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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 Apr 27, 20, 8:39 am
  #196  
 
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Originally Posted by Deltus View Post
This could be a long shot, but does anyone have any positive experiences to share of reward credit cards in China? I guess I have a few general questions:
  • Is it possible for foreigners to open credit card accounts? Any particular requirements?
  • Would I need to open a normal bank account with whoever is issuing the credit card first? My Chinese bank account (as discussed earlier in this thread) is with HSBC. I'm thinking it would be a lot easier to focus on HSBC's credit cards...?
  • It seems common for credit cards to come as a double pack of UnionPay and MasterCard. I'm hoping I'd be able to link a UnionPay one to WeChat and AliPay and keep paying as normal using those apps, but is that being overly optimistic?
Unless things have changed, it's very highly unusual for a foreigner to have a Chinese credit card. I do have one (even though I left in 2016) as I was sponsored by my former employer with CCB where I also had my account. I always got strange looks when I presented the card to merchants especially if they had to use different machines for a Chinese card versus a foreign card. That may have also been because they used the UnionPay terminal as my card was both UnionPay and Visa.
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Old Apr 27, 20, 11:47 pm
  #197  
 
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Originally Posted by Deltus View Post
This could be a long shot, but does anyone have any positive experiences to share of reward credit cards in China? I guess I have a few general questions:
  • Is it possible for foreigners to open credit card accounts? Any particular requirements?
  • Would I need to open a normal bank account with whoever is issuing the credit card first? My Chinese bank account (as discussed earlier in this thread) is with HSBC. I'm thinking it would be a lot easier to focus on HSBC's credit cards...?
  • It seems common for credit cards to come as a double pack of UnionPay and MasterCard. I'm hoping I'd be able to link a UnionPay one to WeChat and AliPay and keep paying as normal using those apps, but is that being overly optimistic?
  • Yes it's possible. If you have a valid employment permit it should be straightforward.
  • While it is not strictly a requirement I have always had deposit accounts with the banks that gave me credit.
  • Yes it should be possible. But before you go out and apply for a credit card make sure the bank in question allows linking UnionPay cards to WeChat/AliPay using passport numbers. Some banks only support linking with Chinese identity card numbers. I have an HSBC credit card and it links just fine with a passport number but watch out for name order issues.
The HSBC Premier credit card has a reward scheme with a 10:1 conversion ratio to Asia Miles.
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Old May 29, 20, 8:30 pm
  #198  
 
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A family member will be doing a gap year in Chengdu (about ten months there). On a previous trip to Xi'an, he had to rely on host family members for AliPay/WeChat payments, so he is looking for greater independence this time around.

The group he is going with will issue him a Chinese smartphone once he is in-country.

We read a bewildering array of suggestions and advice regarding the best way that foreigners in China can handle banking issues. One source says it's getting harder for foreigners to open a Chinese bank account, others say it is no problem with an X1 or X2 visa. We have not applied for the visa yet, so I am unsure what kind it will be. Last time they issued him an F visa.

We have a few HSBC branches around here, so he can go to a branch if necessary; he is now over 18, so technically an adult. Can the collective wisdom of the thread clue us in? Thanks in advance.
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Old May 29, 20, 9:18 pm
  #199  
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Originally Posted by zippy the pinhead View Post
A family member will be doing a gap year in Chengdu (about ten months there). On a previous trip to Xi'an, he had to rely on host family members for AliPay/WeChat payments, so he is looking for greater independence this time around.

The group he is going with will issue him a Chinese smartphone once he is in-country.

We read a bewildering array of suggestions and advice regarding the best way that foreigners in China can handle banking issues. One source says it's getting harder for foreigners to open a Chinese bank account, others say it is no problem with an X1 or X2 visa. We have not applied for the visa yet, so I am unsure what kind it will be. Last time they issued him an F visa.

We have a few HSBC branches around here, so he can go to a branch if necessary; he is now over 18, so technically an adult. Can the collective wisdom of the thread clue us in? Thanks in advance.
1. I think he should pass on their smart phone offer. As long as his non-Chinese phone is unlocked, it should work fine in China as long as it is unlocked. By bringing his own phone, he can preload with apps before his trip
2. Getting HSBC accounts in your country and China might be a good idea because international transfers are pretty easy
3. However, he shouldn't have any problem getting an account at a local bank (with a much bigger footprint) on a long term visa
4. Personally, I use Schwab (because fees are close to nonexistent across the board) in conjunction with ICBC; I almost never have to visit ICBC branches in person, and the same is true with other big banks
5. I will note that some ICBC ATMs dislike foreign cards; whenever I encounter this issue, I simply find an ATM that works to withdraw from, and then go back to ICBC to deposit it in a CDM
6. I am not plugging ICBC over other Chinese banks; the criteria should be major bank, works with Wechat/Alipay based on passport numbers, and will actually give him an account
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Old May 29, 20, 9:38 pm
  #200  
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If he's going with a group plugged in enough to offer him a smartphone, then I suspect they'll be plugged in enough to be able to point him to a bank that'll open an account for him. So I wouldn'ty worry. Everyone knows that anyone spending time in China these days needs a bank account and access to Alipay/Wechat.

As for the phone, it's possible the phone they give him may work with a broader range of frequencies on data -- maybe 5G even -- so I wouldn't necessarily look that gift horse in the mouth.
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Old May 30, 20, 12:01 am
  #201  
 
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We greatly appreciate the way the seasoned folk here can cut through all the chaff to get us right to the wheat, so to speak.

Originally Posted by moondog View Post
1. I think he should pass on their smart phone offer. As long as his non-Chinese phone is unlocked, it should work fine in China as long as it is unlocked. By bringing his own phone, he can preload with apps before his trip
2. Getting HSBC accounts in your country and China might be a good idea because international transfers are pretty easy
3. However, he shouldn't have any problem getting an account at a local bank (with a much bigger footprint) on a long term visa
4. Personally, I use Schwab (because fees are close to nonexistent across the board) in conjunction with ICBC; I almost never have to visit ICBC branches in person, and the same is true with other big banks
5. I will note that some ICBC ATMs dislike foreign cards; whenever I encounter this issue, I simply find an ATM that works to withdraw from, and then go back to ICBC to deposit it in a CDM
6. I am not plugging ICBC over other Chinese banks; the criteria should be major bank, works with Wechat/Alipay based on passport numbers, and will actually give him an account
These days, do large Chinese unis typically have a student union-ish facility with shopping, food, and a bank branch or two?

Last time the phone they issued him was pretty good, from what I heard. No idea if it will be the same this time. (Different city, some unknowns right now.) It worked great for him locally but we tried texting it from our end and it never got through. We were good with that, however, because it allowed him to focus and not have to constantly deal with distractions from home. I'm pretty sure he got accustomed to leaving his iPhone in the host family's place when out and about, unless he was taking pictures. He uses a T-Mobile iPhone, which I believe has both CDMA and GSM radios it it, but regardless, it also worked well enough last time with the T-Mobile SIM card. I heard other kids with phones from different carriers had much less success with connectivity in Xi'an.

I guess we could try putting the issue phone's SIM into his iPhone, except for the aforementioned issue (being unable to contact his issue phone from outside China). His iPhone has not been unlocked yet, but I will definitely make sure it is unlocked and ready this time.

We appreciate the suggestion in re: Schwab and HSBC and will pursue that.

Originally Posted by 889 View Post
If he's going with a group plugged in enough to offer him a smartphone, then I suspect they'll be plugged in enough to be able to point him to a bank that'll open an account for him. So I wouldn'ty worry. Everyone knows that anyone spending time in China these days needs a bank account and access to Alipay/Wechat.

As for the phone, it's possible the phone they give him may work with a broader range of frequencies on data -- maybe 5G even -- so I wouldn't necessarily look that gift horse in the mouth.
I agree, and was thinking along the same lines, but saw no harm in asking proactively here.

He had a great time in Xi'an-- he said the food was great, and the Mandarin class was challenging-- and is really looking forward to returning.
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Old May 30, 20, 9:41 am
  #202  
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Originally Posted by zippy the pinhead View Post
We greatly appreciate the way the seasoned folk here can cut through all the chaff to get us right to the wheat, so to speak.
These days, do large Chinese unis typically have a student union-ish facility with shopping, food, and a bank branch or two?
I live quite close to Jiaotong University (Shanghai), and am unaware of such a facility there, but it's a moot point because banks and restaurants are ubiquitous throughout Chinese cities.

Last time the phone they issued him was pretty good, from what I heard. No idea if it will be the same this time. (Different city, some unknowns right now.) It worked great for him locally but we tried texting it from our end and it never got through. We were good with that, however, because it allowed him to focus and not have to constantly deal with distractions from home. I'm pretty sure he got accustomed to leaving his iPhone in the host family's place when out and about, unless he was taking pictures. He uses a T-Mobile iPhone, which I believe has both CDMA and GSM radios it it, but regardless, it also worked well enough last time with the T-Mobile SIM card. I heard other kids with phones from different carriers had much less success with connectivity in Xi'an.
I'm not sure when he was in Xi'an, but it might not matter whether or not your texts get through during his next trip because SMS is now ignored by many, if not, most...though I do still pay attention to the messages from my bank that come through immediately after I buy things.

I guess we could try putting the issue phone's SIM into his iPhone, except for the aforementioned issue (being unable to contact his issue phone from outside China). His iPhone has not been unlocked yet, but I will definitely make sure it is unlocked and ready this time.
If he likes his iPhone, this seems more sensible to me than optimizing a new phone. With respect to 889 about the possibility that the Chinese phone will be better, the iPhone might not get 5g, but it will certainly work quite well otherwise.

We appreciate the suggestion in re: Schwab and HSBC and will pursue that.
Upon further reflection, I don't think you should sweat the bank thing too much at all. @889 reminded me of my own experience as the director of a study abroad program; one of our main agenda items was to insure that all students were able to get bank accounts shortly after arrival. Schwab isn't super important. I just like it because when I pull money from it here in China (or anywhere), there are no ATM fees, and they don't gouge me on the FX rate.
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Old May 31, 20, 10:05 pm
  #203  
 
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Originally Posted by zippy the pinhead View Post
Last time the phone they issued him was pretty good, from what I heard. No idea if it will be the same this time. (Different city, some unknowns right now.) It worked great for him locally but we tried texting it from our end and it never got through. We were good with that, however, because it allowed him to focus and not have to constantly deal with distractions from home. I'm pretty sure he got accustomed to leaving his iPhone in the host family's place when out and about, unless he was taking pictures. He uses a T-Mobile iPhone, which I believe has both CDMA and GSM radios it it, but regardless, it also worked well enough last time with the T-Mobile SIM card. I heard other kids with phones from different carriers had much less success with connectivity in Xi'an.

I guess we could try putting the issue phone's SIM into his iPhone, except for the aforementioned issue (being unable to contact his issue phone from outside China). His iPhone has not been unlocked yet, but I will definitely make sure it is unlocked and ready this time.
Sorry I can't post links yet.

Specifically on the phone point: Apple has published a list of which iPhone models work on Chinese networks: "iPhone models supported by China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom's LTE, 3G, and 2G networks" [HT202909]
You can find the model of your iPhone this way: "Find the model number of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch" [HT208200]
For models after the iPhone X, Apple makes a version that is only for China, Hong Kong, and Macau. If your iPhone's model is not on this list, I would suggest getting one that is. I have an iPhone X model A1865 (I couldn't find much information about the A1903), which I bought on Swappa.

Texting *should* work if you turn on international roaming, but this is always flaky in my opinion. I'd use a messaging app (e.g. WhatsApp) and get a VPN for the iPhone.

Another option that would work for cell service is Google Fi. The reliability is decent, but the speed is not that good. This should work with your existing iPhone.

Are you doing this gap year through a university? The latest I've heard from universities (mid-May) is that they aren't sure if foreign students will be allowed to attend in the fall.
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Old Jun 1, 20, 11:29 pm
  #204  
 
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
I live quite close to Jiaotong University (Shanghai), and am unaware of such a facility there, but it's a moot point because banks and restaurants are ubiquitous throughout Chinese cities.
We located the campus where he will be and there is at least one HSBC branch not far from there. Possibly he will open an account here before departure. They offer a basic checking account with a $1 monthly maintenance fee, but we need to check out the terms and conditions more carefully. Schwab is still a possibility.

Originally Posted by moondog View Post
I'm not sure when he was in Xi'an, but it might not matter whether or not your texts get through during his next trip because SMS is now ignored by many, if not, most...though I do still pay attention to the messages from my bank that come through immediately after I buy things.
The host family had an apartment from which one of the Goose Pagodas was visible, and he attended classes at Northwest University. So he wasn't in the outskirts, from what I know. We just assumed that perhaps the phone plan that issued mobile was on precluded anything other than domestic communication, but we don't know, and neither does he. All we know is that the messages always failed to send from our end.

Originally Posted by moondog View Post
If he likes his iPhone, this seems more sensible to me than optimizing a new phone. With respect to 889 about the possibility that the Chinese phone will be better, the iPhone might not get 5g, but it will certainly work quite well otherwise.
Apparently the Huawei phone they issued him before had an inferior camera. Thus he basically carried both phones in case something could be photographed with the iPhone, and for his music. But, the program wanted them to have the Huawei for class and so their minder could contact them if needed.

It remains to be seen what they issue him. He half expected some kind of Nokia-like brick-- I think someone told him not to expect much-- and was pleasantly surprised that the issue Huawei was decent, except for the camera.

Originally Posted by moondog View Post
Upon further reflection, I don't think you should sweat the bank thing too much at all. @889 reminded me of my own experience as the director of a study abroad program; one of our main agenda items was to insure that all students were able to get bank accounts shortly after arrival. Schwab isn't super important. I just like it because when I pull money from it here in China (or anywhere), there are no ATM fees, and they don't gouge me on the FX rate.
He's been working, so he has a bit of money socked away. Last time he was using his debit card and eating fees for cash withdrawals. We saw this as a good opportunity to encourage banking wisely, learning about how banks can nickel-and-dime a person.

Originally Posted by gudugan View Post
Sorry I can't post links yet.

Specifically on the phone point: Apple has published a list of which iPhone models work on Chinese networks: "iPhone models supported by China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom's LTE, 3G, and 2G networks" [HT202909]
You can find the model of your iPhone this way: "Find the model number of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch" [HT208200]
For models after the iPhone X, Apple makes a version that is only for China, Hong Kong, and Macau. If your iPhone's model is not on this list, I would suggest getting one that is. I have an iPhone X model A1865 (I couldn't find much information about the A1903), which I bought on Swappa.

Texting *should* work if you turn on international roaming, but this is always flaky in my opinion. I'd use a messaging app (e.g. WhatsApp) and get a VPN for the iPhone.
Last time we were actually surprised how well the T-Mobile roaming worked on his iPhone (in Xi'an), and also the VPN. He said other kids commonly had many connectivity issues, be he did not. T-Mobile roaming seems to vary considerably in terms of how good it works from one country to the next, but it worked pretty good in Xi'an.

When we visit Korea, our MO is to rent a battery-powered WiFi hotspot. That has worked very well for us; it allows the whole famn damily to connect when we are all in the same location. We were wondering, can one rent or buy such as that in China?

Originally Posted by gudugan View Post
Are you doing this gap year through a university? The latest I've heard from universities (mid-May) is that they aren't sure if foreign students will be allowed to attend in the fall.
He is doing this under the umbrella of the US State Department. It isn't 100% certain yet. But he heard from a host family member in Xi'an that they were back to school a few weeks ago, so we are hopeful. Departure, if he goes, will be in August, and he will return in the summer of 2021, if all goes according to plan.

The cohort that was on this academic year program for 2019-2020 was brought home in early 2020, so we hope that there will not be a significant second wave, and he might be able to complete the whole gap year in Chengdu.
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Old Jun 2, 20, 5:26 am
  #205  
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Wrt as HSBC, I assumed you were planning on using the foreign account as a carrot to help open a domestic account. My HSBC HK account isn't any more useful than other foreign accounts here.
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Old Jul 14, 20, 8:01 pm
  #206  
 
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US Correspondent Bank

I may be needing to wire some money from my US bank to my Chinese ICBC account. My US bank requires the SWIFT code for my Chinese bank, as well as a SWIFT code for a "US Correspondent Bank". When I called ICBC to ask for this information, they didn't really seem to understand what I was talking about, and told me I only needed the info for the bank here in China. My US bank says that this definitely isn't enough info. I need to get a US Consulate Acknowledgement on my wire transfer form, so I don't really want to just try and see what happens if I only have the Chinese bank information.

Does anyone happen to know ICBC's "US Correspondent Bank" or the best way to ask for this information? Perhaps a Chinese translation of "US Correspondent Bank"?

Thanks.
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Old Jul 14, 20, 8:13 pm
  #207  
 
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Originally Posted by WFBtheV View Post
I may be needing to wire some money from my US bank to my Chinese ICBC account. My US bank requires the SWIFT code for my Chinese bank, as well as a SWIFT code for a "US Correspondent Bank". When I called ICBC to ask for this information, they didn't really seem to understand what I was talking about, and told me I only needed the info for the bank here in China. My US bank says that this definitely isn't enough info. I need to get a US Consulate Acknowledgement on my wire transfer form, so I don't really want to just try and see what happens if I only have the Chinese bank information.

Does anyone happen to know ICBC's "US Correspondent Bank" or the best way to ask for this information? Perhaps a Chinese translation of "US Correspondent Bank"?

Thanks.
Go ahead and try with just the Chinese bank info (SWIFT). I've never had a problem using just that and wiring to ICBC from the states.
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Old Jul 14, 20, 9:34 pm
  #208  
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Originally Posted by travelinmanS View Post
Go ahead and try with just the Chinese bank info (SWIFT). I've never had a problem using just that and wiring to ICBC from the states.
Agreed. I wire money directly from the US to ICBC on occasion, and the process from the US side is no different than any other international wire. That having been said, I only do this drill as a last resort because it is a serious PITA on the Chinese side (e.g. you actually need to go into a branch with your passport and fill out forms* in order to move the funds from your --pretty much useless-- USD account to your CNY account). I'd much rather spend 5 minutes at a CDM machine pulling money out from a US account and depositing to ICBC than do the above drill. If I wasn't in China, I'd Gpay money to someone I trust in China, and ask them to deposit into my account at an ICBC CDM for me (no ATM card is required for this).

*Our company also ran into an exceptionally annoying snag on an inbound wire to CMB recently. Basically our (English) company name on the remittance form was ~4 letters shorter than our registered company name (because the field on the remittance form wasn't long enough). This issue took a solid month, including 3 long bank visits, to resolve.
*A more frequent hold up is that when wiring USD (or HKD) to Chinese people, our company often needs to provide them with a letter (e.g. XXX is a contractor for our company.....) for them to bring to their bank in order to get the funds released.
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Last edited by moondog; Jul 14, 20 at 9:42 pm
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Old Jul 14, 20, 9:42 pm
  #209  
 
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
in order to move the funds from your --pretty much useless-- USD account to your CNY account).
This reminds me of something else I've wondered. While it's sitting in USD in my Chinese bank account, do I retain the ability to relatively painlessly wire the money back to the US if necessary? My understanding is there are limits on converting RMB into foreign currency, but just sending USD out of the country shouldn't actually be a problem?

Originally Posted by moondog View Post
I'd much rather spend 5 minutes at a CDM machine pulling money out from a US account and depositing to ICBC than do the above drill.
This would be on the order of 100,000USD so that doesn't really seem feasible to me, though I did consider it, hah. Also I don't want to mess it up and have it lost in the ether somewhere.
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Old Jul 14, 20, 10:21 pm
  #210  
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Originally Posted by WFBtheV View Post
This reminds me of something else I've wondered. While it's sitting in USD in my Chinese bank account, do I retain the ability to relatively painlessly wire the money back to the US if necessary? My understanding is there are limits on converting RMB into foreign currency, but just sending USD out of the country shouldn't actually be a problem?
I'm sure this is possible as long as you stay under the limit, which I believe is done as running total (i.e. any forex you wire in gets added to the limit), but I wouldn't dream of testing out these waters.

This would be on the order of 100,000USD so that doesn't really seem feasible to me, though I did consider it, hah. Also I don't want to mess it up and have it lost in the ether somewhere.
I did 50k once via the CDM method, and it honestly wasn't that hard. I simply called Schwab, and asked them to raise my daily limit to 51k for 24 hours. On the China side, this requires 70 withdrawals and 35 deposits. This took me about 25 minutes IIRC. I would certainly do the same again because even if the branch visit were to take less than 25 minutes, I find value in not having to fill out forms, answer questions, or possibly have the funds held up for reasons I could never have predicted.

About 10 years ago, our company needed 100k exactly, and our accountant split the inbound wire into two 50k increments to send to two different (non Chinese) employees. I assume she had a good reason for this.
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