Tired of carrying wads of Renminbi to pay for the weekly groceries? Overseas credit card fees really hitting the wallet? Have no fear, the Chinese banks are here! It’s time to get yourself a local bank account with an ATM debit card. All places in China that accept credit cards accept bank debit cards (Unionpay) and can be used without additional fees.
It’s relatively easy even with a nǐhǎo/zàijiàn limited grasp of the Chinese language to open a bank account as long as you bring the correct documents with you. Namely your passport, address in Chinese and cash (Reminbi is recommended).
Go to the bank, take a number and the bank teller will complete the application for you with the documents provided. Ask for a savings account 储蓄账户 [chǔxùzhànghù] and an ATM debit card 借记卡 [jièjìkǎ] (there is usually a nominal fee for the card, around RMB 5 and only one debit card per account is allowed).
You’ll be asked to sign numerous slips of paper and punch in a 6 digit password for your bank account. After which you’ll receive an account passbook, ATM debit card and initial password for the ATM which you can change later at the ATM machine. You do not need to bring your passbook for future banking transactions if you have your ATM card. The daily withdrawal limit on ATM’s is RMB 3,000 and cash withdrawals/transfers over RMB 50,000 require your passport.
My Money 2.0
Online banking 网上银行 [Wǎngshàngyínháng]:
If you have more than one account or need to transfer funds within the same banking system; online banking takes the hassle out of slogging to the bank. Similar to opening up a bank account; you need to apply in person with your passport at the teller counter. The bank teller will complete the form and set up your account with a User ID (which you can change later online). You’ll also be given a small electronic device that generates the registration number needed to sign into the website. The websites have an English and Chinese version. For Bank of China, you must use Internet Explorer as your browser. You cannot access their website using other browsers like Mozilla Firefox or Safari.
Currency Exchange 联系汇率制 [liánxìhuìlǜzhì]:
If you’re a betting man (like, “I bet it’ll be smoggy tomorrow”) why not change a chunk of your home currency now before it melts away in value against the Reminbi tomorrow? Foreigners are allowed to change up to a maximum of USD 50,000 annually. Again bring your passport and keep the currency exchange slip if you wish to change the Reminbi back into the original currency at a later date. The maximum amount of foreign currency that can be exchanged in Cash is USD 5,000 per day.
Time Deposit 定期存款 [dìngqīcúnkuǎn]:
Local banks offer 3, 6, 12 months Reminbi fixed deposits at interest rates double to that offered at most major USA banks. Couple that with the soon-to-be stronger Reminbi, it’s a no-brainer investment. Bring your passport and cash (or transfer funds from your account) and the teller will complete the application for you.
Time is money and the waiting time at local banks can seem endless because they are. One hour plus waits are not uncommon especially in the early morning or mid-afternoon. You can bypass the peons if you pad your account with enough money to reach VIP status. This allows you past the velvet ropes to an exclusive area with counters of fine Italian marble and yummy leather chairs or at the very least, a much shorter teller line. Different banks have different levels for VIP status so enquire when you open your bank account; it may be worth it as the majority of banking transactions require teller service.