How to open a bank account in China as a US citizen?

Adam Rozsa

Considering moving to China? You might be starting a business, moving there for work, or visiting friends and family on a long stay.

But just how easy is it to open Chinese bank accounts as a US citizen? We’ll cover all the essential info here in this guide, including the documents you’ll need and how to apply.

We’ll even look at an alternative which could save you time and money - the Wise account. Open your account online for free, and you’ll be able to manage your money across 50+ currencies, including Chinese Yuan (CNY) and US Dollars (USD).

But first, let’s get back to looking at how banking works in China.


Can a US citizen open a bank in China?

Generally speaking, you can open a bank account in China as a foreigner. There are no specific laws or restrictions to stop you. However, it can be more complicated at some banks than others.

Different banks in China have their own eligibility criteria. Some may not accept every kind of Chinese visa or residency permit, while others may even refuse to open accounts for non-Chinese citizens¹. However, there are plenty of banks which have experience working with foreigners.

So if you do a little research, you should be able to find a bank that is welcoming to expats and will accept your application.

Can I open a Chinese bank account online?

To open Chinese bank accounts, it’s usually a requirement to visit a branch of the bank in person. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to open a bank account in China online.

So unfortunately, this means you won’t be able to open a bank account in China from America. This can be inconvenient if you’re still in the process of planning your move to China, and want to get things set up in advance.

However, it may be possible to at least start the application process online - you’ll need to check with the individual bank.

Another option is an international bank. If you’re already a customer of a bank operating in both the US and China such as HSBC¹, they could help you get set up with a China bank account ready for your move. Alternatively, you could open an international account that works in both countries.

Skip the hassle: get a Wise account for easy money transfers to China and more

If opening a bank account in China sounds like a little more hassle than you’d like, check out Wise.

Open a Wise account online for free, and you can manage 50+ currency balances at once. You can even receive money in a range of major currencies for free, using local bank details in 10 currencies (USD, GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, NZD, HUF, SGD, RON, TRY).

Wise is not a bank however It can be a cheaper, faster and easier alternative to send money internationally. With Wise, you’ll only pay a small, transparent fee², and you’ll get a fair exchange rate. This could be super useful when sending money to Chinese bank accounts to cover the cost of your move, or for transferring cash home to the US once you’re in China.

Plus, you can spend like a local while in China if you order a Wise debit card for a fee². This contactless international card works in 174 countries, automatically converting currency at the mid-market exchange rate whenever you spend. You can even use it back home in the US, or when traveling worldwide.

Get started with Wise now

It only takes minutes to create an account for free!

What do I need to open a bank account in China?

The requirements vary from bank to bank, but here’s what most Chinese banks will ask for in order to open an account:

  • Your completed application form

  • A valid passport

  • Proof of address - not all banks ask for this, while others will accept your residence permit or the address of your hotel¹.

  • A Chinese phone number - if you don’t have this, you can simply buy a Chinese sim card

  • Your work visa or student ID (if applicable).

You might also need to provide a note from your employer in China, confirming that you’re working.

As you’d expect, the requirements for opening a business account in China will be more thorough - so you’ll need to do some research.

How much do I need to open a bank account in a Chinese bank?

The last important thing you’ll need to open your new bank account is your initial deposit. This is usually around 10-20 CNY (approx. $1.50 - $3 USD).

However, it may be more or less, so perhaps take a little extra cash along with you to the bank with you just in case.

Chinese banks to choose from

There are a huge number of local and international banks to choose from in China. Here are just a few of the best options for US expats:

  • Bank of China
  • China Construction Bank
  • Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)

All have large networks of branches and ATMs across the country, especially in large cities.

You can also check out international banks such as HSBC, Citibank and Standard Chartered. Or digital-only banks like Aibank (Baixin Bank), MYBank and We Bank.

Does Bank of China have branches in the USA?

If you’re researching bank account options before your move, it’s useful to know that some Chinese banks also have branches in the US.

As you’d expect from one of the world’s biggest banks, you’ll find Bank of China branches in major US cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

And where there isn’t a Bank of China, there are other Chinese banks. For example, there’s no Bank of China in San Francisco, but there are a number of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) branches there.

How do I open a bank account with the Bank of China?

In the US, you can open an account with a Bank of China branch in just the same way you would an ordinary checking account at any US bank.

But in China itself, you’ll need to visit a branch of Bank of China to open an account.

You’ll need to take your documents and completed application form to the information desk, take a ticket and wait for your number to be called. You’ll sign the required documents, pay in your initial deposit and receive your new account details and debit card.

If you don’t speak Chinese, it could be a good idea to take someone who does along with you.

After reading this guide, you should be all set to open your bank account in China. You’ll likely have to visit a branch in person, but as long as you have the right documents, it should be pretty straightforward.

But remember - a traditional bank account isn’t the only way to manage your money in China. Open a Wise account online for free, and you can send, spend and convert between 50+ currencies at once.

Sources used for this article:

  1. HSBC International

  2. Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: Only Pay for What You Use for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

Sources checked on 11-Aug-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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