My wife and I recently moved from Hainan to Guangdong province. I was hoping I would not have to open up yet another bank account, but hope is cheap. China Telecom could not use my Bank of China account in Haikou with which to open an ADSL Internet account in Guangzhou and the university could not use my Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) account (also in Haikou) with which to pay me: I had to open another ICBC account in Guangzhou. Okay, I’ve been in China for more than five years so I was expecting that.
My wife is also working and opened up a savings account at ICBC just a few days before I would venture to the local university branch today. I emphasized to her the importance of making certain she obtained both a passbook and an ATM card when she opened the account so that, in the event she lost the ATM card (which has happened before), she would have some means of accessing her money. For those who are unfamiliar with the wonderfully advanced banking system in China, if you lose your ATM card, the only way of replacing it is to have the account frozen for 10 days so that a new account can be opened to receive the transferred funds from the old one. You see, in China, the ATM card is yoked to the savings account: lose the card, lose the account.
When my wife returned from the bank, she informed me that she was emphatically advised that it is impossible to receive both a passbook and an ATM card for the same savings account. She questioned this but was simply told that this is the way it is in China. This didn’t sound right to me. In Haikou, anyway, you can have both if you request both at the time the account is opened (which is to suggest that if you do not request a passbook at the time the account is opened, you can no longer acquire one at a later time).
So when I went to the university branch of ICBC this afternoon, I brought a couple of students with me and made a point of asking them to request both a passbook and an ATM card for my new account. They both indicated that they didn’t think this was possible but could offer no explanation as to why other than “This is China.” Despite their reticence, I reiterated that I would appreciate it if they would try.
They did ask for both on my behalf and for reasons that cannot be answered by anyone, I was in fact given a passbook along with my ATM card. When I asked the students why they thought I was given a passbook when my wife was denied one by the same branch of the same bank, they responded in unison: “You were lucky.” So there you have it: I am lucky at banking in China.
I was watching the news earlier this evening and observed, with a certain amount of annoyance, all the excitement over this upcoming walk on the moon by Chinese astronauts. Seems to me that the billions of dollars that have been spent on China’s space program could have been put to much better use modernizing their banking system. Then again, I guess China doesn’t derive any international face by making life for those of us living in the Middle Kingdom just a little bit more convenient, not to mention predictable.