Opening a bank account in China is relatively hassle-free. Familiar international brands and a number of local institutions are available. Both options have pros and cons, and the best choice depends on individual circumstances.
Many overseas students prefer utilizing the services of an international bank such as HSBC or Citibank, especially if they already have an existing account. International banks do, however, require a sizeable minimum balance or maintenance deposit, and ATMs may be limited in certain locations, especially outside large cities. International credit cards are also widely accepted. On the other hand, local banks such as Bank of China (BOC), the Construction Bank of China (CBC) and the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) etc. have ATMs all over, and require much less to establish an account.
Besides, as with many bureaucratic processes in China, the language barrier occasionally presents a problem. Information provided by banks is often written in Chinese, and asking for an English translation or bringing along someone who speaks the language might be necessary. Certain banks are well known among international students for their user-friendly and reliable English Internet banking systems, chief among these are ICBC and CBC.
>> See more details of several Chinese banks
Opening a bank account in China is a fairly simple process. There are a few things that each overseas student must remember, but generally, the process can be handled in an afternoon. Remember, when opening an account in a foreign land you must be vigilant to protect yourself against identity fraud---stay alert when handling the transaction.
1. Documents you’ll need: International students generally only need their passport and a small amount of currency to open a basic account, although some branches may require a copy of the applicant's visa or proof of residence.
2. Collect all of your documents and head to the branch office early in the morning. Be prepared to be patient. Opening an account for a foreign national may be time-consuming. Be courteous and have copies of all of your pertinent documents---you do not want to surrender any critical document (passport, visa) for an extended period. If possible, bring a Chinese speaker with you to help with communication.
3. Be prepared to only be qualified for a passbook savings account. These are the most common among foreigners. If possible, bring your cash deposit in a locked envelope. For specific deposit requirements, contact the bank prior to your visit.
4. Give the banking representative all of your personal information. You must provide a valid address.
5. Remember to ask for an ATM card. Chinese society is cash-heavy. You do not want to be saddled with a huge amount of cash at all times---a banking representative should be able to give you a temporary ATM card until your embossed card arrives.