One of my coworkers heard about my frustration when transferring money to America, so he suggested to ask for a hui piao at the bank. This is basically a personal check for any amount of money that you can either send to America for a friend or relative to deposit for you, or to deposit yourself by taking a picture with your bank app. No fee for this service.
I was hopeful again, went to the bank and asked for a hui piao.
“How much money do you need?”
“You can only buy 500.”
“But I need a hui piao. It’s different.”
“Do you have your tax certificate?”
“No. Here is my debit card and my passport.”
“For the hui piao you need bank card, passport, contract, tax certificate, and expert certificate.”
I go back to school to ask the coordinator for the tax certificate. She says the school can’t provide it, but we could go together to the tax office and ask for it ourselves.
“Do you have your passport with you?”
It is raining. We arrive at the tax building, but the gate doesn’t open. The coordinator gets out of the car, pushes all the buttons, but the gate doesn’t move. She asks a passerby and he indicates to go around.
Once inside, the coordinator shows them my passport and asks for my tax certificate. The woman shakes her head, “Méiyou” (don’t have). Other employers come, all speaking at the same time, repeating méiyou everytime they look at my passport and back at the computer screen. Another woman comes, she seems to have more authority than the rest. She speaks with the coordinator, “Blah, blah, blah, méiyou.” The coordinator tells me they cannot give me the tax certificate because they only give those before August. “But I’ve been in this country for three months, I have the right to ask for this document!” They send us to customer service. The man there does the same thing. Checks my passport, looks at the screen, “Méiyou.” However, he gives the coordinator a website where she can print my tax certificate from her computer.
Back at School
The coordinator gets excited. She says that from now on she can print as many tax certificates as she wants thanks to that website. This employee shouldn’t have given her the website information but seeing the desperation on my face he felt a little bit of compassion. She also says that having the tax certificate gives me the advantage of being able to buy as many dollars as I need to at once. She prints the tax certificate and I go to the bank at 4:00.
“I’m here for a hui piao”
“You mean you want a check from the bank?”
“Sorry, this bank is small. Hui piao is in the big bank.”
“And where is the big branch?”
She leaves and comes back with paper and a pen. “You can take the bus number… get off here… take bus number…”
“I’m not going to take the bus, I need the address so I can take a taxi.”
She writes the address in Chinese characters, I leave, then I hear, “Miss! Miss!!!!”
The lady says, “The big bank they close at 4:30, you have go tomorrow.”
The Big Branch
The next morning, I take a taxi that arrives at the Bank of China 45 minutes later. It’s beautiful, big, clean, and shiny. I take my number, fill out the hui piao form, and wait.
“You don’t have 1,000 dollars.” My heart drops.
“Of course I have more than 1,000 dollars!”
“I mean, you can’t buy 1,000, only 500.”
“I was told at work that if I asked for the hui piao I could buy 1,000 or more.”
“But you need other documents.”
“I have all the documents.”
I handle the passport, expert certificate, contract, and tax certificate.
“This tax certificate no good.”
“My boss printed this for me at school.”
“It doesn’t have the government seal.”
“No, because my boss printed it at the office!”
“And you need other document. We need see proof of salary.”
“Here is my contract, my salary is there.”
“Yes, but you need timetable, your money for every month.”
My voice breaks.
“I went to the other bank, this one is very far from where I live, they told me this is what I need, they never mentioned a timetable, the tax office didn’t give me this document because they only provide these before August, that’s why my boss had to print it at the office, I’ve been trying to do this for a long time, my contract says how much I earn every month, I don’t understand why I need something else, please…”
The teller turns to talk to her colleagues, there’s shouting, she nods (yes!), then she shakes her head (oh boy).
“Please, don’t worry. The manager come talk to you.”
A woman comes with a list of documents I need for the hui piao. I want to take it and put it in my pocketbook, but she says to take a picture. The only thing I could do that day was to buy $500 and put them in my Chinese account.
The Other Bank
I attended a birthday party that weekend and during the taxi ride I told my friends about my bank issues. One of them tells me I shouldn’t be doing so much and offers to take me to the bank she always goes to, where she’s been able to send much more than $1,000 at once.
Since I already bought $500, I just want to buy the other $500 and send the $1,000 home. Forget about the hui piao, with all that has happened I might not be able to make a deposit with my bank’s app.
That Sunday, I climb on my friend’s e-bike. The wait at the bank is at least one hour according to my number. We go shopping and come back, but the numbers haven’t moved much. They tell us about a new branch, since almost no one knows about it there’s the possibility it’s almost empty.
They were right. The bank is almost empty, but when it’s my turn they all start asking questions among each other, I hear the word méiyou and I start to wonder what now. They tell me to wait a minute, then ask me if I had another passport. One teller says they can’t find me in the system, we wait for about 30 minutes, another teller tells me there are two passport numbers in my account. My friend tells them it might be because another person opened the account for me. They tell me to come back the next day and I refuse. If they can’t find me or there’s another passport number it isn’t my problem, I am there to buy dollars and make a transfer, period. They keep working in the system. A couple of hours pass by. I feel sorry that my friend has to wait for so long, plus it’s Sunday and I’m supposed to be at church.
In the meantime, my friend asks them which documents I would need to transfer X amount of money at once. As she asks, she shows them and me the papers she has always brought to do her own transfers. I ask them if I can use the tax certificate the coordinator printed, and when they say that’s okay I think I might try to do this $1,000 transfer thing one more time.
After all the wait they say they fixed the problem and I am able to transfer the money to my American bank, but as soon as we leave the bank I break down. I’m a nervous wreck. The waiting, the banks, the mistakes, the coordinator, the tax certificate, the méiyou’s… I am exhausted!
A month later, having desisted from getting a hui piao, I ask the coordinator for the school’s letter and go to the bank determined to transfer $1,000 at once! The new bank is empty, I sit in front of the teller.
“I need to buy $1,000 and wire them to America.” The teller calls another employee. They both revise my papers. Lots of conversation. Lots of typing. Lots of “Sign here, please” and “Enter your password.” An hour later the transfer is finished! My e-bike friend has arrived a few minutes after me and makes her transfer much faster, but she waits for me to grab lunch together and gives me a ride home.
It only took me four months to get the right documents and the right bank (the banks here have different polices even if they belong to the same branch). And from now on I’ll only need to go to the bank once a month to send myself money to the United States! Yeah China! 🙂