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CHINA mobile & banks during holidays


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It seems that most businesses are closed this week.

1. Do you know of any place open during the holidays where I can get a phone/SIM card in Shanghai (French concession)? Can you recommend a cell phone package with one of the carriers here? I was looking at china mobile. Not sure how these things work. Do I need to buy a monthly prepaid or something? I will be here for 3-4months.

2. I am also looking to open a bank account and everything seems to be closed. Do you know of a bank where I can get a student account? And would you recommmend depositing a check at a local bank or just try to deposit at my is bank using the mobile deposit option. 

3. Is it possible to connect my US PayPal to Alipay or one of the apps here to buy things? What is the best way to access my money from a US account? I was looking at Citibank which claims to have free transfers/withdrawals from a us citibank to a Chinese Citibank account. 


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I don’t gave specific Shanghai info but ...

1. You can just buy a SIM card and prepay but it works out as more expensive. You can look at the deals. As far as I’m aware if you don’t have balance on your account, the deal won’t continue so leave after 4 months shouldn’t be an issue. For example, if you pay 100rmb for 1GB of data and 500 minutes then it will deduct 100rmb monthly from your account. If your account doesn’t have 100rmb you won’t get the deal that month until you top up/add money to your account (which you can do multiple ways). You can look at China mobile or China Unicom. Little difference between providers but Unicom traditionally had better data plans.


2. As far as I’m aware no such thing as a student account. You just get an account. Banks will definitely be closed 4th and 5th. Likely have limited hours after that. Go for the bigger branches. 

Never heard of depositing a (I assume) foreign check here. I used travellers checks here in 2009/2011 and it was fine but a long, long process even then. Mostly because, each time, only the superviser had any idea how to process them. 


3. I’ve heard you can link Chinese PayPal to a foreign PayPal technically but it’s very difficult. I’m fairly sure Alipay can’t link to PayPal, especially a foreign one. Usually it’s easiest just to have an account in the US/home country that offers free or lost cost withdrawals abroad. Many credit cards have this with atm withdrawal. In the U.K. at least there are various “travel cards” that offer good value. Look into your own bank and how much it costs just to withdraw money. Otherwise, transfers between banks are fine but it can take a couple of weeks. It’s not that expensive. As you’re here such a short time frame you could potentially make one transfer. Make sure everything is exactly right at the US end or the Chinese bank will reject it. My middle name was missing on a transfer once and they wouldn’t accept it. 

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It has been my experience that ICBC is open 365 days a year. I think Bank of China is too.


Do not get a monthly prepaid phone plan. Just get a good plan and pay for it every month.


No student bank accounts, just get a regular bank account.


I believe some ATM’s in China allow you to withdraw money from an American bank for a fee. I have never heard of anyone depositing an American check in China. Citibank will charge you a high fee for any kind of money transfer from the USA. You cannot deposit money at a Citibank ATM in the USA and then withdraw that money from a Citibank ATM in China -- Chinese law expressly forbids it. (But you CAN do it with ICBC ATM’s, but the only ICBC ATM I know of in the USA that works is in New York City.)


Since you are already in China, perhaps the best way is to have someone in America send you money via a bank transfer. Or use Western Union to have someone in the USA send it to China, and then you can pick it up at a Western Union counter inside a Postal Bank in China. But I think there is a limit of $300 or $500 a week. (Make sure they spell your name exactly as it is spelled in your passport, including middle name if any!)


I think the best thing is Western Union. But only have $200 sent every week. Beware, Western Union is only person to person, not bank to bank.


Next time, just bring less than $10000-worth-of-cash (in RMB) in your carry-on luggage. That’s what I do.


By the way, the best place in China to exchange money is the Bank of China. There is a limit of $500 a day. You do NOT need an account at the Bank of China, just a passport, and they are open seven days a week.


********* Oops, I see you are from the UK not US. I hope that doesn't change things. *********


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Setting up a bank account in China is pretty straightforward. I have two and both times it just meant, visa, passport and living registration form  An easy way is to set up a USA bank account that has branches in China so transfer is pretty straightforward, but international transfers are pretty easy now-a-days from different banks. 


I always encourage people to have a chinese bank account, it makes life much easier as you can start to use alipay, wechat pay, use didi, rentabike schemes etc I almost never use hard cash now

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4 hours ago, NinjaTurtle said:


Do not get a monthly prepaid phone plan. Just get a good plan and pay for it every month.



I don’t understand the difference in what you’re saying. By monthly prepaid you mean like a contract? Otherwise what you’re saying sounds like the same thing. 


I have a plan thats monthly... but I need to “pay” every month or I don’t get that deal (like I described above). But I just make sure my account has cash and it deducts it automatically. 


I’ve only heard of phones on contracts (like is common in the U.K.) with relatively poorer students. 

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  • 1 month later...

Thank you all for the great input. This is going to be useful for other newcomers! 

I was able to get students accounts from Chinese banks after Chinese New Year: bank of China, icbc gave me a card on the spot free of charge Or with a small deposit. Merchant banks wanted to verify my identity and issued one within a week. Odd, thing I am from the us and got icbc for free, took a friend of mine from a different country to icbc and they said he would need to pay à certain amount (20 or 10??) and then when I questioned that, he ended up paying half the amount. Go figure.

Also some banks would only issue a student account if you go to a branch associated to the school (usually near the campus).

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