From the beautiful scenery to the dense, fast-paced, and exciting life that it’s cities offer, there are hundreds of reasons to live in China. Whether you’re interested in working in China or simply on the look for a great country to retire to, China’s incredible geographic diversity and rich culture make it one of Asia’s most alluring retirement destinations.
Despite this, however, there are some minor roadblocks to a manageable life in China. One of these is the country’s fairly strict financial regulations, particularly for foreign expatriates living in China as workers or retirees. From bank account restrictions to slow bureaucracy, the major frustrations of banking in China can quickly add up, leaving many retirees with a major financial headache.
Many people mistakenly believe that expatriates and retirees are restricted from opening their own bank accounts in China. This is a rumor that’s persisted for years, largely due to a lack of valuable local knowledge.
Foreign residents can open their own bank account in China, although they may face some minor restrictions and issues that native Chinese citizens don’t have to deal with.
Unlike many other East Asian countries, which have extensive requirements for expatriates opening their own local bank account, the process in China is fairly straightforward and simple.
Visit a local bank with your passport, and ask about opening a new account. Most Chinese banks are willing to open local bank accounts for expatriates on the spot, including those on a short-term tourism visa.
Until recently, many Chinese banks did not ask for proof of address from their account holders. In the last few years, however, providing proof of your address – whether within China or overseas – has grown more important. As such, it’s recommended that you bring a utility bill or bank letter to the bank with you in order to indicate your residential address to the bank’s staff.
In both Mainland China and Hong Kong, it’s essential that your supporting documents – your proof of address and passport – contain details that exactly match your application. Some account seekers have been rejected for a proof of address document that only includes their middle initial, but lacks their full middle name.
There are a variety of international banks operating in China. Popular choices for expatriates and retirees include the Bank of China, ICBC, Merchant’s Bank, and in major cities, HSBC. All of the banks listed offer high quality customer service to international account holders, as well as phone support in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English.
Due to the frustrations of China’s bureaucracy-heavy banking system, many expatriates residing in China opt to carry out their banking from Hong Kong. Almost all of Hong Kong’s major banks are present in the Mainland Chinese market, making a bank account from Hong Kong – whether it’s in Hong Kong dollars or Chinese yuan – a reliable and stress-free option for banking in China.
Sending money to and from a Chinese bank account is relatively simple and inexpensive. Fees for wire transfers are similar to those from other banks – typically the equivalent of $25USD per wire transaction. Likewise, fees for domestic transfers and ATM usage are generally minimal. It’s worth checking if your bank will charge a monthly ‘maintenance fee,’ as some are known to do so.
Whether you opt for a domestic Chinese bank account or an international account based in Hong Kong, banking in China is far less stressful than many anticipate it to be. With a modern financial system a bureaucratic backbone that’s growing smaller by the day, China’s financial system is far from the difficult, slow-paced brick wall that many foreign expatriates and retirees expect it to be.