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Getting a Bank Account in Taiwan

O.K.. So, you've earned yourself a nice chunk of cash teaching English in Taiwan, but having a few ten thousand lying around your room, or, worse, behind the curtain of your bunk in the hostel, is beginning to make you a bit uncomfortable. Whaddya gonna do...open a bank account? A foreigner?? Easy...if you know what to do.

There are two kinds of banks in Taiwan. Government owned and Independent. The government owned are tightly regulated; the Independents are Taiwan's free marketeers, each competing against the other to get deposits and very accommodating. You'll find a list of the five biggest in the table below. The International Commercial Bank of China allows people to use their passport to open accounts. All the others require a passport and an ARC. The kind of account you want to ask for is a "Demand Deposit" account. You won't be able to write checks (like you could!) but you'll get unlimited ATM withdrawls throughout Taiwan. The ATM withdrawl fee is the same, nationwide, even if you go to your own bank's ATM: NT$7 for every withdrawl.

Bank Chinese Name Opening Deposit Interest Branches
International Bank of Taipei 台北國際商業銀行 Varies 0.4% Taipei:33
Nationwide: 84
Overseas: 1
Catahy United Bank 國泰世華銀行 NT$100 0.35% Taipei:63
Nationwide: 108
Overseas: 1
Bank of Overseas Chinese 華僑銀行 NT$100 0.4% Taipei:27
Nationwide: 59
Overseas: 1
International Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) 中國國際商業銀行 Varies 0.55% Taipei:31
Nationwide: 75
E. Sun 玉山銀行 NT$1000 0.4% Taipei:36

Well, how should you decide? The variables are:

  • Taxes-interest
  • Number of offices
  • Ability to speak English

Taxes-interest: They don't take taxes from your principal, just from your interest. So, if you've had an average of NT$100,00 in the bank, and the interest is 1.5% you would have gotten NT$1500 (100,000 x .015). So you've just earned NT$1500 interest! They'll only take tax from the interest you've gotten, and the tax rate is 20%. You earned NT$1500. 20% of that NT$1500 is NT$300. So the only money you would pay is NT$300. And, its really easy. No filing, no paperwork. They just figure it out and deduct it automatically once a year.

Number of offices? This is probably the kicker. Find the bank that's closest to you or, better yet, closest to your school.

Ease with English? Can be really important when you've got to buy a check to pay for your transcripts and you only have your lunch hour to do it on. All of the banks will have more than several people in their offices who can and want to speak English. And whomever does the paperwork when you open the account will likely be so smitten by you that you can easily depend on them, and being able to find them in a pinch. You'll have an easy time.

Sign up attire. Do I have to tell you this? Well, don't go in to the bank all Dead-Headed out. They'll just get scared and give you a hard time. Go in dressed as well as you can and bring your passport. If you are here as a visitor, explain that you are a visitor but you'd like to open an account to keep your money safe while you travel. If you are already working at a school and you have an ARC or one is on the way, you could say that too. While they are processing your ARC, you want a place to keep your money safe.

Hours? Ok...officially they close their doors at 3:30pm., nationwide. They stay there until about 5:30pm counting the loot. But, and this is so different from the West, they will answer the phone until they leave. And, no kidding, they might even open the door and let you in after 3:30 if you ask nicely and its an emergency.  (In there ever-widening sphere of market-responses there is one bank that has begun to stay open until 7pm: Chinatrust, with their vaguely familiar color scheme and omni-present jingle "We are FAMILY!".)

Final thoughts: get a higher rate? Considering the amount of moving around and spending you'll probably do, the interest rate is probably not your most important factor; location is your best criteria. You could even get a credit card, but you'll have to find your best Taiwanese friend to co-sign for you. And, if you think your school is legit, you can even get them to hook you up with direct deposit, so's you wont have that demon in you pocket screaming out to you on the fifth, "$$$", "SPEND THE $". Ask the clerk and they can give you the form. There you go. More financial advice next time.