Therefore, having a Chinese bank account is crucial in organizing your payments be it for food, shopping, buying tickets or paying the bills. The first step is having your wechat wallet activated, allowing you join group chats of more than 100 people, using DiDi taxi, bikes, and food delivery service.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: BANK ACCOUNT
Article written and verified the 24 October 2018.
Now that you have a SIM card, next step is the opening of a bank account. In Tianjin, you won’t find many places to use your international Visa or Mastercard. Therefore, having a Chinese bank account is crucial in organizing your payments be it for food, shopping, buying tickets or paying the bills. The first step is having your wechat wallet activated, allowing you join group chats of more than 100 people, using DiDi taxi, bikes, and food delivery service.
The challenging question many of us have to overcome is the choice of which bank to use. There are dozens of banks to choose from, but one important criteria to consider is the location of the bank and the availability of its branches around the city. You can easily see the branches of Bank of China, ICBC, Agricultural Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Bank of Communications, China Citic Bank, and China Merchants Bank in different parts of Tianjin.
Three major banks:
BOC (Bank of China),
CCB (China Construction Bank),
ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China)
Opening an account in any bank may require you to overcome certain challenges including but not limited to rejection from the bank based on you being a foreigner and/or filling out the Chinese forms improperly. (not all banks have English-speaking employees). Please remember that the bank service will be different simply by branch around the city and will also depend on the availability of an English-speaking employee and their experience working with foreigners.
The process might be quite challenging and time-consuming. Be prepared to spend an hour or two in the bank. You will need your passport, an active phone number (they will call your number, or send you an sms code while you are there) and an address in China (some branches may require your beichaka, All you need to know about beichaka guide)
You will have to fill a form for registering a bank account and a form for tax information.
Then they will ask you to choose a 6-digit pin for your card.
Congratulations! You are now in possession of a Chinese bank account linked to a Union Pay card! You can now connect to and use a Wechat Wallet, link Alipay and buy goods on Taobao, pay for your Didi trips and order food to be delivered directly to your door with Elema and Meituan. Now, you can also pay for your movie tickets through Wechat, buy airplane tickets on Qunar and Ctrip and much more! (many of these topics will be covered in following articles).
Note: You might want to ask the employees of the bank to help you link your wechat with the bank card to avoid any misinterpretation from how your name appears in the bank documents and the further accounts you register. Banks sometimes have their own interpretation about writing your name: JOHN DOE, DOE JOHN, DOEJOHN, JOHNDOE Make sure your name appears the same in all places.
You should have a working phone number to apply for a bank card. A verification call / SMS will be done by the bank. Do not forget to update your phone number in case of change, Buy a sim card complete guide
Passport & visa requirements
Chinese banks will issue bank accounts to people who have valid visa and resident permits.
People who come to China on a tourist visa can not have a bank account per regulations (but some branches may be more fexible) .
Students, employees, family members who have resident permits in their passports can open accounts with most of the major banks.
Some branches might ask for additional documents such as a letter from your University or company where you are employed. This depends on the branch of the bank and there is no general requirement.
People on a long term business visa can open a bank account, but may go through deeper background checks.
In China, your bank account number is the same as your plastic card number. If you lose the bank card you will have to go to the bank and apply for a new card, linked to a new account with a new number.
You will need to update your banking info on all platforms if you lose your card and require a new one.
In China, the way your name is written is very important.
When you make banking operations such as a transfer, be sure names are spelled exactly as when you registered.
If you want to enjoy inter-banking with wechat and alipay, ensure all characters are written exactly the same between all bank accounts.
If ICBC has your name written as JOHN DOE and Bank of China wrote DOEJOHN you won’t be able to use both cards in Alipay or Wechat. So be very attentive in this regard.
Following the lastest regulations, all banks need to collect your tax number.
Students: You can provide your international student number.
Foreign tax residents: Your tax number back home (not paying taxes, doesn't t mean you don't have a number).
Chinese tax residents: Ask your company for your tax number.
Note: People who opened an account before the change in regulation are required to go to their bank of registration and update their information or hold the risk of having the account frozen.
When you want to receive money from abroad you need to provide the sender: bank account/card number, SWIFT code of your Chinese bank, your name spelled exactly as in your banking documents and the address of the Chinese bank.
Note: You will have to do the conversion after receiving the money in your foreign currency at the bank.
You can check the details about sending money out of China in our dedicated article.
You can use your union pay card abroad in a wide network of ATM's and shops seen at this link:
You may be able to pay in most shops abroad, but please note that following the last anti-laundering regulations, expensive article goods and luxury shops may only accept cards with your name engraved on it (mostly credit card).
Credit card or debit card
Getting a credit card is not impossible but is really difficult. You will have to prove to your bank your financial status.
You will have to at least provide proof of revenue or property. The banks might ask you to provide: working permit and/or resident permit and/or company license and/or proof of income from company and/or taxes invoices and/or proof of owned property.
Even after providing all requested papers there is no guarantee that your file will be accepted. And the people making the final decision are not the people you meet at the bank.
If you lose your bank card you will have to go to the bank and apply for a new account with a new number.
The balance of the old one will be transferred to the new one. You will have to update your new account/card information everywhere.
It might take up to 15 days in some banks. It is a good idea to put all your money in wechat before going to the bank, because if they cancel your card, your money will be blocked.
Note: If you have a Bank of China card that starts with the number 6 you can get the same account back within 7 days.
Each individual can only apply for one current account in each bank nationally. But you can open accounts in more than one bank.
Each bank has their own online banking system. But do not expect international banking services. They have to be done at the counter. Only local transfer services are normally available in the online banking.
Note: most of the banks will open internet banking operations only to residents with a work visa and a letter form their company.
In accordance with the last China banking law, any account sleeping (zero balance and no activity) more than 6 months will be frozen.
To unfreeze your account you will have to go to the bank. Make sure to use your card if you leave the country for a long time to not face this issue.
Following the last China banking law, banking roaming fees (using your bank card in the same bank of another city) in China has been canceled. Cross-banking operations will still have a fee.
Relocation from one country to another is a lot of trouble and TianjinExpats and FoxRelocation are here to help. We are launching a new series of articles to introduce the very simple, yet important steps everyone has to go through when moving to Tianjin.