How to Open a Bank Account in China

It is now much more difficult than it used to be to open a bank account in mainland China. The days of walking into any bank with nothing but your passport and instantly getting an account opened are long gone.

Not only in China, but it seems like there is a global trend of increased difficulty opening bank accounts all over the world recently.

I always try to open as many bank accounts as I can in as many countries as possible. Especially if the minimum balance requirement and annual fees are low. With an annual fee of around 10-15 CNY and no minimum balance requirement, opening a bank account in China is always a good idea. I recommend opening as many accounts as you can if you plan to spend any significant amount of time in China.

It’s always easier to keep an existing account open than it is to open a brand new account. And it’s always better to have a bank account that you don’t need than need one that you can’t open.

If you have a work visa / resident permit

In this case, it’s still relatively easy to open a bank account in mainland China. You will just need to answer a few questions about where you work, live, and the purpose of opening the bank account.

If you have a tourist or business visa

Then the situation gets more complicated.

In addition your passport, you will also need the “registration form of temporary residence for visitors” that you get from the police station when you register where you are staying in China. When you stay in China, you are required to register at the nearest police station within 24 hours of entering the country.

If you are staying in a hotel, the hotel staff will register on your behalf and you will not normally get a copy of this registration form (I believe the registration is done electronically in this case). You can try asking the hotel to help you get a paper copy of the registration form. Some hotels may be able to do this, but I wouldn’t count on it.

If you can’t find a hotel that will help you out, you can find an Airbnb host that can get it for you (message the host first to make sure they can do it).

Once you get this document, then you will need to find a bank that will open an account for you.

Not all banks will open accounts for holders of tourist/business visas, even with the residence registration form. For example, I have heard that Bank of China will not do it under any circumstance.

I don’t know the specific policy of every bank, but I would suggest that you try China Merchants Bank first. I have heard reports of people with tourist and business visas opening accounts recently. And it’s my new favorite Chinese bank. I think they have the best service, and the best English app for mobile banking in China. The only drawback is that their ATMs are not very common so you will have to pay a few yuan to use other bank’s ATMs most of the time.

If you are an American citizen

Then it will be even more difficult for you because of FATCA. The American government requires banks worldwide to report information on American account holders. Most banks will not want to deal with you unless they think you have enough money to make it worth the extra hassle of dealing with FATCA reporting.

It’s still possible, but it will be more difficult for you. You can thank your government for the extra hassle.

Tips for successful account opening

1. Give a good reason for opening the account

As with opening a bank account anywhere in the world these days, you will likely be asked this question.
What is the purpose of opening the account?

The purpose of them asking this question is to make sure you are not involved with money laundering or other illegal activities. Your ability to give a good answer to this question will often determine whether or not you are successful in opening the account.

If you have a legal job in China with the proper work visa, then it’s easy to give a good reason for opening an account. Even if it’s not the bank that your company will pay salary to, you can say that you prefer to keep your savings in their bank. Or you like their mobile app better. Any reason should suffice if you are legally employed in China.

If you have a tourist or business visa, then you need to give a good reason for needing a bank account in China when you don’t earn money in China.

The reason given should be according to your individual situation, but here are some examples.

You want to use WeChat and AliPay for ride-sharing apps, food delivery, bike rental, etc.

You want to wire money to yourself from overseas to pay your living or other expenses in China.

You do not want the bank to think you are earning money in China if you don’t have a work visa, so make sure that you explain how you support yourself in China while not earning money here.

If you are an American with a tourist or business visa then you better give an extremely compelling reason for opening the account.

2. Don’t get discouraged

If you get rejected at first, don’t give up. Just try again at another bank (or even another branch of the same bank). Most banks have the discretion to open the account for you. Opening an account for a foreigner causes them a lot of extra paperwork, so sometimes they will just reject you simply because they don’t want to do it (especially in the smaller branches).

Just keep trying, you will succeed eventually. Patience is persistence is key here.

3. Give the bank a reason to do business with you

You may also want to mention that you are interested in some of their “wealth management” products, or opening a VIP account (if you have 50k CNY or more to deposit). This will give the bank more incentive to have you as a customer.

If you have recently opened a bank account in China, please leave a comment below about your experience.

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Reader Comments (23)

  1. i would wanna open in China bank im resident in china so i can open bank in china please answer me

    • When you say “open in China bank”, are you referring to the Bank of China or just any bank in China? If you mean the Bank of China, then you can only open an account if you have a work visa. If you have another type of visa then I suggest trying other banks. The results are not guaranteed but some people have had success. Just keep trying different branches and different banks (except Bank of China) until you are successful.

  2. I (spanish) managed to open a bank account in ICBC with a business visa in June 2019. I followed these steps:
    – I was staying in Shenzhen for 1 month in an Airbnb with a nice host who helped me.
    – I was working in a co-working space (x.factory in Shenzhen) which prepared me a letter saying I’m “working with them”.
    – The staff of the co-working space helped me to write a simple rental contract to sign between me and my airbnb host which makes following steps easier
    – I went with my host to the local police station in a workday and I got the temporary residence permit. My “address” was the Airbnb address and the previous letter and contract helped. I needed a compliant photo which I could made in a photo shop next to the police station. Blue background.
    – With all that, I only needed one thing more: the chinese phone number. I got a SIM card in a China Unicom shop, with my passport. They only wanted to give me a 1-month duration one, but I think it was just the guy I found, who didn’t want to trust me to have a normal SIM (?).
    – Finally I went to the ICBC bank, a big office in that neighbourhood in Shenzhen. This bank was the one I was recommended to try, they are more open to foreigners and they usually have english-speaking staff in the big offices. The website and the app sucked anyway (well, the phone app is not that bad, but it’s only in Chinese).
    I need to bring all the papers and also my airbnb host to help me with them. Finally they opened my account and gave me my very first UnionPay card (debit).

    BE CAREFUL WITH ONE THING: You CANNOT receive a transfer in RMB from a foreigner bank outside China if you aren’t a business and you don’t have a Hong Kong ID. The RMB currency is very limited by the CCP. But you can use the ICBC ATM’s to put money on the account that you can get from the same ATM with your foreigner card (VISA, etc), so that’s an easy way to move your money to your new account.

  3. Hi! I was planning on opening a chinese bank account while im in Shanghai with a tourist visa. Does anyone have any recommendations on which bank and branch accepts a foreigner on a tourist visa? And how was the procedure? Thank you!

  4. my friend is a honger, and he was turned away for an account for having no address, or job

  5. CCB will need ur passport, tax file number, utility bill with address from home, drivers licence, visa but non tourist, chinese mobile number.

    • CCB will need ur passport, tax file number, utility bill with address from home, drivers licence, visa but non tourist, chinese mobile number.

      I have a residence permit and work permit card. I just went into a Bank of Jiangsu in Xuzhou yesterday, and they refused me, even though I was there with my HR lady from the school I teach in. They said that as of July 1, 2018, that the Bank of Jiangsu requires tax numbers from the foreigner’s home country. I’m from Canada and my tax number would be my Social Insurance Number, and I don’t want them having that. (They phoned their head office, and they said that it was a policy at all Bank of Jiangsu branches. Yes, I will try walking into another branch, because they didn’t seem to know what they were doing at this branch and I could try going to another branch and may have better luck, but….)

      Phil, when you said “tax file number” did you mean your number from your home country or your Chinese tax file number? and when you said utility bill with address, is that your Chinese address or your home country address?

      • That is a very strange policy (if it’s true). Normally, they would only need your tax ID number from the country or countries in which you are a tax resident. If you are a non resident of Canada for tax purposes, then you shouldn’t have to provide your SIN.

        This reminds me of something that happened to me recently. I am also Canadian and I opened a new bank account in the USA recently. I told the bank that I am a tax resident of China, but they still wanted my SIN in addition to my China tax ID number. I said I would not give it them because I am a non resident of Canada for tax purposes and I don’t
        want them reporting my account to CRA. The branch manager agreed with me and opened the account without my SIN, but then later sent me an email saying that she still needed my SIN even though I am not a tax resident of Canada. I ended up giving it to her because I already made a deposit into the account and I didn’t want to risk having the account
        closed. I thought it was strange but I decided not to worry about it.

    • That doesn’t sound right. I doubt that they would require a drivers licence to open a bank account. I know that some people have been successful opening an account with a tourist visa recently so I think it really depends on what branch you go to and who you talk to. The requirements can vary.

    • You mean how to send money back to Germany from China? If you earned your money in China legally and have proof of paying tax, then can wire the money from your Chinese bank account to your account in Germany. You will need to bring your income tax proof, contract, passport, and probably some other documents to the bank to do this.

      If you don’t have these documents, it will be more difficult. Depending on the amount you need to transfer, there are various methods such as “underground banks”, using your Chinese bank card to withdrawal in Germany, PayPal, Cryptocurrency, carrying cash, Western Union, etc.

      I will probably write an article about all the ways of moving money in and out of China one day.

  6. I have a business visa. I had a Chinese colleague with me to assist, which helped a lot. First went to bank of China, was refused because of my business visa. Lucky second time. Citic bank allowed me to open account, however they insisted on an officially stamped letter from my company confirming that I was an employee. I did not need a residential registration paper. It seems mainly to be down to luck. The process was kind of drawn-out and ridiculous, but at least I can use WeChat pay instead of fumbling around with bank notes.

  7. Hey, my friend just back from China last 2 weeks, he told me now China no allow foreigner to open new bank account in China anymore?


  8. Hi! I will be studying in Beijing for a year, with a resident’s permit. I was wondering WHICH bank you advise opening an account with? thanks!

  9. I only have Tourist Visa and Police Registration Form, and both my wife and I managed to have bank accounts opened. Persistence and patience (and a thick face) is key. When we first arrived in Chengdu, my wife was rejected by 6 different banks. Then she went to another ICBC bank (was rejected by a branch close to us) and the lady there somehow opened
    one up for her no questions asked. I went to the ICBC bank (wanting to be in the same bank as my wife) branch that rejected my wife, initially they said no, but I shown her my wife’s bank ATM card and told her we are both the same, there’s no reason you opened one account for one of us and denied one of us, and they relented.

    A lot of persistence, a lot of ahem… *persuasion* and a lot of patience, and you’ll find someone that will open a bank account for you, even with just a Tourist Visa and Police Registration Paper.

  10. Hi, I have student visa and I want to open a bank account, do you know if is complicate for this kind of visa too??

    • I would think that a student visa would be about the same difficulty as a tourist or business visa. In addition to your residential registration paper, you may also want to bring some documentation to prove that you are enrolled in the school.

      If your school has other foreigners studying there, the administration dept can probably help you with the bank accounting opening. Or at least tell you which bank in the area is willing to open accounts for foreign students.

  11. I just called the China Merchants Bank and they told me I need a residence permit or work in china to open an account. They told me that only with my passport and chinese number they cannot open an account for me….

    I went to ICBC bank and it was the same…

    • You should be able to use the registration paper from the police office that you get when you register where you are staying within 24 hours of arriving in China. This can be considered a type of temporary residence permit.

      I wouldn’t trust anything you are told on the phone. Go in person to the branch with your residential registration paper. If they refuse then ask to talk with the branch manager. Try another branch or a different bank if you are unsuccessful.

      It’s more difficult than it used to but it can still be done.

    • Yes, things have changed, and I have updated this article just now. Thanks for reminding me!