Banking, Money and Taxes in China

Banking in China is generally very 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, 2 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 (CBC), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and the Agricultural Bank of China (AgBank), while international offerings include HSBC, Citibank and Standard and Chartered Bank, amongst 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 in China

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 in close proximity 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 CBC.


Local banks have ample ATMs across the country, while international services may be limited. ATM withdrawal limits are lower than in Europe or the US, so if a large amount of cash needs to be withdrawn it may have to be done over a few days.

Credit cards

Although cash is still a popular means of paying for goods and services, credit cards are widely accepted across China.

Taxes in China

Expats who have lived in the country for between one and five years must pay tax in China based on their local income and on income brought into the country. After five years, residents must pay tax on their worldwide income, although deductions are often applicable if tax is also paid to their home country.

For expats who live in China as well as another country, the total number of days spent inside China is used to determine tax status.

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.

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