Banking in China is generally straightforward, and various local and international options are available.
The language barrier may present challenges, but many organisations have service options in English. It's also easy to employ the expertise of a translator or enlist a Chinese friend if things become complicated.
Money in China
The official currency of China is the Renminbi (RMB or CNY). It’s often referred to as the Yuan or Kuài, an informal word for money. One renminbi is equal to 100 fen or 10 jiao.
Notes: 1 RMB, 5 RMB, 10 RMB, 20 RMB, 50 RMB, 100 RMB
Coins: 1 jiao, 5 jiao, and 1 RMB
Banking in China
With many local and international banks to choose from, expats have a variety of options when it comes to banking in China. The most popular local banks include Bank of China, the China Construction Bank (CCB), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and the Agricultural Bank of China (AgBank), while international offerings include HSBC, Citibank and Standard Chartered, among others.
Some expats, especially those who only plan on staying in China for a short while, prefer offshore accounts, even though these carry hefty transaction fees.
Opening a bank account
Opening a bank account in China is relatively hassle free. Familiar international brands and a number of local institutions are available. Both options have pros and cons, and the best choice depends on individual circumstances.
Many expats prefer using an international bank, especially if they have an existing account with one of these institutions. But international banks require a sizeable minimum balance or maintenance deposit, and ATMs may be limited in certain locations, especially outside large cities.
Expats generally only need their passport and a small amount of currency to open a basic account, although some branches may require a copy of the applicant's visa or proof of residence.
As with many bureaucratic processes in China, the language barrier can present a problem. Information provided by banks is often written in Chinese, and asking for an English translation or enlisting the help of someone who speaks the language may be necessary. Otherwise, many expats identify a branch where employees can speak English and close to their home or workplace, and use this outlet for complicated queries.
Certain Chinese banks are well known among expats for their user-friendly and reliable English internet banking systems, chief among these are ICBC and CCB.
ATMs and credit cards
Local banks have ample ATMs across the country, while international services may be limited. ATM withdrawal limits are lower than in Europe and the US, so if a large amount of cash needs to be withdrawn it may have to be done over a few days.
Although credit cards are widely accepted across China, cash remains a popular means of paying for goods and services and it's useful to have some cash on hand.
Taxes in China
Expats must determine whether they are considered resident or non-resident for tax purposes. Individuals who reside in China for at least 183 days in a tax year are considered residents, and, those who stay in the country for up to six consecutive years, are taxed on worldwide income. Further tax regulations apply to expats who continue residing in the country for seven years and more.
Expats who stay in China for less than 183 days a year are non-residents, yet are subject to tax, but only on income sourced from within China.
Chinese taxes are calculated on a progressive scale from three to 45 percent. Tax laws often change and keeping up to date is important as the penalties can be harsh.
As in any country, tax laws for expatriates in China can be complex and may be better dealt with through a tax professional. Companies should help new employees register for the tax system and often deduct personal income tax automatically.
Are you an expat living in China?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to China. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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