Hangzhou Cityscape

How money works in China

All about that dollar…. *Yuan


The Chinese currency is the Ren Min Bi (lit. people’s currency).  However people also refer to the currency as the Chinese Yuan. To complicate things further, in China, you will often hear the word ‘Kuai’, meaning ‘piece’ used to refer to money. Kuai is a colloquial expression used in the same way we say ‘quid’ in the U.K or ‘bucks’ in the U.S. The note denominations are 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 & 1 RMB notes. There are also 1 RMB coins along with 5 mao and 1 mao coins. 10 mao makes 1 RMB. A rough approximation is 10 RMB to every G.B.P or 6.5 RMB to every U.S.D.

Banking and ATM charges

Banks in China operate in pretty much the same way as most countries. You can open up a current account to deposit your salary in and use the bank’s ATMs to both withdraw and pay in cash. A key difference in Chinese banking is that once you have a bank/ debit card. You can only use the ATMs at that corresponding bank to freely withdraw your money. If you use a different bank then expect to be charged a small amount of commission for each withdrawal.

Debit cards

The standard debit card in China is the Union Pay debit card. This is accepted as standard across all Chinese shops offering card facilities. Additionally, the cards are accepted in ATM’s all over South East Asia and even work in ATM’s in London. Very convenient.

Wireless payments

The speed at which China is developing is phenomenal and one of the major visual indicators of change is the increasing proportion of business both small and large that accept wireless payments. There are two major wireless payment methods using phone accounts. These are wechat pay and Taobao pay. These work by scanning a barcode of the store with your phone and then using your internet connected smartphone to wire the money to the persons account. Additionally, increased stores now accept apple and android pay.

Wechat red envelopes 

An additional gimmick to wechats pay feature is the Chinese craze of sending ‘red envelopes’ to friends. These are normally small payments between 1 and 10RMB made to friends and families as a kind of gift based surprise game. Worth mentioning in-case you get bored enough to want to give away your money.

Sending money home

Sending money home in China is a relatively  straightforward and painless process. Almost all major banks now have the facility to send money abroad for the cost of a one off service fee, usually around 200RMB.

The other alternative to sending money home (other than carrying it in your suitcase!) is to telegram the money back home. Operators like Western union charge a comparatively lower fee to send your money as cash to anyone else in the world. A family member then goes to a store in your home country and with photo id collects the money. Both banks and money grams are useful, convenient sources of getting your cash back home and  both are worth remembering for when you get that last juicy paycheck and want to take it with you.

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