One of the first things you’ll want to do when you arrive in China to work or study is set up a bank account. Besides ensuring you get paid on time, it’s also the key to making your life in China much more convenient; once you’ve got a bank account, you can set up popular mobile payment apps and start making purchases using your phone for anything, from street food to rent. To help you get started, here’s what you need to know about setting up a bank account in China.

Who Can Do it?

What was once a seemingly straightforward task for almost any foreigner regardless of visa type, is now a much more regulated procedure. Over the past year, the government has tightened rules surrounding the type of visa a foreigner must hold to be able to open a bank account. Nowadays, only foreigners who reside in China on a valid work, study or business visa can open an account.

Of course, we are talking about China, where there’s usually a loophole, so it’s not impossible that some banks will still issue accounts to foreigners holding other visas. But as a general rule, you should expect to have to meet these basic requirements before being able to begin.

What do I need to take?

Though setting up a bank account in China is quite straightforward in some respects, it doesn’t come without the paperwork. In order to successfully open an account, you will need to take with you:

  • Your passport (and visa)
  • Your work or study permit
  • Your police registration form (as proof of address)
  • A small fee (approx. 5 RMB)

Once at the bank, you will need to complete a number of forms with information such as your name, nationality, address in China and passport details. You will also need to provide what’s known as your ‘tax identification number’ from your home country. What number this is exactly will depend on where you are from; some countries issue such numbers for all citizens, while others do not. If you are from the UK, you can provide your National Insurance number or, if you’ve ever been self-employed, Unique Tax Payer Reference number.

setting up a bank account in china

When Can I get My Card?

Fortunately, the process of issuing a bank card is a lot quicker than you may be used to at home; once you’ve completed the paperwork, and the bank clerk has processed your documents, they will give you your card on the spot. You’ll be asked to enter your new pin a couple of times and pay the small fee required to open the account. After that, you’re good to go!

Which Bank Should I choose?

Most banks in China are government owned, and there are several banks to choose from. If you’re opening an account for the sole purpose of depositing money in and making payments from, you can choose almost any bank. Though, it’s wise to consider a few things such as whether it’s a countrywide bank that you can access if you travel, whether or not it offers online banking, and if the bank has ATM’s readily available around the city.

If you’re opening an account for the purpose of receiving your salary, you can’t afford to be picky. Employers in China generally use one specific bank into which they pay employee’s salaries. So, in order to receive it you will need to open an account with the right bank. Before you go charging ahead to get everything set up, ask your employer which bank they require you to open an account with. Of course, it’s no issue if you set up more than one account, but to save you time and hassle further down the line, it’s a good idea to check first.

If you’re worried about language barrier, it’s advisable to go to larger branches to create your account, where staff are more likely to speak English. Though if you’ve arrived in China to teach, it’s likely your coordinator will accompany you and guide you through the process.

What Next?

Once you’ve got your account set up, you can set up payment functions on China’s two most popular and useful mobile payment apps; WeChat and Alipay. These are very simple to set up with your new bank account details. Note that in order to link your bank cards to the apps, you will need to enter your full name exactly as it was registered with the bank, taking into account whether or not it’s in capitals and the order your name was registered.

So, that’s it. Providing you’re on the right visa and take with you the required documents, you will be able to set up a bank account in China in no time. Once you start receiving your salary, you’ll need to pay tax – here’s what you need to know about that. Good luck!