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BabsB Oct 16th, 2008 10:19 AM

American Dollars in China
We are leaving for a 16 day trip to China. We are taking ATM cards and credit cards. Is there any reason to take American Dollars, in any demonination, with us?


rkkwan Oct 16th, 2008 11:10 AM

Bring some, in case the ATM at the airport is not working or the line is long.

Kathie Oct 16th, 2008 11:41 AM

Bring us $100 bills for exchange as you'll get a slightly better rate. I always carry a few just in case.

BabsB Oct 16th, 2008 12:04 PM

Thank you. So no need for a handful of crisp one-dollar bills for tips, bargaining etc.?

mrwunrfl Oct 16th, 2008 12:16 PM

No, no tips. Tip in the local currency anyway.

Just get take a few crisp $100 bills as a backup or expedient. As rkkwan suggested, if the ATM is broken or the line is too long then you can exchange one of the bills to get you into town.

I would take three $100 bills and expect to not use them.

mrwunrfl Oct 16th, 2008 12:17 PM

you'll be bargaining in yuan, not USD.

BabsB Oct 16th, 2008 12:20 PM

Thank you. I now have a plan. A few hundred dollar bills, my ATM, my Credit card for emergencies and a HUGE smile on my face. Leave on Halloween. Yahoo!

colduphere Oct 16th, 2008 12:31 PM

I suggest bringing the telephone numbers to call if you lose your ATM/Credit Card. It happened to me and it was incredibly stressful trying to find a public phone with which I could successfully place the calls to cancel the cards ... and I had the numbers. If I didn't have the numbers handy, I think I would have fainted.

PeterN_H Oct 16th, 2008 12:33 PM

Do just as little research into available ATMs for the system your card is on. Although there are plenty of ATMs that will take your card, there are also very many that will not. You cannot assume that any randomly chosen ATM will accept it, although if you are flying into Beijing or Shanghai you'll find plenty of choice. Look for the ATM locator on your card's website.

There is, of course, no tipping in China in any currency. But if you're on an organised tour you may find your tour company attempting to foist it on you.

Peter N-H

Barb65 Oct 16th, 2008 01:20 PM

PLEASE lets not go there again!!!!

Really? hundreds? I never carry them here. Will only the airport or large banks exchange them?

My list of what to take is getting longer! Thanks for the suggestion.

Babs - my DH is leaving that day also what is your destination? I leave the US on Nov. 4.

Have a great trip.

ekscrunchy Oct 16th, 2008 01:28 PM

I exchanged US dollars at my hotel when I could not find a working ATM. It does not have to be in hundreds, but often these bills carry a slightly higher rate of exchange.

Kathie Oct 16th, 2008 02:06 PM

You bring the 100s to exchange at a currency counter or a bank. Hotels will often exchange them but not at as good a rate. This is meant to be emergency cash, if you can't find an ATM, or their has been a power outage and the ATM doesn't work, etc. I usually bring home most if not all of the 100s I take.

Do make sure the bills are clean and crisp - no tears or marks. They must be the newest 100s - the big head multi-colored ones.

BabsB Oct 16th, 2008 02:57 PM

Yes, it will be my emergency money only. And if I am lucky and don't need to spend it, it will be the start of my next vacation fund!

I know to call the bank in advance of the trip and I also have the phone numbers available in a separate location if something were to happen to my cards and I have to call.

I will check the ATM locator, thanks Peter N-H.

Barb65 - we are going to Shanghai, Beijing, Xian, Yangtzee cruise, Hong Kong. (Don't tell anyone but we are going on a Smartour tour, mums the word - haha)

I am very excited....

Barb65 Oct 17th, 2008 04:34 AM

Mum indeed Babs! I won't even say what our plans are now. But getting so many helpful hints here.

We will also be in Xi'an and Beijing but until Nov. 11 - 17.

Thanks all for the advice.

ekscrunchy Oct 17th, 2008 05:33 AM

The dollar exchange rate at my hotel in Beijing was exactly the bank rate. It did not matter if the bill was new, as long as it was not torn.

Jed Oct 17th, 2008 07:48 AM

There is not a path in China that was ever trod by a tourist that is not lined by stalls that sell sundries at '2 fa dolla'. ((*))

BabsB Oct 17th, 2008 10:51 AM


I have found this to be true in so many places around the world. LOL

Shanghainese Oct 17th, 2008 11:45 AM

Babs -- Please check my thread on GTGs in China and see if any match your travel dates to Shanghai and Xian.

thursdaysd Oct 17th, 2008 12:43 PM

Jed - happily not entirely true. Absolutely the case for places like Beijing and Xi'an, but I found that further west there were places where any vendors were in the markets busy selling to locals. And at the Stone Forest outside Kunming, a very touristy place, the souvenir sellers ignored me and concentrated on the Chinese tour groups.

lollylo25 Oct 20th, 2008 01:54 PM

Just a word of caution:
I just spoke with my bank to find out if my ATM card was compatible with Chinese ATM's. It is a good thing I called, since I needed to "alert" them to my pending trip, so they could annotate my account! I was unaware I even had to call the bank before I left. She said there may have been a problem if I had not called.

thursdaysd Oct 20th, 2008 01:57 PM

lollylo - you also need to call your credit card companies. Fraud alerts will block both CC and ATM cards for foreign transactions if you haven't told the companies where you're going.

Nywoman Oct 20th, 2008 04:06 PM

Yesterday I had a lesson in foreign currency transactions in Beijing.
I have brought cash as well as ATM cards. Breaking my own habits, since as a rule I never carry cash when I travel but on this trip I have.

It was a very painful 30 minutes with a lot of back and forth. One of the $100 bills was rejected because it was not brand new, despite watermarks etc.

From now on it is only ATM's for this China traveler, saving the cash for Cambodia where dollar is supposedly king or at least currency used.

lollylo25 Oct 20th, 2008 07:46 PM


I was aware of calling my credit card company before I traveled, but not the ATM cards, don't know why I didn't figure that one out.

I was stuck for 2 days in Israel with no money (due to a very long story and Traveler's Checks) I don't want that to happen ever again!

Lolo12 Oct 21st, 2008 08:47 AM

I recently returned from China and had no problems at all at any ATM machines - I used them in Beijing, Chongqing and Shanghai. I know there were very few problems other people had at other cities (Xian and others). In addition, I brought $50 in ones and about $200 in 5s, 10s and 20s. I found I could have used more singles and less 20s.
I always notify my bank ahead of time that I will be using the ATM card. I do the same with my credit card companies. A short phonecall beforehand saves lots of time in hassles should there ever be a problem.
Enjoy your trip - it's a fascinating country.

thursdaysd Oct 21st, 2008 09:01 AM

What on earth were you using the singles for?

Jed Oct 21st, 2008 09:34 AM

For the stuff that is '2 fa dolla'. ;;) ((*))

PeterN_H Oct 21st, 2008 10:11 AM

>For the stuff that is '2 fa dolla'...

...and that would only cost ¥1 each (or nearly seven for a dollar) if paid for in local money. Someone once said on this site (I believe) that US$1 bills were 'so useful for buying Cokes' at tourist sights. The cost of a 'Coke' is ¥2.5 or so; less than one third of the US dollar value at the time, and still less than US$0.50 now.

People who wander round China brandishing foreign currency in the belief that it is in some way superior to the legal currency of that country perhaps deserve all the rip-offs they encounter. And if any vendor is eager to accept US$ you can be quite certain you are being ripped off.

The purpose of taking a few large bills in a major foreign currency (euros, dollars, or sterling usually best) is only for emergency cash exchanges where ATMs fail.

Peter N-H

BabsB Oct 22nd, 2008 07:25 AM

Thank you for all the tips. I appreciate it.

Barb65 - our itinerary is:
Leave Sacramento 10-31-08
Leave Los Angeles 11-1-08
Shanghai 11-2 to 11-4
Beijing 11-4 to 11-7
Xian 11-7 to 11-9
Yangtze 11-9 to 11-13
Guilin 11-13 to 11-15
Hong Kong 11-15 to 11-17
Back to Sacramento 11-18

A typical first timers tour to China and we am going to have a blast!

Jed Oct 22nd, 2008 09:41 AM

Indeed, Peter, I always found that it is best to pay in local currency. At the time we went, the $1 was about 8 yuan which we got at the ATM in the airport, and replenished as needed. ((*))

shelleyk Oct 22nd, 2008 09:44 AM

What a small world. I think we are on the same tour-China and the Yangtze River leaving on 10/31. We are flying out of JFK, so we won't meet until we arrive in Shanghai. If you see someone with an orange Fodor's bag, a souvenir of the recent Boston GTG, it is probably me, although it could be some else as I know the bag is being used by others. Safe travels and if we are on the same tour, looking forward to meeting you.

BabsB Oct 22nd, 2008 11:36 AM


Sure sounds like it. Our tour is with Smartours and the guide is Joy Zhou. I am traveling with my girlfriend and my cousin. How about you? Barb

shelleyk Oct 22nd, 2008 11:55 AM

I am travelling with my husband. See you in Shanghai.

Barb65 Oct 26th, 2008 05:44 PM

Babs and Shelley that is so great you are on same tour! Small world for sure. You leave this week - have a wonderful trip.

Sorry we are going some of the same places but different days. here is our schedule if any one else out there will be in the same places same days - love to have dinner or whatever.

Nov. 6-8 Nanning
Nov. 8-10 Guillin
Nov. 10-11 Yangshuo
Nov. 11-13 Xi'an
Nov. 13-18 Beijing


shelleyk Oct 27th, 2008 05:50 AM

Barb65-Thanks for your good wishes. I hope you have a safe and memorable trip.

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