Banking in Taiwan as a foreigner can be a frustrating experience, especially with a language barrier and cultural gaps. Banking still is a major pain even for long-time residents. However, we have made this guide to help make banking in Taiwan a little easier, more efficient, and more beneficial, especially for expats new to Taiwan.
Foreword: The following Q+A is based on personal experience and is for reference only. this is not an exhaustive analysis of Taiwan's banking sector. Each bank has different policies, and the employees in the banks may not even know their own policies for foreigners.
My Overall Experience Banking as a Foreigner in Taiwan 外國人在台灣使用銀行的個人心得:
My experience banking in Taiwan has been a mixed bag. Besides lots of wait times and loads of paperwork, I have noticed that many banking functions are not available for foreigners, such as buying stocks and bonds, buying gold, and buying mutual funds.
It took me an entire month to buy mutual funds for my kids. First I went to the bank to ask how to do it. Then they gave me forms to fill out. I filled them out and brought them back to the bank. They said the forms were filled out wrong. I corrected them and went back to the bank. They said because it was Saturday they could not process the account (post office bank) so I had to go back on a weekday. I went back on a weekday. Later, they said that some documents were still not okay. I went back and fixed the documents again. After that, I waited for the mutual fund account to open. Then I had to go back and transfer money into the accounts.
In the end, simply buying mutual funds took me three weeks and six(!!!) trips to the bank, wasting countless hours of my time. I cannot think of a more inefficient process that I have ever been a part of.
All of this being said, banking in Taiwan still gets the job done most of the time, and foreigners are able to move their money freely because Taiwan does not have foreign exchange controls.
Opening a Bank Account 開銀行帳戶:
Q: What do I need to open an account? How do I open a bank account in Taiwan?
A: Typically as a foreigner in Taiwan you need to have the following to open a local bank account in Taiwan:
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Every locksmith shop (開鎖店 Kāisuǒ diàn, or 鎖印店 suǒìn diàn) in Taiwan will have the logo above: a key and a stamp with the character 印 (Yìn) in red at the bottom of the stamp.
The front of the shop looks like this. You can make key copies here, make stamps, and they can open any locked doors or replace locks for you. I don't know how much money these people make but these shops are everywhere in Taiwan.
At the end of the day, you will want to make a stamp with your name on it for banking purposes. It should be the same name on your ARC. If you have no Chinese name, you can still make a stamp with your English name. But picking a Chinese name and making your own Chinese stamp is much more fun.
You may also need to buy some red ink putty for your chop.
This being said, some banks do allow you to use your handwritten signature instead of a chop.
Q: What is the banking environment in Taiwan like?
A: Currently the banking sector is very competitive for a small island of only 24 million people. There are a total of 36 local banks, 32 foreign banks, and 3 Mainland Chinese banks.
All of these banks have a three digit code to differentiate them.
Q: What currency does Taiwan use?
A: Taiwan uses the New Taiwan Dollar (NT, NTD, or TWD). For more information about this currency, check out our very detailed blog here.
Q: Do I need a bank account to work in Taiwan?
A: Technically your employer can pay you in cash, but most employers will require you to open an account at a certain bank to receive a salary. This means that an expat can open quite a few bank accounts if he/she switches jobs a lot.
Q: Can foreigners open bank accounts in Taiwan?
A: Yes. However it is a tedious process especially if you are a USA or EU citizen because of extra paperwork. Also some bank tellers do not speak very good English so you may have a rough time opening an account. If you don't speak Chinese, it may be a good idea to bring a Taiwanese friend with you to help with communication.
Q: Why does Taiwan use chops/stamps/seals?
A: The reason you need a chop is that it acts the same as your personal signature in Taiwan. Taiwanese (and Chinese) people believe that a chop is harder to forge than a signature. It's also much more convenient than handwriting your signature, trust me.
Q: What is the account opening process like in Taiwan?
A: Typically it means you have to go to the bank in person during working hours (between 9 AM and 3 PM on a weekday) and sign some paperwork. If you are American or European, you may need to sign extra paperwork like a W-2 form or a CRS form. This means you might be there for over an hour signing paperwork, especially if the teller is new or does not speak English.
Once you open an account, the bank will usually give you a passbook and an ATM card. Ask for your ATM card to have Visa debit card function, otherwise it will be pretty much useless except for taking out cash from ATMs.
Q: What is a passbook? Why does Taiwan use passbooks?
A: A passbook is a paper book that keeps a record of all your transactions in your bank account. In the olden days before online banking, this was high tech stuff and made bank accounts easier to use in Taiwan. However nowadays with online banking they are quite obsolete. Many people in Taiwan especially elderly people still use them religiously. When you need to make a change to your account, typically you need to bring your passbook and chop/seal/stamp with your name on it. The front of your passbook will have your account information on it, and many people will ask for a copy of the front of your passbook in order for you to pay them.
Q: Which banks have English online banking in Taiwan?
A: Most local banks have an English online banking interface, however, some are better looking than others. You may want to Google a few banks to see which ones have the best English website. The best banking interface I have used is from CTBC Bank. Yushan, Fubon, and Cathay also have great apps.
Most banks will have banking apps in English, but you can search the APP store to see if the bank you want to use has an English APP.
Q: When are banks open in Taiwan?
A: Most all banks are only open Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 3:30 PM.
The only bank I know of that is open on Saturdays is the Chunghwa Post Office Bank, which is open on Saturday mornings.
Q: What is banking in Taiwan like compared to the USA?
A: I will list of pros and cons of banking in Taiwan as follows:
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Q: What are banking fees like in Taiwan?
A: Transacting small amounts (below 2 million NT) is usually between 5 and 30 NT (15 cents to 1 USD). Local wire transfers below 500 NT should be free.
If you receive your salary from a certain account, that account may have a special promotion of 10 or so free local transactions from your account.
Q: Can I wire money overseas from Taiwan? Does Taiwan have foreign exchange controls?
A: You can wire money freely overseas from Taiwan. Unlike China, Taiwan has no foreign exchange controls (but you will have to pay some banking fees).
Q: How much does it cost to remit money to my overseas account?
A: In my experience it cost about $40 ($20 fee from Taiwan and $20 fee from the US) to transfer less than 10,000 USD from a Taiwan bank. For more information on the exact fees, check out this table here.
Q: What is the best way to avoid banking fees for wiring money internationally to and from Taiwan?
A: Consider using a money institution such as Western Union or Paypal. Some international banks such as HSBC and Citibank may not charge at all for international transfers, but may have other requirements such as a large minimal deposit, etc.
Q: How do I pay myself from my Paypal account into a Taiwan bank account?
A: Currently the only bank that works with Paypal to pay into your Taiwan bank account is E. Sun Bank. You will have to open an account with E. Sun Bank to access your Paypal funds in Taiwan.
Q: Can foreigners apply for credit cards in Taiwan?
A: Yes. I have two credit cards. Every bank in Taiwan has a different policy when it comes to credit cards. The first time I asked, a teller told me that foreigners are not allowed to have credit cards. This is simply not true.
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Q: What benefits do Taiwan credit cards have?
A: Because the banking industry is competitive in Taiwan, there are hundreds of credit cards out there with various benefits. You should get a credit card! Here is why:
Q: How do I apply for a credit card in Taiwan?
A: Basically there are three ways I have heard to get a credit card in Taiwan:
Q: How do I pay my credit card bill in Taiwan?
A: You can pay your credit card bills usually through a bank account direct deposit/wire transfer or you can pay the bills at any convenience store.
Q: Are there credit scores in Taiwan?
A: No, but there is a credit bureau in Taiwan called JCIC (Joint Credit Information Center), and limited credit history information is available to the general public including alien residents, butpeople do not have credit scores.
Q: How do I check my credit score/credit history in Taiwan?
A: You can personally apply to check your credit scores and history for free every calendar year.
Banks will look at your past monthly salary amounts or will have you sign a form that allows them to check your annual salary and credit information with the tax office.
Credit history matters when you try to apply for credit cards or loans from banks in Taiwan, but in practice doesn’t play as big of a role as in the U.S.
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Taking out a Loan at a Bank (貸款):
Q: How do I take out a loan at a bank as a foreigner in Taiwan?
A: Find a good bank (找一個好的銀行):
Foreigners in Taiwan can take out personal loans and mortgage loans from local banks in Taiwan.
Trying to convince an overseas bank to give you a loan for a house in Taiwan is near impossible, so you will probably have to turn to a local bank. If you already work in Taiwan, which you probably do, you can first turn to the bank that remits your salary every month, because they will have your financial records already. Taiwan does not really have a credit system, they just rely on your salary amount, current debts, and tax returns. But banks can check your credit history through the government. There are high down payment rates in Taiwan which reduce the risk for the banks. Every banks' interest rates and policies for foreigners are different, so you might want to compare banks if you think you are getting a bad deal on a loan. You can see a comparison of loan rates on 591.com. Also, be sure to have the bank run an appraisal of the house you want to buy before you buy it, as well as a plumber or electrocution, this can also serve as a bargaining chip for price negotiations.
About home loans (房屋貸款):
There are certain house types that you cannot take a loan on, which is why they are usually cheaper. Unless you have tons of cash, you won't be able to buy one, so don't bother.
For more information, check out ourbuying a house in Taiwan guide here, or our experience buying a house in Taiwan here.
Q: Can foreigners get loans or mortgages in Taiwan?
A: Yes, foreigners can buy houses and property and also get loans and mortgages from local banks in Taiwan. The banks will first check your money-making ability and check if you owe other outstanding debts. Check with your local bank for their specific requirements.
Q: What is the normal annual interest rate for mortgages in Taiwan?
A: The average annual interest rate for mortgages in Taiwan is around 2% and growing.
Q: What is the average down payment on a house in Taiwan?
A: The average down payment is about 25%-30% of the housing price. This is part of why interest rates are so low.
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Other Frequently Asked Questions 其他常見問題:
Q: Do Taiwanese people use checks?
A: Checks are almost never used in Taiwan. This is because there is a belief that if someone else gets hold of it they can cash the check themselves (apparently it doesn't matter if the check is addressed to someone else?).
Q: How do most Taiwanese people transfer money?
A: When sending money to a friend or retailer, a local bank wire transfer is probably the most popular, especially with local hostels and some online retailers. In addition, some elderly people in Taiwan still transfer money using a post office money order or even sending cash through the mail. There is no equivalent to "venmo" in Taiwan that does not have large service fees.
Q: Can I invest in mutual funds or stocks in Taiwan as a foreigner?
A: Technically yes, but you may need a tax guarantor. Some banks do not allow this at all. Check with your bank for their policy.
Q: Can I open a shared Taiwan bank account with my spouse?
A: Technically yes but this is quite uncommon in Taiwan. Most accounts are personal accounts. This may mean that you need permission from your spouse for every transaction. Check with your bank on their policy.
Q: Can I open a Taiwan bank account for my child?
A: Yes, however this means you will need your spouses' permission in writing, along with two forms of identification for both of you. Making changes to the account will require the same thing.
Q: How do I make changes to my Taiwan bank account?
A: Usually this means going in person to the bank during working hours and waiting in line. You will need your passbook, personal chop, and ARC to make changes. It also may take a long time especially if the teller cannot speak good English or if you require a special service.
Q: Are Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies used in Taiwan?
A: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not popular in Taiwan because they are treated as a product and are subject to 5% VAT per transaction.
Q: Is Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Line Pay, Wechat Pay, Alipay, etc. accepted in Taiwan?
A: Yes, these are popular payment forms, especially in convenience stores, chain stores, and shopping centers.
Q: What form of payment is normally accepted in Taiwan?
A: In Taiwan, paper bills are king. This is the only kind of payment accepted at night markets and vegetable markets. However more and more stores and restaurants accept credit cards and electronic forms of payment, such as Easy Card and Apple Pay, etc.
Q: What is it like to open a company bank account in Taiwan?
A: You will need to open a bank account to register a company in Taiwan. This means first registering a "preparatory account" to receive the starting capital amount. After you receive the starting capital, you can complete registration and the preparatory account will be converted into a normal account.
To open an account, as a foreigner you will also need to receive Foreign Investment Approval as explained below.
Also, to comply with anti-money laundering regulations, most all local banks require you to come in person to open a company account.
Check with the bank, every bank has a slightly different policy.
Q: What foreign investment controls are there in Taiwan?
A: Generally there are no foreign investment controls in Taiwan. But the government still must perform a check to see if you have any mainland Chinese investors that own over 25% of the company, in which case there will be much more paperwork and time involved in the company registering process.
Also, to comply with anti-money laundering regulations, you must disclose the register of shareholders for your company. If any shareholder owns 25% or more of the company, they must provide their passport copy to cross-check if they are on an international blacklist.
Also, it is also much harder to invest from "high risk" countries such as the Middle East, Africa, and countries with a history of terrorism or fraud. People and companies from these countries are subject to further requirements.
Q: Why are Taiwanese banks so inefficient?
A: In short there is over-regulation of too much manual labor involved in the system.
Most people use paper passbooks. Most all forms are signed with paper. The banks close at 3 PM so that the banking employees can enter and finalize the transactions for that day. Many transactions require you to come to the bank in person. Compared to America, banking is painfully slow and inefficient.
Also, setting up an account is a slow and tedious process, with lots of red tape and regulatory control. This has been getting increasingly worse with stricter anti-money laundering regulations.
Do have a different insight or experience to share about banking in Taiwan? Good or bad, please share it in the comments below.
Also, be sure to check out more of our Taiwan FAQs here.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.