With the fastest growing economy in the world, China is no doubt an up-and-coming economic superpower.
There has never been so much foreign interest in this blooming economic powerhouse.
If you’re planning on doing business in China, moving to China, or visit China regularly and want to start banking there, this article is for you.
Here we’ll go over a step-by-step guide to help you get started banking in China.
Gather Your Documents
The first order of business is to get your necessary documents in order.
To start a bank account anywhere in the world, you need to provide the bank with some documentation so that they know who you are, and what your banking history is.
To open a bank account in China, you need the following documents:
- Passport: You need your passport because it is the government photo ID with the highest level of credibility.
- Proof of Residence: In most cases you must live in the country where you wish to start a bank account, however in China your residence permit is only needed for correspondence purposes for most non-business bank accounts. Some banks will allow you to provide an email address instead for web-based correspondence. They will also ask for proof of address as well for the business if you're opening a business account.
- Employer Note: Some banks require you to work in China in order to open an account. If this is the case, you will need to provide the bank with a note from a legitimate employer operating in China.
- Work Permit: If you have a work visa allowing you to work in China, some banks will accept this as documentation.
- Student Pass: If you are a foreign exchange student at a Chinese college, you can show the bank documentation of your enrollment to start a foreign student bank account.
- An Initial Deposit: All banks require an initial deposit to be made when opening a new account. Depending on the bank you choose and the type of account you want to open, the minimum deposit amount will vary.
There may be more documents required by the bank of your choosing, but these are the common documents you will need that most banks will accept.
Keep in mind that in most cases, you will need to visit the bank in person in order to open an account.
But there are some cases in which you can open a Chinese bank account online.
Depending on the region you live in and the manner of the bank account you’re looking to open, you can easily or not-so-easily get a bank account open online.
This process could take much longer and be less safe than doing so in person.
It is recommended that you consult with the staff of the bank of your choice to see your online banking options.
Choose Your Account Type
In the Chinese banking system, there are four different types of accounts that non-resident foreigners can open.
Here is a list of account types available to foreigners, the requirements for each, and their advantages.
- Free Trade Non-Resident (FTN): This type of account is made for overseas companies and only offered in the Hainan or Shanghai free trade zone. Users of this account type enjoy convenient investment options and some great currency exchange tools.
- Honk Kong Bank Account: HKBAs were created to facilitate business between the free trade zone of Hong Kong and mainland China. HKBAs allow business people to transfer money overseas somewhat freely. Hong Kong Bank Accounts are known for their stellar internet banking network. These accounts are complicated to open, especially if you come into the process with an American passport, as these are heavily regulated accounts.
- Non-Resident Account (NRA): An NRA can be opened in any Chinese bank. NRA accounts can be opened with Chinese Renminbi (RMB) or foreign currencies, limiting your foreign exchange risk exposure. Keep in mind that these accounts are not available for individuals, but overseas corporations. They are used primarily for capital investment from overseas corporations into China.
- Offshore Accounts (OSA): OSAs are a more rare form of Chinese bank account. They are used for conducting operations with foreign currencies, not RMB, and the funds can only be sourced from and used for business foreign to China. Only four banks in China are legally permitted to open these types of accounts.
If you’re looking for a more personal bank account in China, you must be a resident of the Country.
Non-resident foreigners looking to open a Chinese bank account need to do so through the context of overseas business or currency exchange.
Tourists are able to open limited bank accounts for the purposes of converting their currency to RMB for convenience.
Additionally, it is much simpler for Chinese expatriates to open bank accounts even if they don’t primarily live in China.
Choose Your Bank
Now that you’ve picked the account type you need, you now have to choose the Chinese bank with which you wish to do business.
China is the home to some of the world’s largest banks, mostly because they are all owned by the government and centralized accordingly.
There are 4 large banks in China that are majority-owned by the Chinese government but don't let this discourage you, they are quite consumer and business-friendly for China-based customers.
- Bank of China: The Bank of China is the largest government centralized bank that provides a wide range of services for businesses as well as investment packages, even abroad. They are the most visibly present retail bank in China.
- ICBC: One of the largest banks in China, ICBC boasts some of the highest monetary volumes of any bank in the world. With branches throughout China and around the world, ICBC is an exceptional bank that was voted the best bank in China in 2015. ICBC has a host of products and services and has experienced customer service that speaks English.
- Agrcultural Bank of China: Another Chinese megabank, HSBC is a worldwide network of banks with a wide array of financial products and services. HSBC is commended for its sophisticated internet banking system and convenient mobile app.
- China Construction Bank (CCB): The CCB was the second-largest bank on the planet in 2015. CCB offers a slew of account options, credit and debit cards, and loans. CCB has 13,000 branches across China alone, and many more worldwide. Due to its expertise in asset management, it is often friendly to manufacturers and construction-type companies.
- HSBC: While not a China government-owned bank, many businesses in China choose to register their business in Hong Kong, and in doing so can opt to use the HSBC business account to run their business in China.
These are the largest and most popular banks for overseas companies to bank with.
Remember that if these banks don’t suit your needs, there are always smaller and local Chinese banks to do business with or even international banks.
Make Your Initial Deposit
Once you have followed the instructions above, your Chinese bank account will be officially established after making your initial deposit.
You may need to be present in a branch office to make the first deposit.
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