Useful Taiwan Tips

The trials and tribulations of a Taiwan bank account

I try to keep this blog positive for the most part, but today it’s time for my yearly rant 😀 The focus of this post is all about Taiwanese bank accounts – the pitfalls and the painfully annoying points, according to my experience. Obviously your mileage may vary, but I’ve noticed a bunch of similar things between the two accounts I have here in TW. So, let the rant commence 😛

Opening an account
The first account I opened in Taiwan was a relatively simple process – I was lucky enough to have a colleague of mine accompany me to help open it. The only problem was that my English name was too long to fit on my passbook, although this didn’t cause any real problems. However, the second account I opened in TW was much trickier, even with the help of my wife. On our first visit we had to fill out paperwork and hang around for well over an hour, and then we ended up having to go back again another day to sign some other paperwork that was missed by the staff.

Internet banking
I believe that internet banking in Taiwan is purposely setup to be so inconvenient that nobody would ever want to use it, it’s the only explanation possible! Internet banking for both of my accounts was relatively easy to setup, but as soon as I tried to transfer my monthly rent payment I hit the first hurdle – you can’t transfer money to a new account without going into a branch and filling out some paperwork for each one!

Despite the fact that this completely defeats the purpose of having internet banking, I went into the branch and filled out the required paperwork to setup the account, to be told it would be ready in a few business days. A few days passed, and I still couldn’t transfer to the account. My wife called up the bank to ask what was going on. “Oh sorry,” they said, “you wrote one of the numbers for the account wrong. It should be a 7, not a 1. I’m sorry but we can’t fix it, you need to come back and submit another application.”

I do believe my next door neighbor learned a few choice swear words that day! Upon arriving at the branch they gave us our previous application form to see the ‘wrong number’. As far as I could tell the number was a perfect representation of a ‘7’; the reason they rejected it was because apparently you must draw a line through all ‘7s’ to distinguish them from ‘1s’…

Eventually the account was setup to make transfers online, and it turns out the maximum daily amount you can transfer is NT$7 mn (US$226k) – or about 6 years worth of pay when you consider Taiwan’s average income! My wife called them up and asked them to lower it to a more reasonable amount – “Sure, just come in the branch and fill out an application form”.

False promises
One of the reasons I setup my second account was because that bank had advertised an account that offered for free international transactions. My original bank was charging NT$600 per int’l transaction, so I wanted to take advantage of the offer. After going through the painful process of setting up both the account and then the international transactions (this took two visits to the bank), I was finally ready to make my first transfer (which annoyingly had to be done by phone, but to save NT$600 I was willing to put up with it).

I was lucky to get a friendly guy on the phone who was helping me make the transaction. After I gave him all the details, he said “OK, to confirm we are transferring $xxx to your int’l account. Let me remind you the transaction fee is NT$600”. I was shocked! “What! But the branch said there’s no charge for int’l transactions with this account,” I said, with a sense of impending doom. “Sorry,” he said “but that deal is only available to Taiwanese citizens”.

My wife and I returned to the branch where we setup the account to demand some answers. Even writing this now almost one year after it happened I am still pretty mad! When we asked the person who setup the account what happened, they offered this explanation: “Oh yes, foreigners can’t get the free international transactions. But you never asked us, so we didn’t tell you.”

One last frustration
I could write about the topic of Taiwanese banks forever, but let me just finish with one last point of annoyance. When my first ARC expired, one of the banks I have an account with sent me a letter asking me to come into the branch with my new ARC so that they could confirm I was still a legal resident. Otherwise they would basically freeze the account from performing transfers, so it was definitely in my best interests to go (funnily enough, the other bank never asked for this, so I wonder if it’s even necessary or not).

Anyway, I headed into the bank with the letter and my new ARC. After a bit of general confusion (the letter was written purely in English, and nobody in the branch could read it, even though I explained in Chinese what it was about), they eventually figured out they needed to check my new ARC. But instead of asking for that, a staff member said “Please give me your passport.” Passport!? The letter said nothing about a passport, it only said to bring in your ARC. I argued this point for what felt like an eternity and eventually they agreed to reactivate my account without the passport. Is it too much to ask that they write in the letter to bring your passport if they need it?

Thinking back to all these frustrating moments has got me super stressed. I need some bubble tea immediately!

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Katy

    July 7, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    It sounds like you have had a much harder experience than I have had with banks. But, I think you’ve got some great advice in here which is: 1) always take every available kind of documentation that you have to prove you are a resident and that you are from a foreign country and 2) ask every question that you can possibly think of even if it seems dumb. I always find that it doesn’t matter what legal thing (paperwork related) I’m doing (driver’s license, insurance, etc.) they get super annoyed, but I get may answers or walk away!

    • Bubbletea101

      July 7, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      That is solid advice Katy, thanks for that! I will definitely be bringing all the paperwork I can if I ever need to open a third bank account in Taiwan 🙂 And asking questions is a great point, I could have saved myself a bunch of time if I had had asked them more.

  2. steve

    July 7, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    Another one to watch out for is if you ARC has expired and you haven’t provided a new copy your get charged a much higher tax rate on your interest. Found this out as I had a largish amount of cash and they called out department Secretary telling them that as I had X million in the account (gave her the exact amount, so much for privacy) that it might be a good idea to update my record.

    • Bubbletea101

      July 8, 2015 at 10:20 am

      G’day Steve! That is a great tip, thank you for that 🙂

  3. Lena

    July 7, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    I know how it feels. Although I’ve have much lower problems with the banks than yours, sometimes it’s annoying how you are forced to be frustrated or resigned over so much bureaucracy that instead of finding solutions, seems to find more problems, in many different areas, not only in banks.
    However, it’s not just a problem of Taiwan, as I can recall ever worse problems in my home country

    • Bubbletea101

      July 8, 2015 at 10:23 am

      Hey Lena, I agree with you, banks are annoying all over the world 🙂 I guess once everything is setup in TW it actually works pretty well. Well, everything except internet banking 😛

  4. Dobby

    July 8, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    4th paragraph, online banking… Don’t you mean minimum amount ?

    • Bubbletea101

      July 8, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      Hi Dobby! Ah I did mean maximum; I felt it was a bit dangerous to have the maximum daily transfer amount set at many times my annual salary just in case anyone hacked my internet banking account. It would’ve been funny if they had set it as NT$7 mn minimum though XD

  5. zeitgeist films

    July 8, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    lol what a joke. its been an island for 10k+ years. everyones a foreigner. unless you could prove somehow you were related to the people of pre 60m sea level rise. like yonaguni pyramids off coast of hualian. and its not even a country. its the USA’s legacy wildcard in case Yale man Maos china ever acted up. by international law its still a post ww2 US territory they allowed occupied by KMT. its all about jobs and the existing (obsolete, greedy) system of simply keeping people occupied during a lifetime on a rock floating in space. make a better system. all government jobs are welfare and prove a minimum income for everyone is possible. anyhow, just use a global 1st world bank like citibank. there is no longer any benefit to using others. The 1913 US banking sham is broke and will try to leech $$ from anywhere possible. Every bank on earth, and people of every country are now subject to US banking FATCA reporting, some of that silly paperwork filled out enrolling at the TW bank

    • Bubbletea101

      July 8, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      “anyhow, just use a global 1st world bank like citibank”… turns out old citibank was indeed one of the two banks in my little rant 😛

      • Jay

        January 25, 2017 at 12:06 pm

        was citibank the good bank, or the bad one?

        so, having gone through all this experience, etc. curious, which bank would you actually recommend?

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