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Banking and Good banks in the PRC Discussion

Banking and Good banks in the PRC Discussion

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Old Nov 5, 19, 2:39 pm   -   Wikipost
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As of May 2019, this thread is closing in on its 9 year anniversary. A lot has changed during the course of the past 9 years. In particular: 1. WeChat Wallet and Alipay have risen to prominence, and 2. banking related security measures have become much more intense. #2 is especially relevant to foreigners in China because many --if not most-- banks are reluctant to open accounts for people on standard tourist or business visas.

The objective of this thread is to help people navigate these waters. Please feel free to add your own data points to the Google Sheet in the following link:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...it?usp=sharing

For an account of using HSBC Premier in China, see post 188.
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Old Jun 10, 19, 4:19 pm
  #181  
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Originally Posted by Deltus View Post
I have an HSBC Premier account in China, and haven't managed to get it working with WeChat or AliPay yet. However, I'm not yet living in China, and don't have a Chinese mobile number, so haven't tried too hard... If you do get it working, then do let me know!
Feel free to msg me in advance of your next trip to SH, and I'll be happy to attempt to help. I will note that is very hard for US citizens to get HSBC accounts in China/HK, but this is seemingly a good option if it works.

WRT sim cards, in the past I encouraged people to buy them in electronics markets or on the street, but the real name registration thing will bite you sooner or later (especially when setting up Wechat Wallet/Alipay). As such, find a Unicom store that isn't busy, and get one of their lowest priced prepaid plans; adding money (for talk time and/or data) is cheap and easy with Wechat (and, your foreign CC will work).

ETA: A lot of my friends use China Mobile because coverage tends to be better in 2nd/3rd tier cities, but I've been with Unicom for the past 5 years, and don't have any complaints. It also costs a little (i.e. trivial amount) less.
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Last edited by moondog; Jun 10, 19 at 4:27 pm
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Old Jun 10, 19, 6:06 pm
  #182  
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In the last five years or so, almost all those small stalls selling SIMs -- the ones with boards outside showing the available numbers and prices -- seem to have disappeared, leaving you with telco shops as the only real alternative. Keep in mind that often only the larger shops can register passports. Also remember that if there are problems down the road, like needing to replace or upgrade your SIM, you'll need to handle it in the same province, and sometimes the same city, where you bought the card.

Bear in mind too that numbers get re-used, and there's always a risk that your new number won't work someplace because it's already been registered. So register everywhere you want to register while you're in China and can deal with any problems.

Finally, both WeChat and Alipay have different versions of their apps that seem to get installed automatically depending on your phone settings and where you download them. To avoid problems, do a fresh download and install of the apps when you get to China and then set up fresh accounts using your new number (don't try to change exisiting accounts to a Mainland number).

(I've heard that Unicom can be fussy if you don't cancel a prepaid number and just let it run out of money and die. CM doesn't seem fussy in that way.)
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Old Jun 11, 19, 3:38 am
  #183  
 
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Originally Posted by Deltus View Post
I have an HSBC Premier account in China, and haven't managed to get it working with WeChat or AliPay yet. However, I'm not yet living in China, and don't have a Chinese mobile number, so haven't tried too hard... If you do get it working, then do let me know!
I have an account with HSBC China and it works on both Wechat and Alipay, using debit and credit cards.
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Old Aug 5, 19, 1:16 am
  #184  
 
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Just wanted to relate something that happened this weekend. When I opened a CCB bank account almost 4 years ago, I used my US passport and a mainland phone number. Somewhere in 2018, I no longer had that phone number since it was company supplied. My bank account was still working, but I'd get a message every time using the ATM telling me to that my phone number was no longer valid. I could still use the ATM to deposit money and had no impact using the bank card or my connected WeChat wallet.

This weekend, I went to the CCB branch to change my number as I'd gotten a new number a few weeks before. I wanted to set up Alipay, and in order to complete registration, Alipay wanted to verify the phone number with the one registered with the bank.

The change was successful, but I had to provide more information than when I opened the bank account. Specifically, they wanted my SSN (US federal tax id) and home address. I presume there is some requirement to now start reporting back to the US. They did not care about having my residence registration papers, although they did put ask for the hotel that I register with. They were also a little picky about my signature, as first I signed like I would back home as barely legible cursive. They wanted me to sign neatly, as in block letters as Last Name, First Name, Middle Name, like on my passport.
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Old Aug 5, 19, 2:29 am
  #185  
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The requirement to provide home country tax id number and tax residency status is psrt of CRS and applies to all foreigners, not just Americans. You can expect to be asked to provide this information on your next visit to your bank.
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Old Nov 5, 19, 9:58 pm
  #186  
 
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Originally Posted by Akiestar View Post
Bumping this discussion since something happened: my aunt (based in LA) upgraded to Premier so I'm now latched on to her account. She should be able to meet the minimum balance requirement shortly, and once she does, I should get the ball rolling on opening that Premier account in China.

I'm more than happy to be a data point on this if that's still required.
How did this go? I have HSBC Premier and interested to open an account in China.
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Old Nov 5, 19, 11:28 pm
  #187  
 
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Originally Posted by Wuxia View Post
How did this go? I have HSBC Premier and interested to open an account in China.
I went to HSBC in Lujiazui last July and they told me that it would be better to open the account in the U.S., since it takes them over a month to open accounts for Americans due to paperwork and other bureaucratic requirements. I haven't bothered trying since as my aunt technically hasn't met the balance requirement yet for Premier, but I might as well try stateside since they can (supposedly) do it.

If you're not American though, I imagine it might be easier. YMMV.
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Old Nov 5, 19, 11:35 pm
  #188  
 
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Originally Posted by Wuxia View Post
How did this go? I have HSBC Premier and interested to open an account in China.
I've done this recently - I was already HSBC Premier in the UK, and opened an HSBC China account before I left. It took a bit of effort, but I think it's still easier than opening a bank account once you get here. A few things to be aware of though:
  • Opening the account from the UK required a ~40 minute phone call and a half hour face-to-face appointment in the branch. They ask a few difficult questions like how much are you going to be paying into the account per year, but I don't think it actually matters what you say, so don't worry about it too much. (I've actually put in about 10% of what I told them, but nobody has complained.)
  • They said that they'd send my China UnionPay debit card to my address in the UK, but it hadn't arrived after about 2.5 months. So once I got to Beijing, they cancelled that one and sent a new one to my Beijing address, which was fine.
  • They sent a little plastic HSBC Secure Key to my address in the UK, which arrived fine. You'll need it for some online banking (especially when logging in for the first time, IIRC).
  • You need to nominate a specific HSBC branch in China to go to to pick up your PIN, once you have your debit card. So check which branch will be most convenient for you before you apply for the account.
  • You end up with two linked Chinese bank accounts - one in your home currency (GBP for me) and one in CNY. The idea is that you pay from your home HSBC account into your China account with the same currency, and then convert it across into your CNY account. HSBC seems to sneak a fee onto the GBP-GBP transfer though, so I just pay from my GBP Revolut account into my China GBP account, fee free.
  • You can only do FX transactions (i.e. between your GBP and CNY accounts) during Chinese "working hours" (9:30am-6pm Monday to Friday). If you're only converting small amounts at a time, you need to make sure you "stock up" before the weekend!
  • The loss on GBP -> CNY transfers between my two HSBC China accounts is about 1% off XE.com rates. When you make the FX transfer, you have 15 seconds to accept or decline the rate.
  • After everything is set up, your account won't work for AliPay or WeChat Pay until you activate your UnionPay card for online purchases. For me, I went to my local branch in Beijing and signed a couple of forms - the guy there spoke reasonable English and knew what to do.
  • If you're new to the Chinese payment systems (i.e. WeChat, AliPay), they need "real name verification", which requires details to match exactly with what you gave to your bank. Something to be particularly aware of if you have multiple passports (i.e. always use the same passport details that you have registered with HSBC, even if you enter China on a different passport). Likewise with mobile phone numbers - for banking purposes I still use my UK mobile number, even though I now have a Chinese number too. Having a dual-SIM phone really helps... And my "Real Name" for these purposes is what's printed on my HSBC China Debit card, which is [Last Name] [First Name] [Middle Name].
  • I've never tried converting CNY -> GBP, so not sure how that's done. As you'll have seen from this forum, it's a lot harder to transfer wealth out of China than it is to bring it in. I assume it's possible somehow though...
  • The HSBC China Android app is a bit of an odd one - there used to be a version on the Google Play Store (not sure if it's still there), but it wanted updating as soon as I downloaded it, and directed me to a Chinese app store for that, but it was simple enough to follow, even for a non-Chinese speaker like me (just hit the obvious big blue buttons). Once the app is installed on your phone it's pretty smooth (and mostly in English), although you'll still need your physical Secure Key for some transactions. There's no digital Secure Key feature yet like there is in the HSBC UK app.
Hope that's all helpful, let me know if you still have any questions about using HSBC in China!
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Last edited by Deltus; Nov 5, 19 at 11:42 pm
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Old Nov 6, 19, 1:54 am
  #189  
 
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Originally Posted by Deltus View Post
I've done this recently - I was already HSBC Premier in the UK, and opened an HSBC China account before I left. It took a bit of effort, but I think it's still easier than opening a bank account once you get here. A few things to be aware of though:
  • Opening the account from the UK required a ~40 minute phone call and a half hour face-to-face appointment in the branch. They ask a few difficult questions like how much are you going to be paying into the account per year, but I don't think it actually matters what you say, so don't worry about it too much. (I've actually put in about 10% of what I told them, but nobody has complained.)
  • They said that they'd send my China UnionPay debit card to my address in the UK, but it hadn't arrived after about 2.5 months. So once I got to Beijing, they cancelled that one and sent a new one to my Beijing address, which was fine.
  • They sent a little plastic HSBC Secure Key to my address in the UK, which arrived fine. You'll need it for some online banking (especially when logging in for the first time, IIRC).
  • You need to nominate a specific HSBC branch in China to go to to pick up your PIN, once you have your debit card. So check which branch will be most convenient for you before you apply for the account.
  • You end up with two linked Chinese bank accounts - one in your home currency (GBP for me) and one in CNY. The idea is that you pay from your home HSBC account into your China account with the same currency, and then convert it across into your CNY account. HSBC seems to sneak a fee onto the GBP-GBP transfer though, so I just pay from my GBP Revolut account into my China GBP account, fee free.
  • You can only do FX transactions (i.e. between your GBP and CNY accounts) during Chinese "working hours" (9:30am-6pm Monday to Friday). If you're only converting small amounts at a time, you need to make sure you "stock up" before the weekend!
  • The loss on GBP -> CNY transfers between my two HSBC China accounts is about 1% off XE.com rates. When you make the FX transfer, you have 15 seconds to accept or decline the rate.
  • After everything is set up, your account won't work for AliPay or WeChat Pay until you activate your UnionPay card for online purchases. For me, I went to my local branch in Beijing and signed a couple of forms - the guy there spoke reasonable English and knew what to do.
  • If you're new to the Chinese payment systems (i.e. WeChat, AliPay), they need "real name verification", which requires details to match exactly with what you gave to your bank. Something to be particularly aware of if you have multiple passports (i.e. always use the same passport details that you have registered with HSBC, even if you enter China on a different passport). Likewise with mobile phone numbers - for banking purposes I still use my UK mobile number, even though I now have a Chinese number too. Having a dual-SIM phone really helps... And my "Real Name" for these purposes is what's printed on my HSBC China Debit card, which is [Last Name] [First Name] [Middle Name].
  • I've never tried converting CNY -> GBP, so not sure how that's done. As you'll have seen from this forum, it's a lot harder to transfer wealth out of China than it is to bring it in. I assume it's possible somehow though...
  • The HSBC China Android app is a bit of an odd one - there used to be a version on the Google Play Store (not sure if it's still there), but it wanted updating as soon as I downloaded it, and directed me to a Chinese app store for that, but it was simple enough to follow, even for a non-Chinese speaker like me (just hit the obvious big blue buttons). Once the app is installed on your phone it's pretty smooth (and mostly in English), although you'll still need your physical Secure Key for some transactions. There's no digital Secure Key feature yet like there is in the HSBC UK app.
Hope that's all helpful, let me know if you still have any questions about using HSBC in China!
Interesting, I always heard that HSBC China wasn’t really working with domestic WeChat Pay and Alipay - you are saying you have complete access to the domestic QR code payment systems (including paying obscure small street vendors etc using Wechat Pay using your HSBC China premier account and card?)
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Old Nov 6, 19, 4:33 am
  #190  
 
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Originally Posted by sam.fan1988 View Post
Interesting, I always heard that HSBC China wasn’t really working with domestic WeChat Pay and Alipay - you are saying you have complete access to the domestic QR code payment systems (including paying obscure small street vendors etc using Wechat Pay using your HSBC China premier account and card?)
I think so, everybody I've tried to pay so far via WeChat pay has been fine! Haven't done anything that obscure, but I've done the "I scan their QR code" payment method.
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Old Nov 6, 19, 8:41 pm
  #191  
 
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Did you need a work permit to set up the account? I have a business visa only but have HSBC accounts in the UK and Singapore.
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Old Nov 6, 19, 11:51 pm
  #192  
 
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Originally Posted by Jeff Kerr View Post
Did you need a work permit to set up the account? I have a business visa only but have HSBC accounts in the UK and Singapore.
No, HSBC asked me why I wanted to open the account, but they didn't need to see any documentation to prove it. I might have showed them my UK passport, but it didn't have a visa or work permit or anything.

There's normally a £100 fee for international account opening, but it's free for Premier or £50 for Advance customers.
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Old Dec 3, 19, 4:56 am
  #193  
 
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Originally Posted by Deltus View Post
  • Opening the account from the UK required a ~40 minute phone call and a half hour face-to-face appointment in the branch. They ask a few difficult questions like how much are you going to be paying into the account per year, but I don't think it actually matters what you say, so don't worry about it too much. (I've actually put in about 10% of what I told them, but nobody has complained.)
I'm in the same position as you... with your experience, would you recommend that I open an account in Shanghai when I am there in several weeks, or should I phone up / visit a HSBC Premier branch in the UK and try and apply for an account?
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Old Dec 3, 19, 6:56 am
  #194  
 
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Originally Posted by YacozA View Post
I'm in the same position as you... with your experience, would you recommend that I open an account in Shanghai when I am there in several weeks, or should I phone up / visit a HSBC Premier branch in the UK and try and apply for an account?
I'd definitely try to do it from the UK first - the only thing I'd do differently would be ask them to send the debit card to a branch in Shanghai rather than risk it getting lost in the post.

Opening the bank account when you arrive instead probably involves all the same form filling, except you might be speaking to someone who doesn't speak much English and it will then take a few days/weeks to get a debit card produced and sent.
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