My foray into money laundering

Sunday was a slow day. My body was still recovering from the abuse the night before. It was also raining cats and dogs in Shanghai, so it wasn’t a great time to explore the town. However, there were a few things I had to take care of, one of them was to get money on my Chinese bank account so I had enough funds to continue to use Alipay and WeChat pay.

In a previous blog I described how I got my Chinese bank account but the way I put money into it is a bit cumbersome. I use my US bank card at an ATM to withdraw physical money and then I use my Chinese card to deposit it on my local bank account. This has always worked but this time it didn’t. The culprit was a software change that required me to enter a 6-digits PIN code. My US card has a different length PIN code, and the ATM did not want to accept that. This put me in a bind because it’s the only way for me to get money in China.

I knew there were a few banks in the neighborhood, and I tried another. That bank didn’t accept US cards at all. Period. Somewhat desperate and thinking of other ways I could get money, I asked a friend of mine whether he could transfer some to me and I’d pay him back. While we were WeChatting about this I ran in to a Bank of China ATM and tried my US bank pass again. This time it worked, that particular ATM allowed a non-6-digit PIN code and I was able withdraw money. I then walked over to my bank branch and deposited the money.

I know that my “transfer” method is somewhat baroque, and I can probably just do a money transfer money into my Chinese account. However, I don’t remember the SWIFT code for my bank nor am I completely convinced the money would actually make it. Since I typically don’t need large sums, this method has worked well in the past.

Since this time around I need more money than I usually do (for travel, and I need a deposit for my apartment in Beijing), I figured I get into the money trading business. Because of Chinese’s closed banking system it’s difficult for folks here to get money out of China. I think you can only get $50K out per year and even that requires a lot of paper work. So, I offered a friend of mine that if he can transfer money into my Chinese account from his Chinese account, then I’m happy to transfer that same amount into his Western bank account. That way we can help each other.

I’ll figure out tomorrow if this works. I looked at my Chinese bank app and hopefully figured out the correct info I need to transfer money. My friend will try that tomorrow. If that doesn’t work, then I fall back to my more hands-on method of depositing money on my account here.

On my way back from the bank I walked through Nanjing Road. This is Shanghai’s premium shopping street with all the high-end fashion brands lining the street. Here it feels like COVID19 is a distant memory. Things are back to normal with lots of folks walking around, chatting, laughing and window shopping.

Nanjing road. Shanghai’s premier shopping street.

That evening I took the subway to meet up with a friend for dinner. I wanted to make sure that my subway pass still worked. It does and its a great way to get around. Especially when the roads are grid locked during rush hour. I have a transport card on my phone, it’s in my iPhone wallet, and hopping onto the subway is just a simple swipe. I didn’t even have to show my health code.

Update: My friend was able to transfer the money into my Chinese bank account. What’s more, it was there instantaneous. He WeChatted me that he had just finalized the transaction , I went into my app and it was there. No two day delay nonsense.

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