So maybe you are planning to do a short term stay in Taiwan to up your kids English, like 3-6 months.  What do you do about money?  You don’t want to bring a wad of cash from the US.

Here’s what I did when I went back 4 years ago and stayed for 3 months.  It assumes you have a Taiwanese ID.  I hear you can still get a bank account if you don’t, because there are tons of foreigners in Taiwan, how do they live otherwise?   But I think it’s some more hoops to jump and I opted not to jump through them by getting an ID first.

Note also that this is what I did 4 years ago, maybe other banks can do the same thing now.

1.  Get a Citibank account in the US.

Before I left for Taiwan, I got a Citibank checking account here.  Why Citibank?  It has a Global Transfer feature which allows you to transfer between Citibank accounts in different countries.   We have one very close to our house and there are many branches in Taipei.  I hear HSBC is another bank though I don’t know for sure.

What about other banks you ask?  Apparently due to financial rules of each country, your East West Bank or Cathay Bank or Bank of America in the US is not the same bank as the ones in Taiwan with the same name.  The bank itself will need to implement a system to transfer between these two banks for the same account holder, like Citibank did.

So since each bank is technically a separate bank, the same person will have two online Citibank accounts.

If you want, ask about their Global Transfer feature while you’re there.    I have it set up so that through my Citibank online banking, I global transfer to Citibank Taiwan.  But I can’t remember if I set that up that by calling Citibank from Taiwan or after I got back.  Or if they set it up for me when I opened the bank account in Taiwan.

Bring all your account info with you when you go back to Taiwan!  I brought back all the papers I got when I opened my account because likely you need to know the wiring number or whatever those things are called, on top of your own account number.

If Citibank isn’t your primary account, then remember to set up external transfers.   This often requires waiting for test deposits so it can take a few days.

2.  Get a Citibank account in Taiwan.

Go to a local branch.  I went to Citibank 中正分行 because it was 10-15 minutes walk from an MRT station.  Bring your passport, your Taiwanese ID, your US Citibank info, your US driver’s license, knowledge of address you want your bank statements sent to, your household registry address.   Maybe even your household registry papers?  Not sure.

I just happened to have all those that year because I got my residency and new Taiwanese ID as well so I had copies of everything.  You may even want to call first to see what else you need.

Bring things to entertain your children with.  You’ll be there awhile.

Tell them you want to open up a bank account.  I was there for 2 hours, with 2 young kids.  It was hard because I didn’t actually live in Taiwan and so then they ask for more documents, like having you fill out a W4 with your Social Security info and sign more papers.  They also typically they ask for 2 forms of ID, but I didn’t have two forms of Taiwanese ID, (usually your ID and medical ID).  Can’t remember what I used as substitution.

I also then had to separately set up a Global Transfer account.  This account holds USD while your regular account holds TWD.  On my online banking, it’s called 花旗全球速款.

Remember to also ask about setting up online banking, which means more forms to fill out.

So you want 3 things from them:

  • Citibank Account
  • Global Transfer account
  • Online banking

Keep in mind you filled out a W4, so you don’t tax evade.   I think there is a dollar limit where they start thinking it’s a lot of money in an account.

Tip:  You’re obviously going to use your Taiwanese phone number when you set up your account.  But, before you return to the US, call customer service on back of your ATM card and ask to switch your phone number to a US phone number.  You will need this to transfer money when you’re in the US.  I guess you could also start with a US number.  But I don’t know how that’ll affect your transactions when you’re in Taiwan.  Maybe no big deal if your US number still works there?  

Also remember that it takes 3 days for this to take effect.  How do I know?  I called them to change my number while in the U.S., hoping to then be able to transfer some money to Taiwan immediately.  No go as I had to wait 3 days anyway.

3.  Download Citibank TW App

This is actually harder than it seems.  My iPhone will not let me download from Taiwan Apple Store because I don’t have a Taiwanese credit card for its account setup.   So I had to use my laptop, find the app, download it on laptop iTunes, and push it to my iPhone.

Plus you can’t even find the stupid app through App Store search.  I always find it by going to the Citibank Taiwan website.  There’s a picture link of the app.

Make sure you set up the OTP in the app.  You have to link it to your Citibank Taiwan account and it knows to generate a code when you press the button in the app splash screen.  I honestly can’t remember how it was set up the first time.  But this is part of the two step authentication process for super secure stuff, like transferring money.

4.  Transfer some money!

In the U.S., I use the Global Transfer in my US Citibank online banking to transfer money to Taiwan.  The money goes to my Citibank USD account in Taiwan.   I then transfer the money through Taiwan Citibank online banking to my Citibank TWD account.

Citibank still takes a cut when you transfer between USD and TWD but it’s pretty darn close to the current exchange rate and there is no transaction fee.  It’s better than exchanging USD at a Taiwanese bank.

Since Taiwan financial system kind of follows Western schedule, you will find your Taiwan Citibank online banking unavailable at strange Taiwanese times.  Transfer also go through at seemingly strange times.   In the U.S. transfers occur and are credited overnight, which means when you’re in Taiwan it becomes available at night instead.  So take all that into account.

I find Global Transfers to be pretty quick because of this time difference.  But there’s been a few times when I’ve cut it way close.  You always need to leave a few days for these transactions to clear.

Other Things about Spending Your Monopoly Money in Taiwan

The great thing about Taiwan is, you can withdraw, and in some instances even deposit, money through ATMs located at your local 7-11, Family Mart, etc.  The only caveat is the limit of $20k a day.   I’ve deposited money at an ATM only once.  I think it was a 台銀 ATM machine and hence allowed me to make deposits.

In Taiwan, they like to pay each other through ATM transfers.  The limit is $30k a day.  Citibank online banking allows you to do this.  You can also set up designated accounts which will allow you to bypass the $30k limit.  That requires more form filling at a local branch.  There is also a lot of fraud issues because of this ATM transfer.  So be careful when you make purchases online that require ATM transfers.

With ATM transfer, you can pay for your utility bills, your PC home purchases, even buying and shipping books at Mollie from the comfort of your home.

It also means that you can buy something in Taiwan and pay for it in the U.S!  I couldn’t do that 4 years ago.  But because of the OTP 2 step authentication, I no longer need a special ATM card reader that only runs on Windows.

Every time you withdraw money from a non Citibank ATM it’s $15 TWD.  Really cheap.

That’s pretty much it.  It’s a lovely set up once you put in the time to get the bank accounts.  I’ve become the Bank of Guavarama for other friends when we’re altogether in Taiwan.  The downside is, of course, I end up spending way more money than I plan to because I have access to a virtual ATM machine now!

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