer fees, especially for payments made between countries.
If you have to pay them, some of these fees may seem small at first, but they can add up over time.
Can I use online banking in China?
Even though you can’t open a bank account online in China, you should still be able to manage your money online.
Several banks in China offer online banking, which lets you check your balance, send or receive money, and change your personal information when the bank is closed. You’ll need to go to the website of your bank to find out more.
But if you want to do something more complicated, you’ll need to call the bank or go to a branch in person.
How do you manage your money abroad? Save a lot of money with Wise.
Having a Chinese bank account is very helpful, especially if you need to pay your rent or get your paycheck if you work.
But a traditional bank may not be the best way to send and receive payments from other countries. This is because banks usually charge high fees to send money abroad. On top of that, they often mark up the exchange rate. All of this adds to the cost of your transfer.
There’s always something else you can do. If you open a Wise multi-currency account, you can manage your money in more than 50 different currencies, such as CNY and GBP.
Send money to China from the UK to pay for the first costs of moving, and then use the contactless Wise international debit card to pay for things in CNY once you get there.
With Wise, you’ll only pay small, clear fees, and the exchange rate you get will always be the mid-market rate. You can get a fair rate without the markup that banks usually add.
It’s the best solution for expats living in China or anywhere else in the world. Start here, and you’ll be ready to go for your big move.