[written by a teacher on the ground in China]
Once you have signed the contract with your school, they will probably provide you a bank card for your salary. You will be taken to one of the big Chinese national banks like Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China or China Citic Bank or one of many others.
It’s convenient and easy to open an account at any of the above mentioned banks. At large branches of banks you will be met by a person who can speak English. Almost all the staff in banks speak at least some English. So, you will just need to take your passport and your working visa with you, police registration paper and wait for about 20-30 minutes until everything is done and then you have your ATM card. They will give you a PIN code together with your card, to be on the safe side it’s preferable that you change it at the bank.
When your account is opened you will also get a passbook and the bank card. The bank card is not a debit or credit card, it is strictly for withdrawing cash from an ATM.
Having a bank account is a really a good thing. You won’t have to take a lot of cash with you after you get your wages or if want to buy something comparatively expensive. You can pay with the card. Most shops accept these cards, so you don’t have to worry about it. It is completely safe, I’ve been using mine for two years now and never had any troubles with it.
ATMs are everywhere offering a large scope of services: withdrawing money, depositing money, transferring money to other accounts, and services. They operate 24 hours a day, except when an ATM runs out of money, which often happens here due to a large population. For this reason banks set limits on amounts of money you can withdraw at any one time. Usually these limits vary from 2000 to 3000 CNY. Usually you cannot withdraw more than 20,000 yuan per day.
Sending money back home is easy. There are three different ways to send money out of the country. You can transfer money through your bank, by using Western Union or with PayPal or any other international online payment service. Sending money through the bank is very costly, altogether you can pay around US$30-50 in fees.
I prefer Western Union, where you pay only about $15 for sending up to $500 and $20 for over $500.
One more good thing about your personal banking in China is that you can pay your utility bills at the banks and post offices, you don’t have to make a separate trip to each utility. I always go to the nearby small branch of the bank or post office to avoid wasting time in long queues.