How to open a bank account in China as an Australian

Roberto Efflandrin

The world's most populous country, China, has a rich history, culture and diverse landscape. There are many reasons Australians decide to move there including employment opportunities, education and the chance to live somewhere with a different culture and way of life to home. When making a move like this there’s many factors to consider, including how you’re going to manage your finances.

In this article we’ll take a look at what there is to know about opening a bank account in China including the requirements, common fees and process. We’ll also let you know how Wise can help make managing and exchanging multiple currencies that little bit easier.

💰 Wise provides you the real exchange rate and low transparent international transfer fees shown upfront.


What are the biggest Banks in China?

The Chinese banking system operates off the local currency which can be referred to as either the Chinese Yuan (CNY) or Renminbi (RMB).

Along with a multitude of smaller banks, China has four big banks that service millions of customers. Their Big Four also happen to be four of the largest banks in the world.¹

Can an Australian open an account in China?

As an Australian, you can open a bank account in China, but nowadays most banks will require you to provide a work permit or long stay visa to prove you have permission to remain in China for an extended period of time.²

What is the procedure to open an account in China

When opening a Chinese bank account it’s highly likely that you’ll need to visit a branch as many banks do not support online applications. When you go in, make sure you take all of the documentation you might need and be prepared that the process might take some time given you’re a foreigner.

If you don’t speak Mandarin or the local dialect you may want to take someone with you to translate, or search for a local branch with English speaking staff. This will be easier in larger cities that have a greater expat population, such as Chengdu and Shanghai, compared to regional or rural areas.

Read more: Living in China: guides for expats

What documents do you need to open a Chinese bank account?

The documents you need to provide to open an account are ultimately up to the bank you’re planning to open an account with. It’ll likely include some of the following.²

  • Australian passport
  • Work permit card or long stay visa
  • Police registration form (obtained when you register your address with the Chinese police)
  • Proof of address (e.g. housing contract)
  • Chinese phone number

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What are the usual bank fees in China

As with most banks worldwide, Chinese banks charge fees for certain services. Here’s some of the ones you’re likely to run in to.

Initial Deposit

When you open an account with a Chinese bank you may be asked to provide a small initial deposit. You can usually find out what this is from the bank's fee schedule on their website.

Keep in mind that it’s often easier to bring this deposit with you in cash when you open the account since it is usually such a small amount. For example, opening a Current All-In-One account with the Bank of China requires an initial deposit of 1 CNY or the equivalent of 100 CNY in foreign currency.³

Account Fees

Whether a Chinese bank account has a monthly account maintenance fee varies bank to bank. Ideally you’re looking for an account that doesn’t have one.

Rather than having a monthly maintenance fee, some banks have a minimum monthly account balance instead. For each month that you don’t meet the required balance, you'll be charged a service fee.

International Transactions

As an expat you’ll likely be converting between AUD and CNY, and depending on your employment possibly even HKD or SGD. To save yourself money on unnecessary fees and poor exchange rates it’s a good idea to do a comparison and work out whether you’re better off using a Chinese bank, Australian bank or international currency specialist such as Wise.

It would be unusual to find a Chinese bank that doesn’t charge fees to send and receive money abroad. Some also have restrictions for how much of a currency can be transferred to certain places.

When choosing a Chinese bank account make sure you read the fine print carefully. Here’s some of the things to look for.

  • What the international transfer and transaction fees are
  • Is there a minimum or maximum fee
  • Are there any restrictions or surcharges for certain currencies, destinations or transfer methods, like SWIFT
  • What they base their FX rates on
  • Do they apply a profit margin to the exchange rate

As an example, here’s the basic fees HSBC China charges personal banking customers to make an outbound international telegraphic transfer.⁵

  • 0.1% of the transfer amount with a minimum charge equivalent to CNY 100 and maximum equivalent to CNY 500
  • Cable charges are then added to the HSBC fee
Read more: How to open a bank account in Vietnam

ATM and Card Fees

When it comes to debit cards, some Chinese banks will charge an annual fee to have the card. Also, your card will likely be backed by Unionpay, rather than Visa or Mastercard.

Most banks will let you withdraw money from their ATM for free, but charge fees if you use a competitor's ATM or make withdrawals overseas.

Something to keep in mind is that some Chinese banks have agreements with other institutions to give customers free withdrawals from ATMs that are part of their network.

For example, Nanjing Bank is part of the ATM Global Alliance.⁴ Their customers get free withdrawals at a number of ATMs around the world including those operated by Westpac, Bank of America, Barclays and BNP Paribas.

Alternative banks with special accounts for foreigners/non-residents

In China the big banks tend to have more experience managing foreign clients so remain a viable option for expats. Some also have branches in Australia.

There are a few international banks that operate in both China and Australia, including the following.

A few Australian banks do have a presence in China including NAB and ANZ. Unfortunately their focus in that region is predominantly supporting businesses and they generally don’t offer any personal banking services.

The Wise multi-currency account

Having a Chinese bank account is handy if you’re planning on staying there for a while, but it may not be the cheapest or easiest way to manage multiple currencies. This is where Wise can help.

With a Wise Multi Currency account you can convert and hold 53 different currencies through a single account. There are no hidden fees and your money is exchanged using the real exchange rate, like you see on Google. The currencies you can store include AUD, CNY and HKD.

To help avoid expensive fees when sending money between your Australian and Chinese banks, you can use your Wise account to make theinternational money transfer instead. You just choose an amount to send, input the bank account details for where you want it to go, pay for the transfer and Wise handles the rest.

If you want, you can also order a Wise Debit card. It attaches to your account and is accepted almost anywhere Visa is. The benefit of the card is it automatically takes from your AUD balance in Australia, CNY balance in China and does any necessary currency conversions without charging big transaction fees.

With no monthly fees to worry about and a simple online sign up, why not try Wise out for yourself and see how much money it can save you.

Opening an account is free, so why not check it out for yourself and see what Wise can do for you.

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  1. Forbes - The World’s Largest Banks 2022: China’s ICBC Leads While JPMorgan Chase Falls
  2. Horizons - How to Open a Bank Account in China as a Foreigner
  3. Bank of China - Current All-In-One Account
  4. Scotiabank - Global ATM Alliance
  5. HSBC - Tariff of Accounts and Services for Wealth and Personal Banking Business

Sources checked on: 21 August 2022

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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