Have you ever stood in front of an ATM in a foreign country before and unable to get any cash?
Knowing how to get money is a crucial part of everybody’s trip or stay in another country.
Thanks to networks like Visa or Maestro this issue doesn’t matter much to us in the West any more, but in fact, there are places where you will not be able to get cash so easily.
This problem occurred the first time I was in China, that’s why I want to inform you how to get cash during your stay here.
If you are staying in China for a longer time, you might also consider getting a Chinese bank card – information about that will be included below as well.
As mentioned in our article about smartphones you will need a Chinese bank account for Alipay!
How to get cash
Credit cards are a widely used way of payment here and many places accept Western credit cards. I personally have one with me as a last resort if something goes wrong and I urgently need money. Keep in mind though that you should always have more options at hand!
While Visa is widely accepted in a lot of banks around China, I was struggling a lot trying to withdraw cash with my Maestro bank card.
Even though getting money with a Maestro bank card is a lot harder, getting money at the ATM is the best and most reliable way how to get cash.
I don’t want anybody to run around China, desperately searching for an ATM as I did two years ago, so I recommend ICBC.
The bank accepts both Visa and Maestro bank cards and has subsidiaries and ATMs all around China. Additionally, ICBC does not charge any transaction fees so it is the cheapest option as well.
As far as I know the HSBC is also accepting Maestro bank cards but they have less ATMs than ICBC and also charge a service fee.
During my first stay in China I mainly wanted to rely on so-called travellers cheques, which can usually be ordered at many banks in the West.
I don’t want to explain this method of payment too much here because in the end I will have to tell you that Chinese banks don’t know them and therefore do not accept them.
How to get a bank account
The issue of getting a bank account in China is actually much more easy than you might think.
Most banks in China have at least one person who is able to speak English at a good level so you basically just have to show up and everything will be taken care of. Make sure to bring you passport and maybe a good book because this can take some time!
The choice of the bank is rather easy as well – banks in China have very strict requirements concerning the handling of deposits, at the same time no banks are really offering any interest rates for foreigners.
For this reason we actually only had one requirement when opening a bank account: It should be convenient.
As the closest ATM to our flat belongs to the ICBC, the place I get money with my German bank card as well, our choice was very clear.
By now we experienced a downside of a Chinese bank account, at least if you want to receive money from different countries on it. Chinese Bank accounts manage different currencies and therefore you need to transfer your money from lets say Euros into RMB “manually”. This whole process doesn’t take long but you have to come to the bank in person with your passport.
I hope this little guide about getting your money in China was helpful for you!
Leave a comment if you want to discuss or have additional recommendations!