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A guide to banking service in Shanghai


When in Rome, do what the Romans do. When you stay in the city, you should have enough Yuan -- China's official currency -- to maintain your daily expenses, rent, food, clothes and incidentals. Though some may say US dollars are accepted in some places here, it won't be convenient for you to live your life depending on US dollars. You'll constantly be looking for somewhere to exchange your dollars for Yuan. Except some hotels, resorts or places only for foreigners, you cannot use US dollars or other foreign currencies directly in the city.

You can exchange the currency over the counter at some banks in the city. Of course, you can use your credit cards in most of the Shanghai shops, but groceries (bought in grocery stores), rents or other bills will be collected in cash.

As a financial center in China, or even Asia, Shanghai has a lot of banks and financial companies, both domestic and overseas, which may offer you a series of financial services. Their branches are available all around the city.

Banking Services in Shanghai


There are both domestic and foreign banks for expatriates to choose from. Foreign banks operate under stricter guidelines as compared to domestic banks. The two largest domestic banks are Bank of China (BOC) and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). Two international banks that are well-represented in Shanghai are Citibank and HSBC. Most banks offer the common services expatriates require, such as foreign currency exchange services, e-banking services, overseas and domestic remittance. Debit cards and ATM cards are also provided.

Banking hours are normally from 9am to 5pm, Mondays to Fridays, and open till noon on Saturdays.

In Shanghai, you do not need to have a resident permit to open a bank account. A tourist visa is sufficient. At the Bank of China, there is a small set-up fee to open an account, and a minimum deposit is required. An annual service charge, account transfer fees and service charges for ATM usage (5 yuan to 10 yuan) are common bank charges.

No bank in Shanghai offers checking accounts. Personal checks and checking accounts are not used in Shanghai. Checks are mainly reserved for business transactions.

Can foreigners apply for credit cards from domestic banks in Shanghai?

Only foreigners who are currently dwelling in the city can apply to credit cards from domestic banks. Foreigners can go to the counters of the five most prominent banks in China (Bank of China, ICBC, Agricultural Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Bank of Communications) among other banks or simply apply online.

However, you do need to provide your passport, and your residence permit issued by the Chinese ministry of public security, in which the period of validity is longer than one year.

The other documents follow the same rule as a Chinese resident applying. You need to be 18 for applying for the main card and 16 for the affiliated card.

Here are the main required documents:

- passport

- residence permit

- Certificate employment or work permit

- Proof of income

- Bank deposits certificates

- Income text payment certificate

- Motor vehicle license

- your bank account

-Telephone bill, water bill, electricity bill etc. for the past three months

 If you go to a bank to apply for credit card, you need to get a number for this service first at the doors and wait until your number is called. Then you can meet with someone who will help you.

Retail Branches and ATMs


Branches, sub-branches and ATMs are everywhere in the city, especially in downtown. You will easily find a dozen in the area where you live. If you use bank cards, you can deposit or get cash in Yuan everywhere and any time in the city. Some will charge fees for the services.

You can get the address of the specific branches or ATMs of your favourite banks from their official Websites, Google local guidance or just by dialling the customer service hotline.

Money Transfer


Things gettricky if you get paid in Renminbi (RMB) and want to transfer some of your earnings back home. First of all, you should obey Chinese laws. In some conditions, a foreigner needs to pay tax and some service charges.  Here are some of the documents and paperwork you need to prepare before heading down to the bank.

What you will need:

Passport with valid Residence Visa (and sometimes Residency Permit)

Employment contract original copy officially stamped

Tax receipts for each month of your employment (depending on how much you want to transfer)

SWIFT code of your bank back home (e.g. BARCGB22 for Barclays UK)

Bank account information for both sending and receiving parties (name, address etc.)

Sufficient funds up to the amount you have paid tax on (duh!)

What it will cost (other banks may vary):

Bank of China - 150 yuan service charge, 0.1% of the total to be transferred

Bank of Communications - 80 yuan service charge, 0.1% of the total to be transferred

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) - 150 yuan service charge, 1% of the total to be transferred

In the past only the Bank of China could make foreign transfers but this has been recently liberalised so most banks should now be able to provide telegraphic transfer services.

The Process:

Take all you documents to your bank who will take photocopies

Buy the amount of foreign currency you want to transfer (usually Dollars, Euros or Pounds Sterling)- this will be placed in your account; you won't receive any cash only a receipt

Fill in an application form for funds transfers (overseas). Be sure to enter your details very carefully otherwise your money could end up in someone else's account.

Submit the form and wait a day for the transfer to complete

Return the next day to the bank who will give you a receipt detailing whether the transfer was successful or not.

Last but not least, avoid illegal/black-market/unofficialmoney exchangers as you will probably get ripped off or worse.

It is advisable to consult the respective banks or the China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange for more details.Click here http://www.safe.gov.cn/for the official Website of China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange, which rules your money transfer from Shanghai to your designated place. An English version is available. Click here http://www.boc.cn/sourcedb/whpj/enindex.html to see the foreign exchange rates at the moment in English.

Contact details of the Shanghai Branch of the administration:

Address: No.181, Lujiazui Rd E., Shanghai 200120

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-11:30am, 1:30pm-5pm

Contact numbers:

General Affairs Department: 021-5884 5950

Balance of Payments Department: 021-5884 5000 Ext 5975

Current Account Management Department: 021-5884 5000 Ext 5663

Capital Account Management Department: 021-5884 5000 Ext 5958

Supervision and Inspection Department: 021-5884 5000 Ext 5969

Click HERE to check the taxing and social security policies in Shanghai.

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