There’s a bunch of posts online that will tell you about how to get set up with a Chinese bank account. I found some of them useful though most of them just complain about how getting a Chinese bank account can be so difficult, so I’m here to break that trend.
Getting a Chinese bank account just takes patience. That is to say, if you don’t speak Chinese then you need to bring along your big supply of patience when you head over to open a bank account, but really aside from your passport and the cash deposit that is all you need to bring.
The Chinese are really friendly and accommodating to foreigners. I opened my first Chinese bank account at CCB (China Construction Bank) using my very limited Chinese speaking skills, and Google Translate on my iPad. I think the process was way more grueling — requiring of patience — for the representatives but they were very nice about it. Oh yeah, I say representatives (plural) because if you’re not in a big city like Shanghai, Beijing, ChengDu, or even Xiamen, or Shenzhen then foreigners are very foreign and they’ll gather up a crowd.
Going back to opening a bank account, there is a bunch of paperwork that the representatives will help you fill out. It’s all in Chinese so you gotta be extra careful and have them explain everything — one should always be cautious about what they sign, right? There will be more than a handful of forms that you’ll have to “sign” — actually you just write out your name, a real signature will not be accepted. The Chinese rep. will stamp your documents and give you copies in the end. They will also need to make a copy of your passport and visa page that you will then have to “sign” so that they can file it away.
I ended up getting another bank account at ABC (Agricultural Bank of China), I am still happy with CCB I just wanted to check out this other option. The reps at ABC were even more helpful since one of them spoke pretty good English. The steps were similar to what I did at CCB. Both banks have Chinese only forms to fill-out, they both require to see and photocopy your passport, they both have an annual fee of 10 yuan, however CCB charges 30 yuan for their Debit Card and at ABC it was free. Though that might be because at ABC I also got, and paid for, online banking (30 yuan). In order to online bank at both of these banks you need to buy a special USB that you need to insert into your computer each time that you log-on to the bank’s website, so that you can log-on to your account. It’s suppose to be an added security feature — for me it’s an added hassled, but oh well. I got the online banking for ABC because they actually have their online banking website available in English, CCB does not.
And that’s pretty much it… In the end I spent about 2/3 hours each time I opened a new account. So it takes a while, but it’s not something that you have to do over and over again. Once you have your debit card you don’t really ever have to go back to the bank. You can deposit and withdraw money at the ATM — which is great because the ATM is in English. You can also withdraw money at any other bank’s ATM for a 2 yuan fee (within the province/city that you opened your account in). Oh, and one last thing, you can withdrawal money from foreign ATMs, if you’re abroad, as long as the ATMs have a Union Pay logo, the fee for that is 1% of the withdrawal amount plus a flat fee of 12 yuan at both ABC and CCB — it may be different at other banks.