Chinese Bank Accounts: How to Open an Account, and the Benefits!
What are the benefits of having a Chinese bank account? How do you open one? We will explore these questions below.
Banking in China:
Chinese banks are very similar to that of the U.S. There are physical banks, ATMs, and mobile apps that allow you to complete transactions. Once you open a Chinese bank account you will get a debit card, and will be allowed to exchange currency for a very low fee. The debit card can be used at larger grocery stores and bars, but most small vendors do not accept cards. This is the magic of Wechat Wallet.
One of the most useful things about having a Chinese bank account is that it opens the potential to use use Wechat Wallet to pay for your daily things such as lunch or a bar tab, or small purchases at local stores. You can also start participating in the New Years Red Packet rush. There is only one hurdle to overcome to start your Chinese banking life, you will need to open a bank account, which may require a little bit of Chinese.
How do I choose a bank?
In my experience, going to the larger banks seems to be the best. Banks such as ICBC, or Bank of China have many branches, as well as ATMs around. This makes it easy to deposit your money, exchange currency, or to address any issues you may have with your account. I suggest using ICBC as they seem to be the most established, and generally have tellers that speak a bit of English.
How do I open a bank account?
Chinese banks requires a foreigner to provide their passport, as well as a working Chinese phone number to open an account. You will need to bring your passport, and a bit of cash with you to the bank. Then you will need to get a ticket from the front desk of the bank, make sure to specify that you want to open a bank account (开户 kāi hù). Wait your turn in line, and fill out the appropriate form to open your account. You will need to provide the address that you are staying, your passport for identification, and the phone number for account verification. There will be a person assisting you as you fill out your paperwork. All that is left is to chose a pin number, and pay a small fee (maybe 50 kuai). You now have a Chinese bank account! Start filling that account with those lovely Red bills!
How do I link my Wechat and use Wechat Wallet?
Activating Wechat Wallet requires you to link your Wechat with a mainland Chinese telephone number. You will be unable to activate Wechat Wallet with any phone number that is not Chinese. (If you want to learn about how to get a Chinese phone number, you can read this article here: http://lookforteachers.com/blog/2017/03/chinese-phone-number/ ) You can do this by going into your account settings, and adding a phone number. Once this is verified, you will have access to Wechat Wallet. From here, go ahead into the wallet, and add your new Debit card number to the Wechat account. You will then be able to add money to your Wechat Wallet, or to withdraw the money to your Chinese bank account. When withdrawing money, expect there to be a few days delay while it is being verified.
Now you are full integrated with the Chinese banks. You can roam about and spend your Maos how you would like, with cash from the ATM, using Wechat Pay, or your debit card. You are officially connected with Chinese banks! You go you tech-savvy foreigner you!