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Carrying Foreign Cash or relying on ATM in China

London
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Carrying Foreign Cash or relying on ATM in China

Hi - we are planning a 3 week trip to China soon (Xian and Beijing) and am wondering the best way to organize currency during the time we are there.

Would we be best to rely on withdrawing RMB from ATMs when we are there or to carry foreign currency and change at local banks as and when the need arises?

We plan to get some RMB changed from our local bank here (no fees) before we depart the UK for China as a start.

Any advice is appreciated.

Dublin, California
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1. Re: Carrying Foreign Cash or relying on ATM in China

See the top item on the right side of this page, under "Money Issues". Best is to withdraw from ATM's throughout China. Carry two different ATM cards just in case one gets damaged. Be sure to tell your bank that you'll be using the card in China.

When you say "RMB changed from our local bank (no fees)", what is the exchange rate they are offering? That is where they make their money off you.

London
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2. Re: Carrying Foreign Cash or relying on ATM in China

8.95 RMB to a British Pound as of 14-March which looked reasonable. Wasn't planning to change a lot. Thanks for the tip.

Sherbrooke, Canada
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3. Re: Carrying Foreign Cash or relying on ATM in China

Just get enough RMB to get you going as the exchange will be better using the ATM or exchanging in China. ATMs are everywhere in China. There are also many at the airport.

Christchurch, New...
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for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
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4. Re: Carrying Foreign Cash or relying on ATM in China

That is a terrible exchange rate AFAIK. My British friends work on 10 RMB to the pound. You should get a better rate at an ATM.

Wellington, New...
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5. Re: Carrying Foreign Cash or relying on ATM in China

We easily found ATMs and the rate was heaps better.

Essex England
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6. Re: Carrying Foreign Cash or relying on ATM in China

I've just returned from China visiting Beijing and Xi'an and I had nothing but trouble trying to use ATM's. They don't always give you any money. The majority of the ATM's I used simply returned my card. In addition many of the ATM's have their own maximum that they allow you to withdraw irrespective of your daily card limit. After a few days I realised that I could put my card into the same ATM several times and eventually withdraw my daily limit. One ATM had a limit of only 1000 yuan. On another occasion I was unable to withdraw any cash one day despite visiting 7 different ATM's. It seems a very random and unreliable system. I tried 3 different cards one day on all 7 ATM's. The following day I got cash first time of trying. It caused nothing but anxiety for me and I won't rely on a cash from an ATM in China again.

Blueys Beach...
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7. Re: Carrying Foreign Cash or relying on ATM in China

You should be ok using ATMs in Xian and Beijing. We always use ATMs for cash when we travel anywhere in the world. I agree that Chinese machines have a low limit for withdrawals and we need a machine that accepts Cirrus or Plus. We got caught at Changsha airport when we flew from Sydney to Changsha via Hong Kong. There was no "International ATM" at the airport and the currency exchange machine did not accept Australian dollars. We had to take a taxi with no money to pay and get him to wait while we (luckily) used the ATM at our hotel. We could not explain to the taxi driver because we don't speak Chinese!

We have travelled widely in China and have never had a problem getting money until Changsha! Even used an ATM in Songpan! If you are flying in to Beijing use the ATM at the airport when you arrive. For those doing strange itineraries like me take enough cash for your first taxi! :-)

Christchurch, New...
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8. Re: Carrying Foreign Cash or relying on ATM in China

Tappy Feet, it is not a "system", rather the result of different banks having different rules. In the UK one company owns all the ATMs so you don't have that issue. Each bank determines the maximum withdrawal per transaction based on resupplying .. It is usually 2500- 3000 these days. Certainly 1000 is unusual. However ATMs running out of money is common because China is still very much a cash economy. My unversity bank ATM is always out of money on Monday mornings until resupplied.

Sherbrooke, Canada
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9. Re: Carrying Foreign Cash or relying on ATM in China

I don't know how many 100s of times I have used ATMs in China and never had the problems that Tappy Feet had. Never heard of a 1000RMB limit either. All banks and ATMs are parts of networks that can be found on the back of your card as well as on most ATM machines. Possibly her bank is a small one and no part of the major networks. Or she might not have advised her bank that she traveling to China.

San Francisco
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10. Re: Carrying Foreign Cash or relying on ATM in China

2500RMB (US$400) is a lot of money, enough to last many days or a week in China.

I use cash, normally I take US$2000-$3,000 with me on each trip, exchange US$1,000(6,000RMB) in bank. ATM users repeatedly tell everyone bank lines are very long, but I generally have no problem using Chinese banks, rate is same in all banks. Need passport to exchange money. ATM is safer, while cash can be stolen.

Cash needs no promotion from me, just to point out it is perfectly okay to carry cash.