This topic might not seem so interesting but every student or expat needs to know this for being familiar with the banking system of China.
After arriving at the university, one of the most important tasks students have to do is open a Chinese bank account. Very few universities help new students with banking procedures. But in most cases, students are asked to open accounts by themselves and so you have to know how to open a bank account in China. At most 20 minutes it will take to open a bank account if there is no queue in the bank at that time. Don’t worry we are here to help by giving you some easy steps to follow. Let’s get started!
The procedure for opening a bank account is stated below :
Before entering the bank make sure you take your valid passport with you. In some rare cases, you need to show your residence permit for opening a bank account. So you should keep both of them with you.
After entering the bank you can ask the front desk receptionist for help. They are always ready to help you and will guide you to open a bank account. They will ask for your documents and will help you to print those documents. There is no charge to do photocopy but in rare cases, you will be asked to pay 1 RMB.
Next, you will be given a form to fill up. Normally, you will find the reference form presented on the clerk desk. You can use this reference form to get an idea about how to fill up your form or you can ask the bank receptionist for help. He/She will be there to help you.
After filling the form and with your printed documents, you will be given a queue number from the Automatic Number Machine. You have to wait until your serial number is shown on the broadcast & electronic screen. So you need to be patient and have to pay attention to this. It will be wise to get this serial number earlier when you enter the bank if you see too many people are waiting in the bank. You can do other things mentioned above to save your time then.
When your serial number is called, you have to give only your photocopied documents and filled form to the banker who will help you to open the bank account. In most of the banks, you need to pay a deposit of 10-15 RMB for opening a Chinese RMB account. The charge may vary according to the bank you choose.
After completing all these steps, you will be given a debit card or a bank book. With this debit card or bank book, you can easily deposit or withdraw money, exchange currencies and wire money overseas.
What should I need to know to open a Chinese Bank Account?
Maximum 4 things you may need in order to open a bank account in China:
A Passport: The main thing you need is a valid passport. Without it, you will be unable to open a Chinese bank account.
A Chinese Phone Number: To keep a fair communication with you, all Chinese banks will ask for your Chinese phone number. You can buy a Chinese SIM card to get a phone number if you don’t have one.
Work Permit or Student ID (sometimes): Normally, this doesn’t happen always and so we don’t highlight this thing much. But in some rare cases, you may be asked to give your work authorization or student ID card photocopy.
Proof of Residence (sometimes): Some banks may ask to see your residence permits for safety issues but you don’t have to worry. This could be as simple as water. You can have one from your university help or a receipt from the hotel where you’re staying.
Related all application forms will be given to you at the bank and it will take a maximum of 5 minutes to fill it out. The bank will charge at least 10-20 RMB for an initial deposit and in a few cases, the bank might ask you to pay extra for the debit card or bank book they provide you. We highly recommend you to take around 40-50 RMB extra with you as a precaution.
Which China Bank Should I Choose?
As China is a big country there are plenty of banks in China. Some of the largest banks in China are listed below :
- ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China)
- ABC (Agricultural Bank of China)
- China Construction Bank
- China Merchants Bank
- Bank of China
If you are thinking why you need to open a bank account in China, here are some good reasons:
- To make your overseas life easy like if you want to buy train tickets online,
- To set up your phone to pay with WeChat,
- To do any kind of online shopping on Taobao (China’s Amazon-like marketplace), etc.
For these reasons, you must have a local bank account. Choosing a bank is most important for all overseas students or expats. It will be easy for you if you find a local bank near your resident location. It will be easy for you when you feel to change your account PIN, report a stolen card or any kind of emergencies you will need to go back to that exact branch. This can also be a good reason to pick one near you.
IMP : It is certain that not every China bank or branch will allow a non-Chinese person to open an account. From the experience of many travelers and expats, they have faced a little difficulty to choose a right one for them and had to go around to 5-10 different bank branches until they found the right one which would allow them to open an account.
Which Chinese bank offers the best services to foreign customers?
It may disappoint you but the truth is none of the BIG FOUR state-owned banks (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank, and Agricultural Bank of China) really offer service to any customer in terms of services. Among them, the Bank of China does have an ability in handling foreign exchanges and its related services like better exchange rates, the wide selection on foreign cash reserves, BoC(Bank of China) is barely appreciated for its service quality.
However, we always highly recommend bringing an interpreter with you to Chinese banks. Especially outside of downtown major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou or Shenzhen. You can ask your Chinese friends or classmates’ help. Citibank, HSBC, Standard Chartered are some foreign banks in China. You can visit these banks and they will offer you a far better chance to find someone who speaks decent English, but as they are new to Chinese markets, their business is still very finite at this stage. China Merchants Bank does have excellent customer service, whereas ICBC(Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) has long wait times. However, the Bank of China has perhaps the most branch locations in China.
If you are thinking of going for the small banks, let’s share important information with you. There are some small banks that have few locations and hardly you may find any customer service representatives who speak English. But the Bank of China’s online banking is also bilingual and not all in Chinese. It will be quite difficult for you because most of the other banks’ online banking system is only in Chinese. You may find easy customer service in foreign banks in China but at the same time, you should keep in mind that foreign banks in China have much higher account minimums as compared to the local banks. In addition, they also charge a higher bill for services and they have a few locations.
Using Your China Bank Account: It is very easy though there are some various ways and specific actions for each banks’ banking system. With your new Chinese bank account and UnionPay card, you are ready to rock n roll. Just kidding!
Using the Chinese ATM: It is the easiest part and best way to utilize your account by which you can easily withdraw cash from the ATM and you can also deposit cash. Just make sure you have your Union ATM card with you.
Making Purchases Online: If you are thinking of buying something from Taobao or another China merchant, all you need is to turn on the Internet banking system. Just ask your bank and they will do it for you. Please be noted that some shopping sites like Amazon.com are not accessible in China, so you might need a VPN for that.
Have WeChat or Alipay: Every student, expats, and business people prefer to open a bank account in China only for utilizing the option of mobile payment systems like WeChat or Alipay. This is perhaps the most popular reason. Cash and credit cards still aren’t normal in China and very few people use those in modern Chinese society. They are likely to be engaged in technology and smart mobile banking systems. With mobile banking, they pay almost everything. All you need to have a Chinese UnionPay card along with a Chinese mobile phone service which will make this possible.
Some Important Thing You Should Remember: It will be wise to avoid using different branches of different banks. Suppose, if you have an ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) card, don’t go to “China Construction Bank” to withdraw your money. The Chinese banking system is easy as I mentioned but remember that using different branches of different bank ATMs will cost you a small admin charge for withdrawals, although you can view your balance for free. For this reason, it is important to have branches near your house, university, etc. That’s all! I hope this article will help you to open an account very fast and easily in China.