China Money - China Bank accounts - Credit Debit Cards in China - ATM's in China - China currency conversion and regulations.

China Money - Foreign Currency in China

The currency of the People's Republic of China, issued by the People's Bank of China, is the Renminbi
(RMB, or currency abbreviation CNY, China Yuan)
The monetary unit of Renminbi in China is Yuan, the fractional unit known as Jiao. One Yuan is divided into ten Jiao.
Informally in China, the Yuan is called Kuai and the Jiao is called Mao.
The currency in circulation has ten kinds of value, 1, 2, 5 Jiao and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 Yuan.
Cash is more popular in China than Western countries. It is important to always carry enough cash and change to meet your daily petty spending i.e. buses, taxis, small items of shopping, restaurants etc.

China Bank Account

Foreigners can readily open bank accounts in China.
It was my understanding until recently that this must be a Bank of China account in the first instance. Apparently now, you can open an account at any bank. 
Most city branches, though not all will have an English speaking member of staff.
A passport will be required with a photocopy of visa page and information page and a small or large amount to deposit. A bank book can be issued with a bank card, you may need to ask for this.
Deposits can be made in various currencies such as RMB, US Dollars, Euros or UK Pounds. At some bank locations it is possible to deposit using the ATM.
Withdrawals must be in the same currency as the deposit.
Although it is possible to convert up to a maximum of 50,000 US dollars or equivalent in any one year into RMB.

Credit Cards, Debit Cards and ATM's

I have been asked many times if Credit and Debit cards can be used in China.
The simple answer is YES, in most cities.
The Credit card is becoming ever more acceptable in China, especially the main major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen. With the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, this year, this will also increase the number of outlets accepting Credit Cards.
ATM's happily accept Debit cards. I use Bank of China ATM's only.
Although your card will be chip and pin you will in nearly all cases be asked to 'sign for', do not let it out of your sight.
The main foreign Credit cards used in China are Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners Club, more are available. Check with your card issuer for usability in China.
If the symbols and logos of your Credit card or Debit card are shown on the ATMs, then it can be used to withdraw money.
They can be used in the majority of the larger hotels and some larger shops but not all cards will be accepted, in my experience VISA appears to be the most readily recognised and accepted.
Before you leave for China, notify your bank (for Debit card) and the credit card company that you will be in China on given dates. They should then flag your account and hopefully you will not have to many problems arising.
You may still find though on your first attempt at using in a shop or hotel it will be declined with the message 'refer to provider'.
Do not panic just phone your Bank or card company at your earliest.
Always have your card and bank contact phone numbers to hand and also the numbers to report lost or stolen cards.
In the Department stores Credit cards are preferred. There are numerous 'pay' counters scattered around where you pay for your purchases, these vary in what they will accept, it is worth pointing out to the sales assistant that you will be paying by International card, she will then direct you to the correct counter. Internet connections are variable and often slow in China and as these transactions require Internet connection, sometimes, you will not be able to use your card.

In summary, Larger Hotels, Department stores and restaurants will in most cases accept International Credit cards and ATM's will accept Debit cards and above all never let the card out of your sight.
Different banks have different limits on the sum that can be withdrawn from their ATM. Most allow a maximum withdrawal of 20,000 Yuan if the withdrawal is directly from a China bank account and 2000/2500 RMB if drawn from a foreign Credit or Debit card in any 24 hour period.
When the ATM's are empty of cash no indication is normally given, only that withdrawal was declined.
This can sometimes give a feeling of panic, don't worry, try another Bank of China ATM.

Worth noting. The reaction you might receive in smaller shops.
They will at first appear to accept your card and go through the process of purchase. It is usually at this point the machine will reject the transaction as the shop is not allowed to accept international transactions (only domestic transactions)
It is possible that the shop staff have never encountered this issue before and it will throw them into panic, probably resulting in your card being passed from one to another. Do not let it out of your sight.
It is likely at this time a member of staff will offer to walk you to the nearest ATM to draw cash - My advice - Don't.
At this point it would be wise to take your card and try elsewhere, maybe a larger department store for your purchase or return later with cash.

Currency Conversion

Foreign currency and traveller's cheque exchange services are available in most of China's cities, in the banks, hotels, airports and even the shopping centres.
All the main banks in China, Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction bank and Agriculture Bank of China have money exchange facilities.
Bank of China can exchange the following Euro, British Pound, US Dollar, Swiss Franc, Singapore Dollar, Swedish Krona, Danish Krone, Norwegian Krone, Japanese Yen, Canadian Dollar, Australian Dollar, Philippine Peso, Thailand Baht, HK Dollar, New Taiwan Dollar and Macau Pataca to name a few.
Some of the other banks only accept certain kinds of foreign currencies, you will need to check.
When exchanging foreign currency, a valid passport is required.
Remember to keep the receipt as you will need to show this if you need to convert the RMB back into your own currency at any time.
You may find money changers on the street, normally outside popular banks, do not use them, one, it is illegal and two, often the money they have for exchange is counterfeit or illegal tender.

China Currency Regulations

Tourists are allowed to bring in any quantity of traveller's cheques and or debit credit cards.
Only 5,000 US dollars or equivalent in cash or 20,000 RMB in cash is permitted on any one visit.
This is not to say that it is impossible to bring more, you will most certainly need to justify any excess and it must be declared at China Customs.

How much money can I transfer into China?

First of all, lets be clear, we are talking foreign currency transfer and foreign currency from a personal point of view. Business is a very different proposition.
With property purchase being the main reason to bring the large sums of foreign currency in on a personal level. Be it for purchase in your own name, jointly or another's.
The rules are quite simple and straightforward:-
First the simple bit, 50,000 American dollars or the equivalent in your own country currency in value in any one year, this is the maximum allowed amount of currency that can be converted into RMB. This is a Banking rule.
Now, there are exceptions whether official or not they do exist.
If you can prove it is essential (to purchase a property for instance of a value over the 50,000 threshold or alternatively it might be for the fitting out expense. It could also be for something like medical expense) to have more funds available in the one year duration period then your application may be successful.
This is by far the most sensible solution, the official way, as one consideration that needs to be thought about is the future? - What happens if you need to sell and get your money out and back to home country, it will be a lot easier if you have all the original official papers, in your name.

It is important to understand that it is at the currency exchange that any issues arise, by this I mean, you can have any amount of your own countries currency transferred into either your own or another's bank account here. It is when you try to convert into RMB that the transaction may be blocked, if you have exceeded the 50,000 dollar limit.
I do know that many have circumvented any restriction by having the excess amount sent directly into a Chinese persons account. But the same rule (50,000 dollar max in any one year) will apply to them also, it's the currency exchange that has the restriction.
Now at present, most get by with maybe two lots of 50,000 but with property prices on the up this may not be enough for much longer.

A further avenue of exploration might be to have the conversion done in your home country and then transfer in RMB. The most obvious disadvantage to this might be the conversion exchange rate.
For further information on living in China 


Pechsuk said...

Hi, Im going to naning, guangxi and I wonder about debitcard which has mastercard, is there mastercard for atm? And I also have just register in visa too, coz my senior told that there are visa in that town. Which one is popular or lot of using. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Can have problems using Mastercard at ATM displaying Mastercard symbol with 'withdrawal denied'. This is not due to lack of money in ATM, have used Greatwall card successfully when Mastercard declined. Appears that Mastercard only accepted in some BOC and Construction Bank ATMs.

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