Banking in China is a daunting and painful process for foreigners. In this post, I will be writing 5 years worth of experience in doing business with the local banks. The top 4 banks in China who also has branches in the hinterlands are Bank of China (BOC), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) and China Construction Bank (CCB). There are other banks which are branching out to more provinces such as Bank of Communication, China Merchants Bank, Shanghai Pudong Bank, CITIC Bank and China Post Savings Bank.
Here are some tips and trivia about banks in China:
- Most Chinese Banks are open 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm. Banks in office buildings are usually closed on the weekends.
- Queues are sometimes short but are usually long. Upon entering the bank, make a beeline right away at the number issuer machine. If they call your number and you aren’t there, you will need to take another number.
- Don’t expect everyone in the bank will be able to speak English. There is usually a staff or two who can assist you with the most basic service.
- Bring your passport all the time when you plan to do several transactions and involving huge amounts of money. You would also need your passport if you plan to deposit money to an account in a different province or if you’re not an account holder of the bank which you need to make deposits.
- If you plan to pay your bills, proceed to ICBC as they normally accept most utilities.
- If you want to avail of auto-pay, telephone and internet banking, inform the teller right away when you open your account. If not, you will have to go back to the branch where you open your account and apply for said services.
- Maximum allowable withdrawal amount per day using the ATM is RMB 20,000. For each transaction, the maximum amount differ for each ATM.
- If you use a different bank’s ATM to withdraw money, you will be charged RMB 2 for each transaction.
- If you withdraw on the same ATM but in another province or city in the same province, you will be charged inter-provincial or intra-provincial fees.
- Most banks have special machines which can update your bank book automatically. You don’t need to queue at the teller.
- Some banks also have special machines for bills payment. However, they’re only in Chinese and you will need an ATM card of the same bank.
- Bank of Beijing is the bank for reloading the gas you use to cook your meals. Some people open an account with them in order to minimize queue times when buying credits for gas.
- If you wish to get a credit card, it is best to go through your company’s finance department. Applying personally is allowed but you will have to provide a lot of documents as proof.
- Apply for a type of credit card wherein you only need to use it around 10 times a year and the annual charges will be waived.
- Internet banking sites are usually in Chinese. I’m not sure if China Merchants Bank was already able to fully integrate it bilingually.
- Phone banking in Beijing have both English and Chinese option. In Guangdong province, they have Cantonese option.
- You can remit internationally through Western Union at Agricultural Bank of China or China Post. Moneygram is available in ICBC. Passport is needed and service fees are paid in USD.
Opening an Account (Regular Savings): To open an account, you will need your passport with a valid working visa. Minimum amount is RMB 10 and it comes with a bank book. Should you wish to have an ATM card, you will need to pay an additional RMB 10 (price varies with each bank). If your name is long, they will only use your first name and surname. Some banks are weird such as ICBC, wherein your account name will be something like PITTBRAD. No spacing whatsoever. Also, there’s an annual charge of RMB 10 to maintain an account with the bank.
Opening an Account (Time Deposit): The same process as regular savings account but minimum amount is RMB 50. Maturity terms are 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years and 5 years. Foreign currency such as USD and HKD can also be opened for time deposit. They will give you a different colored bank book for this type of account. If you have several time deposit, they will integrate it in one bank book.
Foreign Exchange: Foreigners are allowed to purchase foreign currency such as US dollar, Canadian dollar, Euro, Australian dollar, Hong Kong dollar and Japanese yen up to USD500 worth of foreign currency per day. In a year, foreigners are allowed a maximum of USD 20,000. You only need to bring your passport and cash to purchase those currencies. If you wish to purchase more than US$500, bring your Chinese friend to the bank and use his/her ID to purchase for you. If not, the bank will ask you to provide a lot of documents before they would be able to process it.
Phew.. that’s a lot and those are only the ones on top of my head. I’ll create a page with links to this post.