Expats who live and work in China will attest to the hassle banking can be. From opening an account to making deposits and transferring money it’s not particularly foreigner friendly and frequently requires the patience of a saint. Things get even more tricky if you get paid in Renminbi (RMB) and want to transfer some of your earnings back home. In general, China is averse to money flowing out of the country and due to the complexity of the process bank staff will often look for any excuse to deny you being able to do so.
Photo by David Dennis
I’ve recently completed the rather tortuous process successfully for the first time so thought I’d share how it works in the hope that others might be able to avoid disappointment –
What you will need:
- Passport with valid Residence Visa (and sometimes Residency Permit)
- Employment contract original copy officially stamped or ‘chopped’
- Tax receipts for each month of your employment (depending on how much you want to transfer)
- SWIFT code of your bank back home (e.g. BARCGB22 for Barclays UK)
- Bank account information for both sending and receiving parties (name, address etc.)
- Sufficient funds up to the amount you have paid tax on (duh!)
What it will cost (other banks may vary):
- Bank of China – 150 RMB service charge, 0.1% of the total to be transferred
- Bank of Communications – 80 RMB service charge, 0.1% of the total to be transferred
- Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) – 150 RMB service charge, 1% of the total to be transferred
In the past, only the Bank of China could make foreign transfers but this has been recently liberalised so most banks should now be able to provide telegraphic transfer services.
The process (Chinese speaker needed to help unless you are fluent yourself):
- Take all you documents to your bank who will take photocopies (and probably be less than cooperative)
- Buy the amount of foreign currency you want to transfer (usually Dollars, Euros or Pounds Sterling) – this will be placed in your account – you wont receive any cash only a receipt
- Fill in an application form for funds transfers (overseas). Be sure to enter your details very carefully otherwise your money could end up in someone else’s account! The bank will probably insist that the charges be “shared” between both banks
- Submit the form and wait a day for the transfer to complete (praying optional!)
- Return the next day to the bank who will give you a receipt detailing whether the transfer was successful or not.
Last but not least, avoid illegal/blackmarket/unofficial money exchangers as you will probably get ripped off or worse. If you’ve had any other experiences of currency exchange in China feel free to leave a comment below.