Opening a personal bank account in China is quick and simple. You bring your passport to the bank and fill out a simple form. It takes 10 minutes. Like Hong Kong, you do not need to have a residence permit or a letter of introduction to open an account. There is no minimum deposit requirement and no service charge. You receive a bank book and an ATM card (there's a nominal charge for this).

The bank book acts as your statement (you will not receive statements by post). The ATM card can be used for cash withdrawal and as a debit card at supermarkets and major retail outlets throughout the country. However, the bank book cannot be used to withdraw cash outside the city in which your account is registered. Accounts are multi-currency (including USD, HKD, EUR, AUD & YEN). You can transfer a range foreign currency from abroad into China but you cannot transfer Ren Min Bi into China. Transfers from abroad take 3-5 days to arrive in China.

Banks in China have web banking services, but functionality is limited. You can check your balance, and in some cases, pay your telephone bill and make online transfers. Most (but not all) branches are open 09:00 - 17:00, 7 days a week. Note that joint-accounts and private checking accounts are not possible at Chinese banks. Also, with the exception of travelers cheques, foreign cheques are not cashable here. HSBC, Citi and Standard Chartered have retail banking outlets in China. Most foreign credit cards can be used to withdraw cash at the city's ATMs. If you intend on withdrawing large sums, ask your bank about the daily or monthly withdrawal limits.

Lastly, it's best to do your banking early in the morning. Queues at Banks can be long, especially on Mondays, Fridays and at the end of the month.

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