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Wahed

I've read a few old threads and some online articles and I was wondering what is the best strategy in 2019 to approach banking in China

 

The main concerns are accessing funds in China  (ie ATM) and opening a Chinese bank ACC (mobile pay, etc.). ATM withdrawals are important for paying rent which needs to be done in cash (RMB) and the mobile pay options are for everything else. 

 

Issues for me include time limitations since I depart this weekend as well as a lack of local branch representation of the major banks that most travelers use such as BOA, HSBC, Schwab, etc. A bank that allows students to withdraw money from ATMs in China without fees is required. At the same time, the student needs to have a way to transfer money from his current local US bank to whichever Chinese bank he chooses to open an account with to utilize mobile pay options in China.

 

One thing I was reading about is BOA and CCB alliance. So, if one opens a BOA account then they can withdraw from CCB in China for 'free'. A problem here is opening BOA account (enough time?), wire transfer fees (no local BOA in Hawaii) and BOA now levies a lot of charges for what used to be free (currency conversion fee, account fee).

 

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/banking/wire-transfers-what-banks-charge/

From this chart, all banks charge a fee to wire money except Fidelity but there isn't a local branch here so that's not an option for me, unfortunately. 

 

I guess I could get a free Cashier's check from my local bank and electronically deposit it free to whichever bank I end up going with.

 

I also read about a Schwab account and that could work for the ATM issue but then again, I'm not sure that Schwab cards have the Unionpay logo on them. Some say a Visa/MasterCard logo is all that's required on a debit card but I know that to be false from direct experience. Even if the Schwab card worked, it still wouldn't solve the wire transfer fee issue.

 

This whole thing is confusing though. Any thoughts?

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NinjaTurtle

Wahed,

 

My bank is ICBC. I do not think they charge students a fee to withdraw from an ATM. But I am not familiar with sending money from Hawaii to China.

 

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NinjaTurtle

So you will travel from China to Nanjing this weekend?

 

I can only share this one piece of information. I have used Chase Bank, which allows me to withdraw money from my Chinese bank while I am in America. But there is a fee.

 

How much money are we talking about? More than $10,000? Usually I just carry cash in my carry-on backpack. It sounds scary but I have found this to be the best system for me.

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889

Far and away the easiest is to take cash out with a US ATM card from time to time then deposit it in your Chinese bank account. Credit unions in particular sometimes offer cards with no foreign withdrawal fee, apart from the built-in Visa or MC spread. Schwab looks attractive but they don't want customers residing overseas, and all those ATM withdrawals from China may raise a red flag, especially on a brand-new account.

 

Try to forget about wire transfers, unless you're talking big money.

 

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Wahed

I travel from the US to Nanjing this weekend.

 

Yes, it is over $10k but I don't think I'm brave enough to risk carrying that much cash on my person.

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889

You don't have time to set up a new US account and get a card.

 

Chinese banks will in principle take a USD check, but it can take a long time before they release the funds. And Chinese banks, especially BOC, can be fussy in the extreme and may well find some problem with your check.

 

Remember you have to declare cash on you valued at $10000 or more when leaving the US. And report your foreign bank accounts to the US government annually if they contain in aggregate at least $10000 at any time during the year. Draconian penalties if you don't do this.

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Wahed
1 hour ago, 889 said:

Far and away the easiest is to take cash out with a US ATM card from time to time then deposit it in your Chinese bank account.

I just read that there is a ~$15k annual withdrawal limit for ATM withdrawals for foreign cards.

https://www.thatsmags.com/shanghai/post/21912/new-limit-on-overseas-withdrawals-for-chinese-bank-cards

 

This same articles explains that there are mobile pay limits as well. 

 

1 hour ago, 889 said:

Credit unions in particular sometimes offer cards with no foreign withdrawal fee

I just called and this is the case for one of my credit union accounts. Nice tip, thank you! However, I don't have a card for this account and it costs $60 to have one made within 2-3 days.

 

From my calculations, it's worth it to pay the $60 and get the card expedited rather than use my regular bank card to withdraw funds. The daily withdrawal ATM limit is around $350 (2500 rmb) and I assume I'll need to pay about $7k for the rent upfront. That would be 22 trips to the ATM and about $77 in ATM fees since my current bank card charges a %1 percent foreign ATM withdrawal fee.

 

@NinjaTurtle I see why you carry cash now. Do you directly deposit it all into your Chinese bank account at one time? Aren't there fees associated with that also? There is also a daily limit for conversions, yes? (daily limit is $5k)

 

 

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889

That ATM limit doesn't affect use of your foreign card in China, only use of a Chinese card overseas.

 

Make sure to activate your new card before leaving, and tell the credit union there'll be large withdrawals from China.

 

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Wahed
2 minutes ago, 889 said:

That ATM limit doesn't affect use of your foreign card in China, only use of a Chinese card overseas.

The annual limit or the daily limit? 

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889

The limits in the story you linked. No relevance to you

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NinjaTurtle

Wahed,

 

ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT MORE THAN $10,000 USD?

 

You can open a US dollar bank account at some banks in China. My bank is ICBC (the biggest bank in the world) and it clearly shows how much US dollars I have deposited (zero). It allows me to have a balance in both dollars and RMB. They may allow you to deposit all your USD at on time. I don’t know. Ask them.

 

If you carry USD cash, have all your cash in $100 bills.

 

You are allowed to only change $500 a day RMB-to-dollars either way. Open a bank account at either ICBC or the Bank of China. (See which bank has ATM’s on your campus and use that bank. ICBC has a full-blown branch on my university campus, which makes things very easy for me.) There is no charge to open a normal bank account. Expect long  lines at an on-campus bank branch at the beginning and end of a semester. Expect the branch to run out of dollars at the end of a semester and get this taken care of a few weeks before the end of the semester. If you file for a new visa for another year, expect your school to take your passport for a couple of weeks (perfectly acceptable), which mean you cannot buy a train ticket, you cannot get on a train, you cannot stay at a hotel, and you CANNOT CHANGE MONEY during this time.

 

Change $500 everyday into RMB and deposit the money into your RMB account. There is no charge for this at either Bank of China or ICBC. In order to change money, ICBC requires you to have an account and a bank card. Bank of China does NOT require you to have an account in order to change money. Neither bank charges a fee to deposit money or change money or open a savings account. (Well, they do charge you a certain percentage when you change money, but all banks in the world do this.) I have changed RMB into $500 many times, and I know exactly how much RMB it will cost. The rate changes everyday.

 

By the way, large banks in China have black market money changers hanging around the front door. Do not use these guys! Do not stop to talk to these guys, keep walking!

 

I sometimes will change thousands of RMB into dollars. Here is how I do it. Let's say I want to get $4000 USD. I have to plan ahead. I get $500 USD every Saturday and then do it again on Sunday when I go downtown to the main bank. So, this takes me four weeks. I just plan ahead for it and it works out well. Get to the bank early, as a huge line starts forming soon after the bank opens on weekends!

 

Learn how to scratch US dollars to make sure they are genuine. Learn to spot the water marks on US dollars and RMB.

 

By the way, both RMB and US dollars have black-light marks! Go to Ace Hardware in America and buy a small pocket-sized black-light flashlight. Try it on some US money, this feature is very cool. 100 RMB bills have a huge black-light mark that no one knows about. (Well, maybe you don’t need a black-light flashlight because you will be changing USD to RMB, not the other way around. But this is very cool to show to Chinese people about RMB, so buy one and take it!)

 

How I carry cash. I carry the cash in my backpack through security at the airport. (They never open your backpack.) I go into a bathroom just after secutrity and I switch the cash into a “belly wallet” under my shirt just before I get on the plane. (I do not leave the cash in my backpack on the plane when I go to the bathroom in flight.) When I get off the plane, I do not head straight to customs and immigration, first I head to a bathroom. take the money out of my belly-wallet, puit it in my backpack, then go through customs and immigration.

 

At first I was worried about carrying thousands of dollars in cash in my backpack, but I have done it several times and I now feel comfortable with doing it. No one thinks people are “crazy” enough to carry that much cash in a backpack. But keep your backpack safely near you at all times!

 

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889

Save the trip to Ace! Anything like that you can easily buy on TMall/Taobao very cheaply after you arrive. Another good chance to jump right in with your Chinese.

 

As I recall, you also need to declare large sums to Customs when entering China. Don't be casual about it if you go that route.

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Wahed
1 hour ago, 889 said:

The limits in the story you linked. No relevance to you

The article mentioned both limits but I think you're referring to the annual limit.

 

Just to be sure, the ATM limits are:

per transaction - 2,500 rmb

daily - 20,000 rmb

 

I think I'll just carry some cash with me, open an ICBC account after I arrive and then deposit the funds in-person. Afterwards, for any cash I need, I can use the credit union card to withdraw for free since all Chinese ATMs don't impose ATM fees. Or if I get cold feet, between now and Friday about carrying cash, then I'll just do a wire transfer for a large amount. It will only be one time so the $50 fee shouldn't be that big of a deal. But then, I'll do regular processing for the credit union card and have a friend mail it to me in China when it comes in. 

 

This is sounds like a good plan, unless I've missed something..?

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889

I'm talking about your thatsmags link. Nothing there about ATM card limits concerns you.

 

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DavyJonesLocker
1 hour ago, Wahed said:

Or if I get cold feet, between now and Friday about carrying cash, then I'll just do a wire transfer for a large amount. It will only be one time so the $50 fee shouldn't be that big of a deal.

 

 

It's what I would do otherwise you will have to carry this cash around for a few days after you arrive

 To open a bank account you need an address and you will be searching for an apartment in the first week, right?. Can you use Nanjing university as an address? I wouldn't fancy carrying 10k around with me all day 

 

Although you will have to enough cash to pay the yearly rent and deposit. 

 

Seems the safest way 

 

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Wahed

@DavyJonesLocker Great catch! I do have to find a place first.

 

It will Airbnb for the first three days. Although, the rent/deposit is supposed to be paid all at once when I sign for the place. Our teachers said they will try to get us a 2-3 week extension since they've successfully negotiated this for students in the past. 

 

The ATM limits I posted above are correct, yes?

 

How long do wire transfers normally take? Also, I wonder are there balance requirements for ICBC or other banks in China. 

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DavyJonesLocker
1 hour ago, Wahed said:

The ATM limits I posted above are correct, yes?

 

Yes I believe so, it's a mainland regulation rather than a bank regulation it appears. I just checked my bank website and it also states  this.

 

No balance required as far as I'm aware.

I opened two accounts and had nothing in them for months before I got paid.

 

1 hour ago, Wahed said:

It will Airbnb for the first three days.

 

Remember to register with the local police within 24 hours. Don't over look this, China is nowhere near as sloppy in this regard  as it used to be . There is a lot of crackdown on foreigner going on across China. I had police turn up at my door twice wanted to see all documents. 

 

1 hour ago, Wahed said:

How long do wire transfers normally take?

 

Depends on where you are in the world, the bank etc usually from UK it's two or three days max now. If it's the same banking group it's the same day if done first thing (e.g HSBC). Time zones will matter of course .

 

Lots of people do just bring large wads of cash and no issues at all. I just prefer taking the electronic route. I paid my landlord via wechat pay. 

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mungouk

Bear in mind that once you have opened your Chinese bank account there will be a delay of up to a week before you can deposit money into it, due to recently-introduced background checks that they have to run on foreigners (or so I experienced in May this year).

 

I have accounts with ICBC and China Merchants Bank.

 

 

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Lu

I moved the discussion of registration at an AirBnB to a new thread, because it is an interesting topic that deserves its own thread. Feel free to continue that discussion here.

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