How to open a bank account in China: The Easy Way 2023
Banks in China set their own rules about which customers they will offer accounts to - which means you’ll need to do a bit of research if you want to open an account with a traditional bank there. The good news is that some major local and global banks do extend their services to expats and foreigners with proper residence documents for China - we’ll look at a couple of good options later.
If you’re not a resident in China yet - or if you just want an account that’s managed online, with low fees and a good selection of currencies to choose from - you may also be interested in modern alternatives like Wise or Revolut. We’ll also look at how providers like these can help UK citizens headed to China, in just a moment.
What documents do I need?
The exact documents you need to open an account with a Chinese bank can vary based on the bank itself and your own nationality.
If you’re a foreigner in China, or an overseas Chinese, you’ll usually be asked for the following:
Completed application form
Minimum opening deposit
If you’re a resident of Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan you’ll also need your re-entry permit, mainland travel permit or other similar valid travel pass. If you don’t have everything you need, or if you just want an easier online application process, you may prefer to use a specialist online service - more on that next.
Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut
While foreigners can open a bank account in China, you’ll need your valid residence permit to apply - and you usually have to physically attend a branch to get set up. This can be time consuming - and not possible if you’re only in China for a short trip or as a tourist.
Instead, look at alternatives like Wise or Revolut for international digital accounts which can be used to hold many different currencies, and spend or withdraw all around the world. You can apply for an account from your phone using your normal UK proof of ID and address, to get quick access to multi-currency account services, which often have no ongoing fees.
How to open a China bank account as a foreigner
To open a bank account in China with a traditional bank you’ll usually need to attend a branch in person with your valid identity and residence documents. Here’s the basic process you’ll likely need to follow:
Pick an account and check you meet the eligibility requirements
Attend a branch and ask for account opening services at the front desk - you’ll usually get a ticket with a number on it
Wait your turn, and then complete your application with a member of the bank staff to open your account
Hand over your documents to complete the verification process
Don’t forget to check in advance if an English speaking service is available at the branch you choose to visit, if your Mandarin isn’t up to scratch.
What do I need to know before opening a bank account in China?
As a foreigner you’ll be able to open an account with a Chinese bank in person if you’ve moved to China and have a valid visa and paperwork.
As an alternative if you’re planning on holding a high account balance, or if you meet the salary requirements (which are usually high), you may be able to apply for an international account from a global bank operating in China, like HSBC. HSBC offers Chinese bank account services you can open from the UK as long as you have a UK HSBC account already and qualify for one of their premium banking services. This requires you to hold a very high minimum balance, or to commit to deposit a high salary monthly.
If you’re looking for a flexible account without the minimum balance requirement, an online alternative service may suit you better. More on that later.
Can I open a bank account in China before arrival?
Many Chinese banks need you to attend a branch in person, which means it’s not practical to apply in advance of your move. One exception among traditional banks is HSBC. If you already have an HSBC account in the UK, you may be able to apply locally for your HSBC China account before heading to China.
If you’re looking for an account that’s easy to open digitally, and which has low fees and great exchange rates, an alternative like Wise or Revolut may be just what you need. More on the account options available from specialist services, and how they compare with options like HSBC China, next.
Can I open a bank account in China only with my passport?
You won’t be able to open a Chinese bank account with only a passport. In all cases - whether you’re in the UK still, or in China already - you’ll need additional documents, such as a proof of address. If you’re in China you’ll also need a valid visa, and if you’re applying for an account with an income eligibility requirement, you’ll need proof of your funds and employment, too.
Which account is best in China for foreigners?
The Chinese bank account that works best for you will depend on your situation and personal preferences. You’ll broadly be able to choose between online specialist services, local Chinese banks which support foreign applicants, and expat services from a global brand like HSBC. Features and fees vary for each account, so it’s important to compare a few options before you pick. Here’s a quick side by side overview of some popular choices as a starting point - there’s a bit more detail coming up after to help you make a decision.
|Service||Wise||Revolut||Bank of China||HSBC|
25+ currencies including GBP, EUR, USD and AUD
CNY not supported for holding
|Personal current account supports CNY plus foreign currencies including USD, EUR, JPY, HKD, GBP, CAD, AUD, CHF and SGD||Range of currency options for current and deposit accounts|
|Non-resident accounts available||Yes||Yes||Some accounts may be available to expatriates living outside China||Open an account in the UK, through HSBC China, before leaving|
|Open online||Yes||Yes||No||May be possible based on account holding and status in the UK|
|Maintenance fee||Free||Up to £45/month||Varies by account type||Fall below fees of up to 300 CNY/month apply depending on the account|
|International transfers||Low fee, varies by currency||Fee varies by currency and payment value||Bank of China doesn’t make fees available online - ask in branch||0.1% (from 100 CNY to 500 CNY) + 120 CNY cable charge|
Wise accounts hold 50+ currencies including CNY, making them a great choice if you’ll be managing your money across several currencies. You’ll get local banking details for the UK and a range of other countries, too, which means you can get paid in pounds, euros, US dollars and more, fee free. Whenever you need to switch currencies or send international payments, Wise uses the mid-market exchange rate with low fees from 0.41%.
Wise customers can also apply for a linked debit card for spending in 170+ countries - apply with your UK ID before you move to China so you’re ready to go as soon as you arrive.
Account types: Both personal and business customers can open a Wise multi-currency account with no minimum balance or monthly fees to pay. You just pay a low, transparent fee for the services you use.
Eligibility: Wise offers accounts to customers in the UK and a broad range of countries - simply use your UK proof of address to get your account open
Is it safe? Yes. Wise is registered with the FCA in the UK and a range of other global bodies in the other countries it trades in.
How to open an account with Wise
To open a Wise account:
Download the Wise app or open the Wise desktop site
Click Sign up and create an account with your email, Facebook, Google or Apple ID
Follow the prompts to enter the details needed
Upload a snap of your ID and address documents
Once your account has been verified you’re good to go
Revolut multi-currency accounts can be used to hold 30+ currencies, with fee free currency exchange up to the amount allowed by your particular plan. You can’t actually hold CNY in your Revolut account - but you can spend and make withdrawals with your Revolut account, using beneficial exchange rates. That can be a good option if you’re paying your way in China with savings for the UK for example.
Open your Revolut account online or in the Revolut app before you leave the UK.
Account types: Standard account plans are free or you can upgrade to a paid plan for up to £12.99/month.
Eligibility: Available to customers with addresses in the UK, the EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, and the US.
Is it safe? Revolut is registered with the FCA in the UK, and is a trustworthy provider to choose
How to open an account with Revolut
To open an account with Revolut:
Download the Revolut app
Enter your phone number and set a PIN - you’ll get a verification message from Revolut
Use the verification code to access the app and enter the details needed to create your account
Upload the required documents for verification
You can deposit funds and use your account once verified
Go to Revolut
Bank of China
Bank of China has accounts for Chinese citizens and residents, overseas Chinese and expats both in and outside of China. There are a broad range of accounts available through the global Bank of China organisation, although you’ll have to attend a branch of Bank of China to get your account set up. You may be able to arrange an appointment at a branch in a country other than China, but the options are relatively limited for locations in the UK.
Account types: Range of account products for different customer needs
Eligibility: Current accounts can be opened by most applicants with the right paperwork available
Is it safe? Yes - Bank of China is a popular and trusted bank both in China and in other countries
How to open an account with Bank of China
To open an account with Bank of China:
Choose the account type you need and check eligibility
Gather the required paperwork
Visit a branch to show your documents and open your account
HSBC has a good range of account options for expats - with one major bonus being that you can open your HSBC China account from the UK if you already have a local GBP account with HSBC. To get started before you leave home, you’ll need to complete an online form and then book a follow up phone call to discuss the account types you’re eligible for and how they might suit you.
Many of HSBC’s account services for expats are aimed at private wealth customers who hold a high minimum balance. If you don’t hit these minimum amounts you’ll pay significant fall below fees. The minimum balance requirement for HSBC Advance is 100,000 CNY, with 500,000 CNY needed for an HSBC Premier account. Basic CNY settlement accounts are available without these minimum balances - but the services you can access may be limited in comparison.
Account types: High wealth accounts, plus CNY settlement accounts which can be cheaper to access but with more limited services
Eligibility: Maintain a minimum balance for a Premier or Advance account, and hold a UK HSBC account to open your Chinese account before you leave home
Is it safe? Yes - HSBC is a huge global brand, fully regulated and well respected
How to open an account with HSBC
To open an account with HSBC:
Choose the account type you need and check eligibility
Gather the required paperwork
If eligible you may be able to open your account via a UK HSBC location before you travel - or you may prefer to visit a branch on arrival to show your documents and open your account
What is a bank account in China needed for?
The most common reason to want a Chinese bank account is if you’re planning to move to China to live, work or study. However, a bank account in China can also be handy in other scenarios:
If you like to shop online with retailers based in China and pay in CNY
If you’re planning a holiday in China and want to spend conveniently while there
If you’d like to diversify your savings or investments by holding funds in CNY
If you need to send payments to others in CNY
Benefits of opening a bank account in China
Having a Chinese bank account can come with some great benefits, including:
Spend in CNY with no foreign transaction fees
Hold a balance in CNY without needing to change back to GBP unnecessarily
Make convenient payments to others with relatively low overall fees
Can I open a bank account in China before arrival?
Many Chinese banks need you to attend a branch in person, which means it’s not practical to apply in advance of your move. One exception among banks operating in China is HSBC. If you already have an HSBC account in the UK, you may be able to apply locally for your HSBC China account before heading to China.
If you’re looking for an account that’s easy to open digitally, and which has low fees and great exchange rates, an alternative like Wise or Revolut may be just what you need. You can set up your account before you travel, and use your linked card for convenient payment and withdrawals right away.
Can I open a bank account online?
Generally you’ll struggle to open a bank account with a Chinese bank online. If you’ve already got a UK HSBC account you may be able to convert this to an international account which can be used in China, either online or by phone. However, in this case the eligibility requirements are pretty strict.
A good alternative is to pick an account which can be used to spend in China, from a non-bank alternative like Wise or Revolut. Providers like these offer fully digital onboarding and verification, so you can get set up from the UK without even needing to leave home.
How long does it take to open a bank account in China?
If you’re applying for an account with a global provider like HSBC you may need to wait a while before your UK account is converted to an international account type - HSBC commit to responding in around 14 days after application.
If you’re opening an account in a physical branch location in China you may be able to get your account set up fairly quickly if the bank is able to verify your documents instantly. However, the more convenient - and faster - option may be to choose an online provider instead. Verification is done online and can be quick or even instant, with your UK ID and proof of address.
What are the types of bank accounts in China
If you want an account from a bank operating in China, you’ll be able to pick a resident account if you’ve got a full legal residence permit. Or, if you’re planning your move and already bank with a global bank, you could choose to switch your account from a UK service to an international bank account prior to moving.
Once you’re in China, banks offer a full suite of services which are fairly similar to the products you’ll usually find in the UK, covering current accounts, multi-currency accounts, savings accounts and time deposit accounts.
How much does it cost to open a bank account in China?
There’s not usually a fee to open a Chinese bank account, but minimum deposit amounts are common. If you’re looking at specific expat banking services, these minimum deposits can be pretty staggering - although they do unlock you a lot of features and a more personal service.
Compare the transaction fees offered by different banks and providers before you open an account. The fees for international services like sending money overseas or spending and withdrawing with a card when you’re abroad can be particularly high, which will push up the costs of living as an expat significantly.
Is it possible to open a fee-free account in China?
Monthly fees may apply to any account you pick from a Chinese bank or an international banking service. However, there are also often ways to have these charges waived - usually by holding a high minimum balance or depositing a relatively high monthly salary.
Don’t forget, even if you have the ongoing costs waived for your account, there are likely to be transaction fees which apply depending on the services you need to use.
What are the additional costs?
Service fees for Chinese bank accounts may not look quite like those you’re used to in the UK. It’s important to read through the terms and conditions of any account you pick carefully so there are no surprises. Here are a few things to look out for:
Monthly maintenance costs or fall below fees if you don’t maintain the required minimum balance
Branch service fees if you need to transact in a branch rather than online
ATM withdrawal fees - non-network and overseas charges usually apply
Interest charges and overdraft fees
Foreign transaction fee - a percentage fee added every time you spend in a foreign currency abroad or online
Account closing fee - may apply if you shut your account within a short time frame
International transfer fees - including transfer costs, an exchange rate markup and third party fees
Tips for sending money between the UK and China
Sending money overseas is pretty common for anyone who lives and works abroad. However, it can also be an expensive headache. Before you try to arrange a remittance from China you’ll need to double check you’re able to make your payment - remittances from China are regulated under the national foreign exchange management policy, so there are rules you’ll need to follow to ensure your transfer goes smoothly.
Beyond that, here are a few tips to help cut the costs of transferring money overseas.
Compare the exchange rate your bank uses against the rate you find on Google to spot any extra fees hidden here
Double check all the fees which apply to your payment - there can be a commission, plus cable charges and an exchange rate fee
Don’t forget that third party fees may be deducted as the payment is processed, and can mean your recipient gets less than you expect
Online multi-currency accounts can be completely free to open, with better exchange rates and lower fees for international transfers compared to banks
If you need to open a bank account in China you’ll have a couple of different options. Some banks in China do offer account services to foreigners who are resident in the country, although you’ll usually have to go to a branch to set up your account. As an alternative there are also big global banks which offer expat and international services, although their fees can be on the high side.
For a cheaper and more flexible way to manage your money across pounds and yuan take a look at online specialist services like Wise or Revolut. You could cut your currency exchange costs and access easy ways to hold, exchange, receive, send and spend foreign currencies.
FAQs - Opening a bank account in China from the UK
Can a foreigner open an account in China?
Yes. If you’re a resident in China you may be able to open an account with a bank - and if you’re not a resident just yet you can also choose an online account from a provider like Wise or Revolut.
How much do I need to open a bank account in China?
It’s common to find minimum deposit amounts apply when you open a bank account - however, these can range from as low as 1 CNY for a current account with Bank of China, to as high as 500,000 CNY for the top tier of HSBC expat account. If you don’t want to be tied into a minimum balance requirement, online services can also be a cheaper option, with no monthly fees and no minimum balances.
Can I open a Chinese bank account online?
If you want to open a bank account online you’ll probably need to pick a specific digital service - Chinese banks tend to ask new customers to attend a branch to get their account arranged.
How to apply for a bank account online in China?
You’re not usually able to apply for an account online from a Chinese bank - although you may be able to convert a UK account with a global bank to an international account product which can be used for CNY. This service is offered by banks like HSBC, but high minimum balance requirements do apply. Alternatively, check out providers like Wise and Revolut which offer easy online opening for multi-currency accounts.
Can I open a bank account in China before landing?
HSBC offers a service to let you open an account with HSBC China from the UK, although a fee may apply for this. Alternative providers like Wise and Revolut also offer accounts to UK based customers, which can be used to hold and spend a broad range of currencies including CNY.