Steve's China Blog

Friday, April 15, 2005

Banking headaches

This week I have been dealing with banks. China keeps pretty strict controls on their monetary supply, and trying send money out of China has been a bureaucratic nightmare!

All I wanted to do was wire a few hundred dollars back to the US. I went to the China Merchant Bank (CMB), where I have an account here, and it turns out they don't do wire transfers to the US. The only bank here that does is the Bank of China (BoC), so the next day I withdraw some chinese currency (RMB) from CMB and head over to the BoC. The only BoC branch that does wire transfers is in the center of town, so it takes awhile to get there. After I get there they say I need to exchange my RMB for US dollars, but in order to exchange RMB into dollars I need to have exchanged US dollars into RMB within the last 6 months, and I had exchanged traveler's checks instead of cash, so I couldn't do that.

But I could exchange RMB into dollars if I could provide a payroll statement, tax id number, passport, work visa, etc... So I left the bank and went to work. At work I asked for my tax id number, and was told that I could get that at the end of the month when I get paid. Then I figured I would ask the bank in the US if they would accept a wire transfer of RMB. They said, "Sure", so the next day I head back to the BoC. This time I took the bus, which is cheaper than a taxi, but takes twice as long to get there. I get to BoC and tell them I would like to transfer RMB to the US, and they say they can do that... as long as I have a payroll statement, tax id number, passport, work visa, etc... .

I figure, as long as I'm here I'm going to open an account here and start having my pay deposited to the account here. That way when I transfer money in the future I can cut the trip to CMB out of the ordeal. It took awhile, but I finally get an account setup. There's a bunch of services I want to add to this account, such as online banking, etc..., but I'm so tired of dealing with bankers that I figure I can do it on their website. After I leave there I logon to their website, which is in both english and chinese, except for the application forms which are in chinese, so I get a friend to help translate them and enter my information. Of course, that didn't work and now I have one hell of a headache. It looks like I'll be heading back to BoC next week.


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