How to pay for things in China??

Jul 17th, 2006, 10:59 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 98
How to pay for things in China??

We will be travelling to China soon to adopt a child. Besides credit cards, Is it best to take some cash to exchange while we are there?? What about those debit/cash cards (with VISA logo)that you can load with money before you go? AAA offers them. You can use them wherever they accept debit cards or ATMs.
LindaSus is offline  
Jul 17th, 2006, 11:52 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
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Congratulations on the adoption. Based on the purpose of your trip, you will most likely travel with a host who can answer this question.

In general, it's a good idea to rely on cash for all small expenses and only use major credit cards for hotels, some restaurants and shopping.

I had no problem using a VISA debit card in Beijing, Shanghai and other large cities, but you just never know.

Also, I heard debit cards do not offer the same fraud or loss "protections" that credit cards do. Check with your bank on that.
Lia is offline  
Jul 17th, 2006, 12:00 PM
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Because debit cards don't offer the fraud protection that credit cards do, I'd leave your debit cards at home and just take credit cards and ATM cards (I had my bank issue me an ATM-only card instead of a Visa logo debit card). It's always wise to take some cash to exchange just in case.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 17th, 2006, 01:44 PM
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What a wonderful reason to go to China. Congratulations. We always bring a couple of credit cards and an ATM card. You will be able to use your CC for all meals (unless a street vendor) and hotels, etc. Get some cash at one of the airport ATMs for pocket money. Remember, China is hosting the Olympics in 18 months or so, so they are really gearing up for a massive tourist explosion and have ATMs all over the place.

Obviously, your agency will let you know how to pay for everything related to the adoption (MD appt, Passport photos, passport, etc.)

One thing we find useful when traveling in Asia and Africa, is to bring US Dollars in both small and large denominations. Often, we have been able to use them to pay taxi drivers, small shopkeepers, street food vendors, etc. There is a strong black/grey market and the US dollar goes a long way...these shopkeepers can often get a better exchange rate than we can and welcome the dollars. At least that has been our experience. Plus, you can use US dollars in all the major airports at Duty Free or whereever.

Good luck.
taitai is offline  
Jul 17th, 2006, 06:32 PM
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US dollars may be popular in countries with flaky currencies, but you would certainly not put China in that category. I can see no reason why dollars would be more acceptable than local currency in China and (just me, maybe) using them also smacks of arrogance. So, why bother?
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jul 18th, 2006, 12:03 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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I agree that using US dollars is not the best way to pay for things. In 3+ years of living in Beijing I have never used US dollars to pay for anything. There are ATMs widely available throughout the city, which accept Cirrus, Star or Plus ATM cards. Credit cards are NOT widely accepted in restaurants, though your hotel will accept them. This is still very, very much a cash-based society, but luckily ATM machines are readily available! Congratulations on your new baby!
petitepois is offline  
Jul 18th, 2006, 05:03 AM
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Once again, just posting our experience. As I stated, bring an ATM card to get money to pay for all of your small purchases and CC for the rest. We also bring dollars and that works for us. Might not work for everyone.

When we give money to relatives there (we are Chinese Americans) we often give it in dollars. That is what they want. Once again, might not work for everyone. It is what works for us.

Happy Travels. You must be so excited.

taitai is offline  
Jul 18th, 2006, 05:11 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 163
Hi Linda:

I also offer my congratulations. How wonderful.
Having lived in China and travelled to many areas I know that credit cards are generally not accepted especially in small towns and areas. Hotels and travel agencies were the only place we could use ours.
It really depends on where you are. If it is Beijing where you will be then you may be able to use your cards more frequently.
We did use our debit card ,but rarely as sometimes we experienced problems with the ATM machines.
Change your U.S dollars to RMB and use cash for all your transactions. We bought some before we left home just for convenience. Exchange rates etc are not generally known so why put yourself or the vendor into a situation of stress. Perhaps savvy taxi drivers in Beijing will know the exchange rates but I doubt anyone in a smaller city or village woul and why should they. The RMB is the currency of the country. Carrying cash never posed a problem with us. Just use normal precautions and don't flash wads of cash around.
Good luck and I know you will learn lots of the local culture so you can teach your new daughter (I presume) all about her heritage.
keldar is offline  
Jul 18th, 2006, 05:42 AM
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The RMB is tied to the USD at a fixed rate, so there's really no big black-market for it, unlike 15-20 years ago. Some people may offer higher rate in order to launder money out of the country in USD, but I doubt it's worth the trouble unless you're exchanging a whole lot of money.

Like others have said, just change USD into RMB locally.
rkkwan is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 11:01 AM
Join Date: Aug 2006
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We were just in China. We only brought 100 USD on the plane with us. We were able to use our Bank of America ATM card with no problem in Beijing and Shanghai.

We were hoping to our AMEX card but aside from hotels and some nicer restaurants, almost everything else was transacted in cash.

We also refrained from using VISA/MC since most charge a fee for international charges - it's REALLY annoying; we found out the hard way last year in Spain. Only AMEX doesn't charge this fee.
mochao is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 11:05 AM
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AmEx also charges a fee for exchange. It is typically 2% while most bank cards charge 3%
Kathie is offline  

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