How to Open a Bank Account in Mainland China
Opening a bank account in mainland China is very easy. All you need is your passport and some patience. You need patience because banks in China have very complicated procedures for simple tasks that sometimes require you to wait around for hours while all kinds of different papers are signed and stamped.
To open an account just bring your passport to the any bank and tell them that you want open an account. You will immediately get a card which costs 10-15 yuan. The annual fee is usually 10 yuan. Make sure you sign up for any services you need such as online banking, online payment, etc while you are there to save yourself another trip to the bank.
Most of the major banks have an English online banking website. China Construction bank is the only major bank I know of without an English online banking site. My main bank that I use is Bank of Communications and I normally use the Chinese version of the online banking site because half the functions are either missing or don't work on their English version. Bank of China is probably a better choice if an English online banking site is important for you.
Tips for banking in China
- You will often get better service if you pretend that you don't speak Chinese. If I only speak English at the bank, I will often find someone eager to help a foreigner. They will be happy to let me cut to the front of the line or take me to the VIP section, or even to the branch manager's office. They will even help me fill out the forms, etc. If I speak Chinese they will tell me to take a number and wait with everyone else. There are plenty of good places in China to practice your Chinese but the bank is not one of them!
- Another way to get VIP service at the bank is to open a VIP account. This requires maintaining a minimum balance. For Bank of Communications it's 50,000 yuan for silver VIP and 500,000 yuan for gold VIP. The higher your VIP status the less time you will wait in line. If you don't have 50,000 yuan or 500,000 yuan then just follow the first tip and speak English, you can get the same or better service 90% of the time.
- Bank interest is very low. If you want better interest and are willing to take some risk then ask the bank about "wealth management" products. They have all kinds of options for fixed term deposits with high interest. Some of them have guarantee your principal and other do not. I suggest only considering the funds with a guaranteed principal.
- Always use Internet Explorer when doing online banking or payments in China. Most online banking and payment processing in China use something called ActiveX which is a proprietary Microsoft technology and only available in Internet Explorer. Not sure what you can do if you use Apple. Leave your comments at the bottom of this page if you know.
Here are some links to English websites of banks in China.
Please leave your questions or comments about Chinese banking below.