Credit Card Use In China and Thailand

Old Oct 16th, 2002, 10:55 AM
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Credit Card Use In China and Thailand

Do I need to get a "Visa" card for China or will "Mastercard" work just as well? I have a 4 digit PIN on my ATM card. Will this be a problem in mainland China, Hong Kong or Thailand?

Thanks for your input.
Old Oct 16th, 2002, 09:03 PM
Peter N-H
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In China neither card will work very well outside larger and newer hotels catering to foreigners, rarely in restaurants outside those hotels, save for a few smarter places in the very largest cities, and only in souvenir shops where prices are already far too high. There are Mastercard and Visa signs everywhere, and very many middle class Chinese now carry cards. But the signs usually mean only domestic brands of those cards are accepted, and the card mostly have 'Only for use in China' printed on them.

Both cards will work in a limited number of ATMs in major cities. Look on their Web sites for ATM locations in your destination countries, but in Hong Kong there are everywhere, in Bangkok at least they are common near better hotels and tourist shopping areas, and in China you'd be better to stock up on cash while in Beijing or Shanghai--even some provincial capitals have no machines accepting foreign cards.
If caught short in mainland China you can use your credit card to draw cash over the counter of major branches of the Bank of China, although this is much more expensive than using the ATM machines, where they can be found (4% commission to the bank, plus whatever your credit card charges you).

I've used both four and six-digit PIN cards in Hong Kong and mainland China, and a six-digit PIN card in Bangkok, but seen others use four-digit cards. I don't know if that counts as sufficient research, but I don't believe you will have a problem.

Peter N-H
Old Oct 16th, 2002, 09:15 PM
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I concur with Peter that ATM's (that accept foreign cards) are very, very, very hard to find in mainland China - with the exception of Shanghai. (And in HK you'll be fine). I also agree that they're typically only accepted by hotels, MAJOR and/or foreign restaurants, and OVERPRICED stores (Tip: if your store accepts credit cards, you're paying too much! The only exception to this I can think of is traditional furniture in Shanghai - there are a couple of reputable dealers, and although the prices are higher, you can trust that you're getting the real thing).

In Shanghai, ATM's that accept foreign cards are all over the city now. I would say roughly 80% plus of even the individual bank ATM's accept Plus, Cirrus, and other international network cards.
Old Oct 16th, 2002, 09:56 PM
Peter N-H
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I suppose I should speak up for Beijing. I can think off the top of my head of six ATMs accepting foreign cards within a ten-minute walk of the junction of Wangfujing and Dong Chang'an Jie. Almost every major department store frequented by foreigners has one or two, and there are four at Beijing's Capital Airport alone. It's not so bad in Beijing really, and I've already seen newspaper coverage suggesting that the number will soar in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, although that will no doubt be too late for Larry.

What is frustrating is the large number of machines around the country carrying the Cirrus and Plus logos which nevertheless refuse foreign cards. There are no working machines in many provincial capitals (Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan, for instance), none in some major tourist destinations (Chengde, for instance), and even none in some towns with a major foreign business presence, such as some of the coastal former treaty ports (Wenzhou, for instance). I didn't try in Hangzhou, but otherwise there's a complete drought in Zhejiang Province (immediately south of Shanghai), and yet fairly good availability in Fujian, the next province south, even in relative backwaters like Quanzhou.

I've actually long given up on carrying anything but an ATM card in China all the same, and only very occasionally settle bills in larger hotels with a credit card. The key to ATM use is to draw a fairly large sum in cash as charges are often on a per use basis, and to look to top it up long before it runs out. The Bank of China can bowl occasional googlies at you by shutting down its system for a few days for upgrades, and although this is set to change, it's only Bank of China machines, and only a few of those, which will work for you in most parts of China (Beijing and Shanghai both being exceptions).

Peter N-H
Old Oct 17th, 2002, 06:11 AM
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Larry, you have lots of good info about China and Hong Kong, I can give you some info on Thailand. The ATM card I carry has a 4-digit PIN, and I have used it easily (many times) in Thailand. Ther are ATMs almost everywhere in Thailand. Only in some small, off the tourist path places would you be unable to find an ATM.

In terms of using credit cards, generally, Visa is more widely accepted than Mastercard, but I don't remember having particular problems in Thailand.

Enjoy your trip!
Old Oct 17th, 2002, 06:44 PM
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My husband and I visited China in September 2002 and had problems finding an ATM to accept our card. We tried several machines in Beijing (at the airport and several shopping areas) and my card would not work. Fortunately, we had brought along a stash of US dollars in our money belts that were easily changed at our hotel. The nice thing is that no matter where you change money in China the rate is the same thanks to the Chinese government. We did get one ATM to work in Beijing - the machine at Citibank between the ChangAn Grand Theater and the Beijing International Hotel. We saw the Citibank sign from a taxi and asked the driver take us there. We were able to do two transactions back to back at the Citibank ATM which totaled about $500.

ATM's in Hong Kong and Thailand are no problem, but definitely bring dollars or traveler's checks for China.
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