Taichung has plenty of banks, with mostly local and a few international branches you should be able to easily find a bank that can fill whatever needs you have.
Special note for US Citizens, you will almost always have a more difficult time opening any type of financial accounts abroad because of reporting laws forced upon foreign financial entities and governments. Make sure you understand the reporting requirements for your home country and consult a tax professional if necessary to avoid unneeded penalties or fines.
I won’t recommend a specific bank, but will tell you that your experience will largely depend on which branch and who you end up working with. I highly recommend you check with other expat friends and ask about their personal experience and for their recommendations. That being said, I can give you my experience here and tell you where I bank here in Taiwan.
I have multiple Taiwan bank accounts. It seems there is not currently a limit on the number of accounts you may open, so if you are unhappy with your bank, try another.
All of the paperwork you will be asked to fill out will put will be in Chinese, so I highly recommend you take someone with you who can translate and put your banker at ease as well as make sure you know what you are signing and agreeing to in these documents.
In my personal experience, I have really enjoyed my relationship with Cathay Bank the most. From the time I walked in the door, their service was the absolute best. They treated me like a regular customer and helped me open not only a regular account, but also apply for the Costco Credit Card which I was approved for with relatively little paperwork and received within a couple of weeks. The only downside at this point to Cathay Bank is that all of their online services (mobile app and their web banking) are in Mandarin.
I have had my Citibank account for the longest amount of time. For people who come from countries or states that also have Citibank branches, Citibank provides one of the best international banking experience for most Taiwan Expats. Their website and app are both in English and Chinese and it’s very easy to use their ATM system and online system. You can transfer up to $1000USD per day back and forth with no international transfer fees between citibank accounts.
I also have a Bank of Taiwan account. My experience at BOT was less than stellar. The banking is standard and I have no complaints about the actual service, it was the initial experience. I felt like I was being run through a mill and not treated very well. I felt that even the other Taiwanese who were coming to apply for accounts were treated poorly – just like me. It took a week for them to produce my ATM card whereas Cathay Bank completed everything but my credit card app on the spot and I left the bank with everything including my online accounts all set up and ready to go.
For many expats, they have found Megabank to be another great option. Here is a link to their site with an English explanation of services. CLICK HERE.
HSBC is another great option, but their minimum deposit prices most regular people out of their services.
Before going to any bank in Taiwan, make sure you have a Chinese name chop prepared with your Chinese name. This will simplify your banking life in Taiwan immensely. If you sign your name in English with slight variations, the counter personnel could request you to sign your name until it matches the original signature on file. (I had to sign my name 15 times in a row at one point to get one close to the original signature) Bank of Taiwan is the exception, for foreigners, they will no longer allow you to use your namechop.
Another consideration for US Expats is the tax implications of holding foreign accounts and also paying your US Taxes. You must report foreign bank accounts that cross a certain threshold. There are serious penalties for failing to report and also failing to file taxes. There are also serious benefits for living overseas for a majority of the year. Chuck has helped our family since moving to Taiwan and is a great resource for expats no matter where in the world you live.
Chuck Heyde – Expatriate Tax Specialist
For anyone living abroad, I would recommend you speak with and avail yourself of Chuck’s valuable advice and expertise. He will save you money, time and energy making sure you file your taxes correctly and on time. Be sure to let Chuck know that I sent you.
If you need help, please ask. I would be happy to assist you in opening an account or getting your stuff in order.