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If you’re interested to open an account in China, follow these 3 simple steps and you’ll find yourself walking around with a new China bank card in no time.
Step #1: Proper Preparation
Preparation can be broken down into two simple categories: choosing your bank and gathering the appropriate documents.
Which China Bank Should I Choose?
The most important factor to consider when choosing your bank is convenience. Bank of China is the largest in China, but I don’t keep most of my funds there because there isn’t a branch or ATM anywhere near me.
Also, your account is tied to the specific branch in which you open it. So if you need to change your PIN, report a stolen card or something of this sort you’ll need to go back to that exact branch. Another reason to pick one near you.
What Documents Do I Need? Believe it or not, the only thing you need to bring with you to the bank when opening a new account is a passport. They may ask you for a small deposit of 10-20 RMB and some banks might make you pay for the card they give you, so bring about 40 RMB as a precaution.
Step #2: Opening the Account at the Bank
Once you’ve picked the bank and put your passport and cash in your pocket, set aside an hour or two and head over to the nearest bank branch.
If you have a local friend that can accompany you it might speed up the process, but it’s not necessary. You should be able to do this by yourself if you’re adventurous enough.
The first place you need to stop is the information desk to speak with the staff and get a wait number. Tell them that you are opening a new account and often they can help you fill out the form.
Say: “我想开一个银行账户” – Wǒ xiǎng kāi yīgè yínháng zhànghù (“I would like to open a new account”)
Sometimes the form they give you has English as well, but unless you’re confident can write your address and information in Chinese characters, let the staff do the work. They’ll also likely go make a copy of your passport and visa that you’ll need later.
When you’re number is called, provide them with your passport and the form. They’ll have you sign a few other documents, tell you how much money is required for deposit and hand a new UnionPay Bank Card.
At some point during the process a small keypad next to you will light up and scream at you to input a password. All China bank passwords are 6 digits long and you’ll probably have to input it a few times while you’re there.
That’s it! Keep the paperwork they give you and enjoy your new UnionPay debit card!
Step 3: Using Your China Bank Account
There are a few different ways you might find yourself using your new China bank account and your UnionPay card, and each might require specific actions.
Using the ATM: This is the easiest way to utilize your account. You can withdrawal cash from the ATM and even 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 for them to turn on Internet banking. Otherwise, the card simply won’t work to purchase.
Wire Money: each branch has its own wire instructions, so specifically ask your bank what you need. Mine provided me with a printout (in English!) describing exactly what needed to happen, including a specific intermediary bank. To learn more about moving money internationally, read our Guide to Sending Money to/from China.