In the United States, I was an enthusiastic user of online bill payment. Katie and I don't even have a bricks and mortar bank. In the 8 years of owning my online bank account, I haven’t gone through a single book of checks. In China, I thought things would be different. When I received my water and gas bills, I was dreading going to the bank to wire money or going to some water company office to pay in cash. However, a coworker informed me of a website called Shanghai Fu Fei Tong (open bill payment) (www.shfft.com). It was set up by the local government to make paying your most common bills easier. It’s not quite as easy as online banking in the US, but it’s not bad, and a lot more secure. Here’s how it works:
You need to register first – for some reason, this requires your passport number or resident ID. (Yet another reminder that China is still a communist country.) After you logon, you select the type of bill you want to pay and the company the bill came from.
Each bill you get comes with a barcode on it. You type in the number below the barcode and the amount of the bill.
Then you enter in your bank account information. I don’t know if all banks participate, but there was a pretty long list.
You enter the password/PIN for your account and hit submit. You wait a few seconds and then get a confirmation of your payment.
The service also allows you to check your mobile phone bill and check your bank account balance. In the US, my bank just mails a paper check to some of the companies that I am paying and I don’t receive a confirmation. I think maybe cities in the US could create something like this.