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LostinChina Mar 27th, 2005 10:28 AM

Converting to RMB?
My local bank said they could convert to local Chinese money before our trip. Would that be a good exchange rate? Better than ATM in China? Then we don't have to worry about converting ASAP as soon as we arrive in China to pay tips, etc.

Also, originally we were told to use our credit cards whenever possible to get the best exchange rate. I also heard Discover doesn't work at all in China, but Visa will work. Is that true? Now, after reading the posts, it seems that charging is not the most economical way to go?? Better to use local money?


rkkwan Mar 27th, 2005 10:44 AM

The RMB (Yuan) is not a fully convertible currency, and it's import/export is somewhat regulated. I seriously doubt your bank can exchange RMB for you here.

Discover isn't accepted in China, and basically anywhere in the world except the US. It's useless overseas.

travelmug Mar 27th, 2005 11:56 AM

One time when I was in Shanghai, I ate at a restaurant with a VISA sticker on the door. When the bill came, I took out my Visa card, but they said they didn't accept credit cards! Another time in Beijing when I was making a purchase with a credit card at a large department store, their machine kept saying it was denied. Later I called card customer service to find out what was going on. They told me they did not receive any requests for purchase from that department store at all! Use credit card for your hotel, but RMB is best everywhere else. If you happen to stopover in Hong Kong, you can exchange for some RMB there.

LostinChina Mar 27th, 2005 01:21 PM


My bank said they could convert to RMB for me, I will have to double check that to see if they actually can.

Thanks for sharing your experience. Looks like local money is the way to go. I just didn't want to be carrying that much. Glad the hotels take credit cards.

rkkwan Mar 27th, 2005 02:11 PM

Thanks travelmug for saying what I intended to, but forgot. One can exchange RMB in Hong Kong. Probably Macau. But don't know about anywhere else.

dperry Mar 27th, 2005 03:40 PM

If you find you can exchange to RMB before you go, I would recommend it. We arrived in beijing mid afternoon, airport wasn't too busy. It took 1 1/2 hrs to exchange money - only 1 window was open, then clerk took break, it was crazy. I don't know what the problem is with using credit cards in mainland china, but we also had the same problems other posters listed.

Bchen Mar 27th, 2005 04:14 PM

Yes, you can exchange RMB outside of China. It is not easy to do, but a small handful of banks, and likely American Express, can change some for you. The rate is never that great (official rate is $US 1= 8.28 RMB). You will likely get 7.5 or there abouts when changing in the US and also probably pay a fee.

ATM's have rates varying from 8.18 to 7.9, with Citibank being highest, HSBC next and then Bank of China (other Chinese banks go even lower). But you get 8.28 when you trade cash at a bank window. And reduce the possibility of counterfeit money.

Credit cards are not widely accepted here, so outside of your hotel, are pretty useless. Any place that accepts them will charge you a 4% fee and , honestly, any place that accepts them is catering to tourists and over charging to begin with.

Where you want to be careful is in keeping your bank reciepts. The money is not easily converted back into $ or Euro, so receipts are a MUST!

Unless the hotels is arranging transfers, or if you are being met by friends at the airport, you will need cash on arrival. Taxis and local transport require local cash.

But you are right, there is NO tipping in China, in fact it is illegal to tip.

China is a full- cash society, so keep enough on you, but not too much that you won't be stuck with it at the end of your trip, or be mad if you get pick pocketed.

LostinChina Mar 27th, 2005 07:44 PM

Thanks for the "heads up". I'll have to ask my bank about the fees involved and exchange rate. Sounds like credit cards are not too useful. Is there one that is more useful than Visa? Sounds like credit cards in general are not going to help much. Visa said the charge is 3% overseas. Carrying a lot of cash appears a little risky also. Can you lock it up in the hotel safe when leaving each day?

I just thought anything we can get done before we go might be helpful. Once we are there, we lost the ability to communicate.


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