So, banking in China, might not seem the most interesting of topics, but it’s something every foreign student/expat in China needs to know.
Overseas students are suggested to open a Chinese bank account when they arrive at the university. In China, some universities will help international students open bank accounts so that students don’t feel worried about this; while in most cases, some university require students to open Chinese bank account themselves and it’s important for you to get the knowledge of how to open a bank account in China. The opening of a bank account in China is surprisingly simple, it can be done in just 20 minutes if there is no queue at the bank then.
The procedure for opening a bank account is stated below :
Before you enter the bank, you need to bring your valid passport, but in some cases, a residence permit is also needed.
After entering the bank, you can ask the bank receptionist for help and they will guide you the procedure of opening the bank account. They will ask your documents and help you print these materials. In most banks, the print is free of charge but in some banks, you will be charged 1 RMB.
After that, they will give you a form to fill in. Generally, there is a reference form presented on the clerk desk. You can take this form for reference and if you have any queries, you can ask the bank receptionist for help.
With the printed materials and filled form, you will get a queue number from the Automatic Number Machine and wait on the waiting desk (Sometimes if there are too many people are waiting in the bank, you can also get this number when you enter the bank and then do other things that mentioned in the above to save time). Please pay attention to the broadcast & electronic screen while waiting there.
Now when your number is called. You have to give only your printed materials & filled the form to the banker who will help you to open the bank account. To open a Chinese RMB account, you have to pay a deposit of 10-15 RMB in most banks but the charge may be different in various banks.
When you have completed all these steps, you will be given a debit card or a bank book. With this card or book, you can deposit or withdraw money, exchange currencies & wire money overseas.
What should I need to know to open a Chinese Bank Account?
There are 4 things that you’ll need in order to open a bank account in China:
- A Passport: This is most important to have a passport. Of course, that passport will need a valid Chinese visa.
- A Chinese Phone Number: All Chinese bank accounts need to have a Chinese phone number. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to get a Chinese SIM card to get a phone number to use.
- Work Permit or Student ID (sometimes): Some banks will ask for your work permit or student ID. This isn’t always the case though and usually, they don’t have to have it.
- Proof of Residence (sometimes): Some banks will ask proof of residence. But this could be as simple as your residence permit or a receipt from the hotel where you’re staying.
All application forms will be given to you at the bank and it takes a few minutes to fill it out. The bank will require at least 10-20 RMB for an initial deposit and few banks might make you pay for the card they give you. We recommend you to bring around 40-50 RMB with you as a precaution.
Which China Bank Should I Choose?
There are plenty of banks in China. The largest banks in China are listed below :
- Bank of China
- Bank of Communication
- ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China)
- ABC (Agricultural Bank of China)
- China Construction Bank
- China Merchants Bank
Also if you don’t know why do you need to open a bank account in China, here are some examples. If you want to buy train tickets online, and set up your phone to pay with WeChat, or do any sort of online shopping on Taobao (China’s Amazon-like marketplace), you must have a local bank account. For overseas students, choosing a bank is most important. You have to find a bank near your location. Because, if you need to change your PIN, report a stolen card or something sort of this you’ll need to go back to that exact branch. Another reason to pick one near you.
IMP : Not every China bank or China branch for that matter will allow a non-Chinese person to open an account. Many travelers and expats have faced that they’ve had to go around to 5-10 different bank branches until they found one that would allow them to open an account.
Which Chinese bank offers the best services to foreign customers?
In terms of services, none of the BIG FOUR state-owned banks (Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Industrial, and Commercial Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China) really offer service to any customer. Although the Bank of China does have an ability in handling foreign exchanges and its related services(better exchange rates, the wide selection on foreign cash reserve), BoC is barely appreciated for its service quality.
However, it’s always highly suggested to bring an interpreter with you to Chinese banks (especially outside of downtown major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or Shenzhen). Visiting a foreign bank in China such as Citibank, HSBC, Standard Chartered 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 has long wait times; however, the Bank of China has perhaps the most locations.
Some of the very small banks have few locations & hardly if any customer service representatives that speak English. The Bank of China’s online banking is also bilingual & not all in Chinese and some of the other banks’ online banking is only in Chinese. Keep in mind that foreign banks in China have much higher account minimums as compared to local banks. They also charge a higher bill in addition to also having few locations.
Using Your China Bank Account : There are some various ways you might find yourself using your new China bank account and your UnionPay card, and each might require specific actions.
Using the Chinese ATM : This is the easiest way to utilize your account. You can withdraw cash from the ATM and you can also deposit cash in some of them.
Making Purchases Online : If you think you’ll be buying things on Taobao or another China merchant, you’re going to need to specifically ask your bank to turn on Internet banking. Otherwise, the card simply won’t work to purchase. (note: some shopping sites like Amazon.com are not accessible in China without a VPN)
Have WeChat or Alipay : Perhaps the most popular reason that many expats and business people open a bank account in China is the option to use mobile payment systems like WeChat or Alipay. In modern-day Chinese society, very few people use cash and credit cards still aren’t normal. Rather, Chinese people use their phones to pay for almost everything. Having a Chinese UnionPay card along with Chinese mobile phone service will make this possible.
Lastly, you should avoid using different brands of the bank. If you have an ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) card, don’t go to “China Construction Bank” to withdraw money, although you can view your balance for free, you have to pay a small admin charge for withdrawals using a different bank ATM, so that’s why it’s important to have branches near your house, university etc. So there you have it, a few questions answered about what can be a very complicated issue. Hope our guide will help you to open an account in China fast and easy way.