Paying the bills in Shanghai – a first person account of bill payment and banking in China

by Erin McCune on July 20, 2007

in Banking


(photo courtesy of the New York Times)

Today's New York Times features one of an occasional series on living overseas. I read these avidly with nostalgia for my expat past. The article today is about a New Yorker who relocates to Shanghai. She describes how she pays her bills:

AS I thought about my plumbing, it occurred to me that I had no idea how to pay my water bill. I had a bank account, but there are no checks in China.

Having money and regularly using banks is still new here, and the banks are reorganizing and trying to cope. My rental agent told me to take my bills to the post office or a convenience store, both of which are open seven days a week, as are many banks. I pay my water, electricity, cable, DSL and phone bills in cash.

Once I forgot to pay the water bill and the water was turned off immediately, but unlike in New York, it was turned back on immediately — with no penalty — as soon as I paid.

Most other bills in Shanghai are paid up front, even for meals in many restaurants. Many people use debit cards instead of cash. Credit cards were recently introduced, and just last week banks announced that they will issue and accept checks, but only for people’s wages.

When I go to the bank, I take a number and sit on a metal bench until my number is flashed. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours. The tellers do everything from opening accounts to regular transactions, and each step requires a sealing with a chop — a name stamp — which is very time consuming.

Read the whole article (and view the pictures):

At Home Abroad
Settling Down in a City in Motion
Published: July 19, 2007
The New York Times

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