ATM or Traveller's cheques in China?

Old Apr 19th, 2005, 05:18 AM
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ATM or Traveller's cheques in China?

Hi,

It's now 2 weeks until I leave for my 4 week trip to China. Still cannot decide whether to take traveller's cheques or depend upon my visa card for ATM's. I have seen lots of reports, but all with differing opinion's about which is better. At the moment I am leaning toward the ATM option and having some spare EURO just in case. Does this sound viable?

Many thanks, Laura
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Old Apr 19th, 2005, 05:45 AM
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I hope you mean to use your MAC card, not your Visa card, in the ATM. It may have the Visa logo on it, but I suspect you don't want to use the credit account, which would involve interest.

We spent 3 weeks in China, depending on ATM's. They did not always have cash available, but the next one did. Don't get to the point where you would be desperate. If you are going alone, some spare foreign cash in your pocket would be reassuring.
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Old Apr 19th, 2005, 07:40 AM
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I just returned from China and had an experience similar to Jed. I had no problem using ATM in some places,others were a problem and I was glad to have travelers checks.

As an example, in Guilin I tried 4 different ATM's at banks I had verified accepted my card and could not withdraw cash from any of them,although I could check my balance.

Travellers checks are easy to cash a banks and hotels. I recommend a mix of both.

Where are you going in CHina?
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Old Apr 19th, 2005, 11:18 PM
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Thanks for the answers.

Jed, you are right, I mean my ATM card rather than Visa.

LynnieD, our itinerary is pretty loose, we reckon that things could change while we are there, but at the moment it's - Beijing, Hohot, Pingyao, Xian, Kunming, Dali, Lijang, Chengdu, Lhassa, Shanghai, Beijing. Not necessarily in that order. We have changed things around so much I cannot remember exactly. If we have time we'll go to Guilin and Yangshou too, but as we really are not sure how we'll get on, we are going to wait and see. I'm not sure if we are trying to do too much in the 4 weeks, but we'll soon find out!

Laura
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Old Apr 20th, 2005, 05:11 AM
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Laura, I just returned from China two days ago. there were ATM's everyehere in Beijing, Xian and Shanghai. As those are walking cities so it was no problem, couldn't walk 2 blocks without seeing a machine. We brought some US$ with us, exchanged it at the airport upon arrival, and when we ran out just hit the machines. If you're going to non walking cities then you might like to have more cash in hand so you don't have to make special trips to find an ATM. Enjoy! Your itinerary looks great!
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Old May 6th, 2005, 06:58 AM
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Are the ATM's taking 4-digit pin number or 6 digit pin numbers?
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Old May 6th, 2005, 08:16 AM
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Some machines take 4 digits, some take 6. We saw stickers on some machines that told you how many digits were used. I think when deciding about ATMs or cheques people should consider these things:
1. Are you on a tour? My sister found their tour guide to be very helpful in stopping at places where ATMs were most likely to work, and helping them with backup plans. Alone, you may find it challenging to ask a taxi driver to take you to another branch.
2. What kind of hotels will you be staying in, and have you prepaid? We were using 3 stars, and most of them didn't take credit cards, so we needed a lot of cash. We had to pay up front for the number of nights we were staying, as well as an additional deposit (this might be because many rooms had a variety of merchandise in them, so they wanted some money in hand to insure that we didn't leave with a week's worth of free underwear!)and a key deposit. If you are staying in 5 stars you'll be able to use a credit card, and likely have an ATM on the premises. When the Sheraton's ATM didn't work for us, and we were out of traveller's cheques, they were able to give us a cash advance on a credit card (not a great option but it worked).
4. Where are you going? If it is to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong etc. or places on the well worn path like Xian, you will have a different experience than places like Hohot. Also, as the previous poster mentioned they had trouble with ATMs in Guilin, and we had trouble in Suzhou. So even places that get a fair amount of tourists may not be without challenge.4. How comfortable are you carrying cash, and will you be doing things that require much cash? We arrived in Huangshan with about $300 worth of yuan. The hotel needed a deposit of 1500 y, we paid for our bus tickets out of town for 225 y, admission to the mountain was 360 for the 3 of us, and cable car fees were 120 for 1 of us. So that $300 was gone in a flash. My husband and son considered staying at the top for a night, and they couldn't find a hotel that took credit cards and the ATM did not work. So if they had decided to stay they would have been using traveller's cheques. I'd rather have traveller's cheques for that kind of situation than have to carry large amounts of currency, but I know that others feel more comfortable carrying cash. People who have prepaid for flights, train tickets and hotels will have a different experience than those who are paying as they go. If you always look for an ATM while you still have a few thousand yuan in your possession you'll feel less pressured.
I believe that there are people who have no trouble and that there are people who do. Maybe it has to do with where they are, what type of card they are using (ours was with the Cirrus network). You won't know ahead of time which camp you will be in, though, so a backup plan is important.
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Old May 6th, 2005, 08:22 AM
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I used a 4 digit pin and had problems only in Guilin.
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Old May 6th, 2005, 08:41 AM
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Easy solution - bring enough cash- exchange at the airport keep it in your security wallet. I have beeni doing this for years- it works.
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Old May 6th, 2005, 03:24 PM
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ATMs generaly work in the largest cities, like Beijing, Shanghai, Xian. Also along the coast you'll have better luck using your ATM than inland.

I usually get a lot of Chinese cash from one ATM visit, then pay cash along the way.

You can always ask for very large bills (e.g. 100 yuan bills) and then, when in the interior or in a smaller city, go to a local bank and periodically exchange the large bills for smaller ones.

In some places they wouldn't even cash traveler's cheques - probably a language problem. Look at it from their point of view: would you exchange hard cash for a piece of paper you can't read?

ATMs generally give the best exchange rate. I've been through situations where I've had to pull together enough Chinese cash by getting awful exchange rates - never again.

I would suggest that, if you are leaving a big city, that you cost out how much you will need before you reach the next big city, then carry sufficient cash to last you for that segment of the trip.

Wear a moneybelt and keep most of your cash next to your person. Most of China is still relatively safe. Just use common sense.

Enjoy your travels!
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Old May 7th, 2005, 05:38 AM
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Thank you ToniL for all your comments. We are going to Beijing, Xian Chengdu Yangtze and Shanghai--the normal tour path. I had assumed and you confirmed that we would be at locations that there would be a lot of options. Because of your comments I think I am going to take a about $1000 in travelers checks (normally only take $2 -$300 and rely on ATM) Just to be on the safe side. I;ll get the money belt out of the closet and pack it.

Thanks for all your help.

Kathy
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Old May 13th, 2005, 12:17 PM
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Does anyone remember if an ATM withdrawl comes from you checking or Savings? I've used my ATM in Europe, but I cannot remember. I don't remember if there was a choice.

Thanks
Dena
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Old May 13th, 2005, 12:27 PM
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Take cash-exchange when you get there- keep it in your security wallet under your shirt- I do it all the time- the risk is minimal- yeah I know its radical- but hey it works fine!
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Old May 13th, 2005, 01:37 PM
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mn2ca - You are asked whether you want it taken from checking or savings.
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Old May 13th, 2005, 07:23 PM
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I was wondering if I can get Yuan in Hong Kong, I know that they use the Hong Kong Dollar, but if I could get Yuan there that would be helpful since my first stop in the mainland is Hongzhou. Thanks
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