I started using online banking a few months ago because I want to check out the balance in my account (at the time I was in the US, there are no ATMs I can go check my balance). This is reletively simple at cmbchina, after you install an ActiveX control from the bank. Some open source guys are pretty upset about this but this is reality in China: Microsoft product is the de-facto standard.
One can do a lot things online besides looking at balance: transfer money to friend, online payment are two common applications. I did online payment yesterday. It took me a while finally I figured out: I need to move some money from the “checking acct” to the “online payment acct”. After I did that, I paid the stuff I bought at Taobao. Of course one advantage go online is saving the time spent waiting in line (at bank). Other tips to avoid lines is use ATM machines for deposit money (as I mentioned before).
From bank point of view, they are working hard to keep customer happy too. Both ICBC and China Construction Bank have initiatives to reduce wait time. Besides the customer experience, they want to cut the cost by encouraging online banking because of the cost difference: one visit to a counter costs the bank CNY 3, a visit to bank web site costs CNY 0.50.
Chinese banks still have a long way to go, as pointed out by Howard at his comments: there is no English forms for credit card applications; credit card is still not widely accepted because of the cost passed to the merchants. But as he also pointed out, China UnionPay is becoming big. It’s already being accepted in HK and southeast asian countries. Maybe one day it will becomes China’s own MasterCard or Visa 🙂