Managing your Money
Preface: The rate of exchange in Taiwan is generally around 1US Dollar = 33NTD (New Taiwanese Dollars), often referred to simply as NT. While this fluctuates a few dollars, it's nothing to shake a stick at. You can see the current rate here. Coins in circulation are valued at 1NT, 5NT, 10NT, and 50NT. Bills in circulation are values at 100NT, 500NT, and 1000NT. There are supposedly 200NT and 2000NT notes, though these are rare. The latter is pink and has pictures of trout, and looks quite lovely. Make sure you inspect your 1000NT notes carefully, as the older bills are not accepted everywhere: you will notice a metallic strip off to the side of the bill if it is a newer issue.
Exchanging bills in Taiwan has been troublesome for some in the past. Tellers have been known to be picky about the presentation of the bills: are they folded? are they neat? are they newer issue? Many recommend using travelers checks to avoid this hassle. I would recommend bringing a trusty ATM card, as fees are fine and ATMS are abundant.
Credit Cards and ATMs: The cheapest way to get money to Taiwan is to withdraw from the abundant amount of ATMs throughout the island. For information on how best to transfer your money to Taiwan when arriving, look here in the "What to Bring" section of our guide. Visa, American Express, Master Card and Diners Club are accepted in many shops, hotels, and restaurants. To avoid any messy flags and holds on your accounts, call your bank before you go to inform them that you will be traveling and living abroad. You will often get hit with foreign use fees if you decide to make purchases on your credit card.
Opening a Bank Account: Opening a bank account in Taiwan is a relatively painless process once you’ve got a little money and your ARC. Two of the larger banks in Taiwan are China Trust and Bank of Taiwan, both of which offer abundant ATMs and relatively cheap transfer of money home. In this later category, Bank of Taiwan wins, charging only 400NT per wire-transfer, while China Trust now charges 900NT per transfer. The Postal Savings System of Taiwan also has an abundant amount, more than 1,500, post offices throughout Taiwan where people can deposit or withdraw money.
To open an account, bring your ARC and passport into your bank of choice. Location is key here. You’ll most likely be given a number and have to wait until one of a myriad desks opens up. Banks are generally open from 9:00a.m.-3:30p.m, Monday-Friday, though some will stay open to five and later. Fill out your forms and they’ll have you stamp it with your finger-print (one unique aspect of Taiwanese culture is that, instead of signatures, everyone has their own unique name-stamp they use for forms.) You’ll get a debit card, a check book, and all the comfort of knowing your money is no longer in a box under your mattress.
Sending Money Home: If you’ve got about 100,000NT sitting in a drawer, it may be time to consider sending those bills back to the native country. If you’ve got a bank account in your native country, you can go into any bank in Taiwan and receive a form to send money home. Transfers can only be made before 3:30pm. Policies on whether you need to have an account open at the bank vary. There is a flat rate for sending money home: Bank of Taiwan offers 400NT per transfer, while China Trust offers 900NT transfers. Both will get your money there safely.
Before you can send money home, you will need your Bank Account Number, your routing number, and your banks SWIFT number. The last of these, the SWIFT number, can be kind of tricky to locate, so search online or call up your bank to be sure. I make no guarantees on its accuracy, but when I couldn't reach National City in America, I found this list to be particularly helpful. Also bring your ARC and your passport to be safe, though the former of these is all that’s really needed. You’ll write in the amount and hand the cash or withdraw the amount from your account, and give it over to the bank, and away it will go. It will take a couple of days for the transfer to go though. Be warned: your home bank may hit you with a fee as well. National City hit me with a nominal 10$USD fee or something in that neighborhood. Investigate these fees before sending money home to be safe.
Depositing Change: While you’re still mystified about the value and equivalency of money, you’ll begin to gather a great deal of change. Do your best to keep coins separated. You can have that money counted for no charge at any bank, but for those accustomed to Coinstar automation, know that you must manually separate the coins: there are no machines in Taiwan to do it for you.
Paying Taxes: The tax rate in Taiwan is a steady 20% until you have been in Taiwan for 183 days (around six months) of a calendar year. After 183 days, the withholding tax goes down to around 10% depending on your salary bracket. Your taxes will most likely be taken from your paycheck by your school. You are responsible to file at the end of the year at the local office. If you have paid 20% for half the year, and stay for at least 183 days in the calendar year, you are entitled to a rebate for the difference. Please be advised that if you do not file within a month of the end of the calendar year, you can expect a wait time of up to six months for your rebate to be available to you.
Recently, new laws were passed stating that this residency requirement resets every year. So even if you have stayed in Taiwan a full year, you will be required to pay 20% of your taxes for your first six months of the next year, and later will be able to apply for the difference. Be advised, however, that rumor has it that many schools will also under-report your income, and certain jobs may be off the books entirely. This is entirely illegal, but a possibility none-the-less.