How do I manage banking in China

How do I manage banking in China

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Exchanging Money - Traveler's Cheques - Opening a Bank Account 

There is no limit on the amount of foreign currency and foreign exchange bills that can be brought into China by tourists, but the amount must be declared to the customs.

Always exchange your money at any of the larger branches of major banks and make sure to have your passport with you. The bank charges a small fee for currency exchange, however it’s a lot less than the fee you would be charged at the airport. So it’s best you exchange as less money as possible at the airport on your arrival for petty cash that you will spend for taxi food etc. Right now banks and currency exchange offices buy your USD at 6.03 and sell you USD at 6.07. You can check current rates in general with and more detailed info with

Don’t throw away your currency exchange receipts, because at the end of your trip to China, you will need to show them the receipt in order to change back to your own currency at the same rate written on the receipt. I think though you can only exchange back half the amount of money you have exchanged earlier.

When in China, there are always people outside and inside the bank that will approach you and many would recommend avoiding them, but I rather find them safe. Any currencies can be changed from and to RMB at almost any BOC (Bank of China) branches by the money exchangers usually waiting in front of the bank or inside the bank. They work with the banks and usually give slightly better rates than the banks.

You exchange the money right there if front of everyone so I assume it’s pretty legal IN THE GREY AREA as these guys are doing business somehow illegally, but in plain sight and nobody cares really. You exchange the money right there in the bank and it seems nobody is even looking at you so I should tell you not to do business with them here, so I will. You shouldn't converse and haggle with them for the price, settling for something as close to the exchange rate as possible. Then, you shouldn't follow them into the bank to where his friend with a fat USD bank account waiting for you. And you definitely shouldn't wait there while they withdraw this money from the bank account, and you definitely shouldn't exchange with them according to the prearranged deal once the money is withdrawn. You should rather either get three documents that your employer probably doesn't have or go home broke. Catch my drift? There is actually quite a substantial black market for currency exchange that a recreant would seek out through word of mouth, but that you should avoid at all costs.

Under normal circumstances, you cannot legally change money to USD without your company’s permission for you, and even then you can only change a percentage of the salary you receive. If you have this permission to change money, your contract will indicate as much. At any rate, you need a bunch of documentation to prove that you can change money, including your work contract (聘任合同), your employment certificate (就业证), your passport (外籍护照), proof of taxes paid (交税证明), and your work unit application (单位申请). Your employer is the only person who can help you do this, and I would guess that most small employers don’t know the first thing about it though.

Credit cards are becoming increasingly popular, but it is rare to non-existent to find a shop, restaurant or supermarket or any kind of shops that takes foreign credit cards except major 5 start hotels. Cash is definitely king in China. Carry decent amount of small bills, as you will need them to pay cab drivers, etc. ATMs that accept foreign cards are few. Do not rely on credit cards to obtain cash. Almost all the ATM machines have instructions in English. This is easier than carrying a lot of cash with you at all times, but you will need cash for pretty much everything else.

Traveler's cheques are another option for safely carrying your money. Bank of China can cash travelers' cheques sold by international commercial banks and travelers' cheque companies in other countries and regions. However cash is still much easier to exchange. Yes, travelers' checks are meant to be accepted all over the world. But in China it’s usually too much of a hassle exchanging cheques you are kind of at the mercy of banks teller. So bring cash.

Like everywhere else in the world, China also suffers from fake money though recently it’s much harder to fake. Just be a little more careful with 100 kuai notes. 


Choosing a bank and Opening an account and Depositing and withdrawing money from your account

The four major banks are:

Bank of China 中国银行 zhong1guo2 yin2hang2,

Agricultural Bank of China农业银行nong2ye4 yin2hang2

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China工商银行gong1shang4 yin2hang2, we strongly recommand it if you want to use wechat wallet and alipay services

Construction Bank and 建设银行jian4she4 yin2hang2

I have had accounts at the first three of these four, and have not found there to be any real difference between them, although I think you can only convert currency (USD to RMB) at the Bank of China. The ATM card that is issued from any of these banks can be used at any of the others, but there is a 2 RMB service fee for withdrawal if it is not at your bank. I recommend just going with the bank that is closest to where you live.

Opening an account will be tricky without knowing Chinese, just to warn you. If there is a teller who knows some English and there's a good chance that there is, this will be a lot easier. But you can do it regardless. If you don't know any Chinese, you could print this up and show it to them. Fill in your address, phone number, amount deposited, and ATM card fee (the most will be 15 RMB at the Commercial and Industrial Bank. I believe it is 5 RMB at the bank of China). So give them the printout of the Chinese below, the money you deposit, a separate 5-15 RMB for the ATM card, and your passport open to the visa page.

That should be sufficient. They will ask you to choose a secret account number (mimao) of six digits (followed by the enter key in the lower right corner of the keypad). You will have to enter it an absurd number of times. Every time they give you a form (probably once for the account and once for the card), sign and date it. Every time the machine voice speaks to you that is what it's asking for. There is a keypad in front of the window to enter it that tells you ‘Please let me know your experience.’


Useful Phrases:

Bank of China (Zhong Guo Yin Hang) on Jiefang Bei Lu 中国银行 - 解放北路82

I have RMB, I want USD - 我我有人民币,我要美金 "Wǒ yǒu rénmínbì, Wǒ yào měijīn."

If I give you this much money, how much will you give me? - 我给你这么多钱,你给我多少钱? Wǒ gěi nǐ zhème duō qián, nǐ gěi wǒ duōshǎo qián?

Western Union -西联汇款 - Xilián huìkuǎn

I want to send money to America. -我想汇款到美国 - Wǒ xiǎng huìkuǎn dào měiguó.

I want to exchange ___ US Dollars for Chinese RMB. 我想换__ 美元成人民币. Wo3xiang3huan4___mei2yuan2cheng2ren2min2bi4. ?

I would like to withdraw money. 我想取钱.Wo3 xiang3 qu3 qian2.

I would like to withdraw (insert amount) RMB. 我想取__人民币.Wo3 xiang3 qu3 ___ Ren2Min2bi4)

I can't speak Chinese, thank you for your understanding. 我不会说中文,请多多原谅.

I would like to open an account. 我想打开一个账户.

I would like to deposit _____ RMB. 我想存__人民币.

I would also like an ATM card. 我也想要一个自动取钱卡

Thank you very much for your help. 感谢您的帮助!  

I would like to deposit money. 我想存钱. Wo3xiang3cun1qian2.

I would like to deposit ___ RMB. 我想存__人币. Wo3xiang3cun1____ Ren2min2bi4. 

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