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For foreigners working and living in China, obtaining a debit card issued by a Chinese bank can provide a multitude of conveniences.

Not only does it simplify the process of making deposits and withdrawals, but it also enables you to shop on Chinese websites and seamlessly connect with popular mobile payment platforms such as WeChat Wallet and Alipay.

The accepted visa types for opening a debit card bank account include: residence visa, resident foreign journalists visa, trade visa, long-term stay visa for visiting family members, talent visa, long-term private affairs visa, long-term study visa, employment visa, courtesy visa, or diplomatic visa.

Requirements vary depending on different banks or different branches of same banks. Check in advance the specifics and visa eligibility with the bank or branch you’d like to visit.

Here is a general guide on how to apply for a debit card in China as a foreigner.

I. Choosing a bank

When it comes to applying for a debit card in China, most major domestic banks are suitable for foreigners. However, it’s important to note that each bank may have different requirements and limitations for application and usage.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that you consult with various banks to understand their specific eligibility criteria before opening an account. In general, opting for larger banks with a wider network of outlets and convenient services can be advantageous in most situations.

You can also check the fees and charges for using your bank card, such as ATM withdrawal fees, currency conversion fees, or transfer fees. Some banks may offer lower fees or free services for foreign customers.

Here are the customer service hotlines of some major banks, which you can contact for inquiries:

  • Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC): 95588
  • Agricultural Bank of China: 95599
  • Bank of China: 95566
  • China Construction Bank: 95533

These hotlines can provide you with information regarding the specific requirements and procedures for foreigners applying for a bank card in different branches. Please note that the contact information for these hotlines may be subject to change, so it’s important to verify the latest contact details before making any inquiries.

II. Documents preparation

Foreigners opening a debit card account in China need to provide at least the following materials:

1. Identity certification documents

To open a debit card bank account in China, foreigners can typically use either a valid passport or a Foreigner’s Permanent Residence Card.

It’s important to ensure that your passport is valid and not expired when applying for the card.

In addition to a valid passport, foreigners can also use the People’s Republic of China Foreign Permanent Resident ID Card or the Residence Permit for Foreigner in the People’s Republic of China. The Foreign Permanent Resident ID Card should have a validity period of more than one year, with an expiration date that is more than one month away.

2. Chinese mobile phone number

This is to serve as the bank’s reserved contact information. Please note that the number should be registered under a real name on the Chinese mainland.

3. Others

In certain banks, additional documents may be required for opening a debit card bank account. These documents may include:

  • Work certificate: Containing details such as the name, position and other relevant information related to your employment.
  • Tax identification number
  • Proof of address in China: This can usually be provided using a rental contract or your valid residence permit, which confirms your current residential address.

Again, please note that specific document requirements may vary among different banks. It is advisable to inquire directly with the branch where you plan to open the debit card bank account to confirm the exact documents they require.

III. Handling process

Please select a time during regular business hours on a work day and take the aforementioned documents to a bank branch for manual processing.

While many bank outlets in China have set up smart teller service zones, the account opening process for foreigners remains relatively complex and can only be done through manual assistance at the bank counter. Therefore, before proceeding, please obtain a token number from the self-service ticketing machine located at the entrance of the bank branch and wait for your turn to be served.

When conducting the manual processing, please follow the instructions given by the bank teller and accurately and completely fill out the application form for personal account and general service. It often includes the name, contact information, residential address, occupation, employer, monthly income, account purpose, and the reason for opening an account in China, etc.

As per the regulations, it is also necessary to fill out and provide a signed Declaration of Personal Tax Residency Status document during the account opening process. This document is used by financial institutions to determine whether the account holder is a non-resident for tax purposes.

In terms of card fees, you will need to pay a card processing fee of 5 yuan (70 US cents) and an annual fee of 10 yuan for the debit card.

For the last step, you will be asked to set a six-digit password for your account. Once this is done, your account will be ready, and you will receive your own Chinese debit card.

Source: SHINE   Editor: Liu Qi

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