After just over two years (mostly) in China, I finally opened a local bank account yesterday. Why did it take so long? Who knows. I was told that I needed a resident visa (which I don’t have), then someone recently verified in the Bank of China that an account could be opened with a (non-resident) business visa if it showed stays of 90 day entries. Mine is only 60 day stays. (Since last November, China reciprocated with the USA issuing 10-year multiple entry visas to each other’s nationals. But unlike the previous one-year multiple entry China visas with 90 day stays, the 10-year comes only with 60-day, which is not an issue as Hong Kong is not far away and counts as leaving the country, even though it’s the same country). All that aside, I entered a local, yet national, bank yesterday with my passport, walked up to the teller window and opened a bank account. They didn’t even check for a visa. Five minutes later I was in the banking business with a debit card and a live account.
I now have two China bank accounts, although both have zero balances. I opened a Hong Kong bank account several years ago from New York. I had started a business with a partner so we needed a bank account. Since he was a premier member with this bank, we were issued a business bank account in the USA (since closed) and as part of the service, they opened a personal account for me in Hong Kong — with zero balance. For the last several years, they still send me zero balance statements every quarter. But that bank is in Hong Kong and I’m north of Shanghai, so another bank account was in order.
The impetus to open an account was ease of paying for prepaid cel phone service. Until now, when the balance on my local sim card gets low, either with phone or data, it requires a visit to the phone company office to buy additional service — somewhat inconvenient. Now however, once I fund the account, I can pay either automatically or with my new debit card through one of several smart phone apps. Yea sure, it helps also not to have cash hanging around at home — better in a bank where it’s (somewhat) safer.
They say, (they = weathermen) that it’s prudent to have an offshore bank account anyhow — not for hiding money (that’s illegal), but for diversifying risk and ease of access for traveling.
Regardless, I’m poised and ready, with two active zero-balance China bank accounts, to start using them one day — even if it’s to keep cel phone service alive. So I’d better stop writing blog posts, get off my ass and make things happen so I can start banking on those accounts.