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Author Topic: Changing Money  (Read 12888 times)

Raoul F. Duke

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Changing Money
« on: April 22, 2007, 08:15:05 PM »
One of the most common questions we get here regards exchanging money. Chinese money (the yuan renminbi or RMB) isn't freely exchangeable....it isn't always readily available outside of China (although this is changing), and it certainly can't be used to pay bills or add to your savings back home. On the other hand, most Chinese businesses and government offices aren't set up to take foreign money.

So how does one change money here?

The OFFICIAL route is to exchange money at a bank, usually the dreaded Bank of China. All too often, the process gets turned into a long and horrendous bureaucratic ordeal. You'll need to bring your passport, visa/residence permit, work permit, etc. with you. You'll get a so-so rate at the bank. You'll also pay a pretty stiff tax unless you have a Work Permit/Foreign Expert Certificate explicitly stating that you can convert a certain amount of money tax-free. This permission comes from your employer and must bear their official seal.

The BEST RATE comes from exchanging money through the black market by using what we call a "currency exchange consultant". It's recommended that you get at least an introduction through a local friend; don't wade into this one on your own. Most of these guys are pros, but there is always a tiny chance of being burned or busted. Be discreet. Get a money-checking light (a small black light), widely available at very low cost, and learn the ways to manually check Chinese money, posted in English in many banks. In the overwhelming majority of cases you'll get your money changed in about 2 minutes, no ID required, with no problems and at a better rate. In many cases someone at your employer can handle money exchanges for you; by all means check it out.

If I were not a responsible webmaster person, I would add that only newbies and terminal pinheads (and perhaps the chronically lucky) ever change money at a bank the nice safe legal way. But I am, and so I won't.

You will often see shadowy figures lurking outside of banks, offering to exchange money. It is recommended that you NOT use them; if you must then try to get a Chinese friend to do it for you. When you work with someone you don't know, or have a mutual friend with, you run a greater chance of getting counterfeit bills or being assessed a punitive exchange rate because you are foreign.

You can also buy RMB at many hotels with a passport and visa. This is fairly quick and convenient, but it's expensive...you'll usually get a pretty lousy rate this way. You also can't turn your RMB back in for your foreign currency. They'll send you to the bank for that.

Similarly. international airports will also generally have areas where you can exchange money. Rates here can be the worst, but this varies from place to place.

If you have an internationally-accepted credit card or debit card, such as Visa, Mastercard, or JCB, you can withdraw RMB from an international-enabled ATM. God knows what kind of rate you will get. Most ATMs are NOT international-enabled, but most cities have at least a few that are. If you get stuck, try the ATMs in 5-star hotels and upscale shopping areas. To my knowledge it is not possible to draw foreign currency from an ATM anywhere in China.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2007, 08:17:29 PM by Raoul Duke »
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Pashley

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2007, 11:27:03 AM »
The OFFICIAL route is to exchange money at a bank, usually the dreaded Bank of China. All too often, the process gets turned into a long and horrendous bureaucratic ordeal. You'll need to bring your passport, visa/residence permit, work permit, etc. with you. You'll get a so-so rate at the bank. You'll also pay a pretty stiff tax unless you have a Work Permit/Foreign Expert Certificate explicitly stating that you can convert a certain amount of money tax-free. This permission comes from your employer and must bear their official seal.

I only need to sometimes change RMB to foreign currency; generally I have no foreign money to convert into RMB. In a previous job and city, with the foreign expert card "money changing" section duly filled out and stamped, that was no problem. Go to Bank of China and they do it.

I tried here (Quanzhou) last week. To BoC with passport and expert's card, but without the money section filled out or stamped. They asked for a copy of my contract and a receipt showing I'd paid my taxes.

So back to my uni. They say they can get me the receipt, but it may take time. The right person isn't in the office today, etc. They do not want to get me the stamp in my FEC; they say the rules have changed and that is no longer useful.

The uni offered to just get me the small amount I want. I refused. I want the problem solved, so I can change when I need to. Doing this one deal is not the issue.

Preferably, I want the damned stamp. For me and everyone else on staff. They should not give out the FEC without them; getting that is part of their job.

Am I crazy? (yes, I know, sometimes, but is this particular behaviour crazy?). Do others have the stamps? Can you still change money with those?
Who put a stop payment on my reality check?

Raoul F. Duke

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2007, 11:49:28 AM »
I understand your point here. I like things right, too.

That said, if I had a chance to let me school handle these transactions for me, and they'd do it pretty much anytime I needed it, and the rate was good, personally I'd LEAP at the opportunity.

Changing money yourself, either legally or not, is an iffy proposition and can be a real hassle. I would happily let the school do the legwork for me. And you may get an even better rate...I can pretty much assure you your school is NOT going to the Bank of Mei-You to handle this.  uuuuuuuuuu
"Vicodin and dumplings...it's a great combination!" (Anthony Bourdain, in Harbin)

"Here in China we aren't just teaching...
we're building the corrupt, incompetent, baijiu-swilling buttheads of tomorrow!" (Raoul F. Duke)

contemporarydog

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2007, 01:05:54 PM »
Surely this is much easier with the recent changes?  You just need a chinese friend.
It is too early to say.

Raoul F. Duke

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2007, 04:39:03 AM »
I haven't tried it with the recent changes. I haven't used a bank for exchanging money in years now...after the first few rounds, I decided I didn't want a rematch.

I have learned to never underestimate Bank of China's prowess at screwing things up and turning simple tasks into 3-day ordeals.  ssssssssss
"Vicodin and dumplings...it's a great combination!" (Anthony Bourdain, in Harbin)

"Here in China we aren't just teaching...
we're building the corrupt, incompetent, baijiu-swilling buttheads of tomorrow!" (Raoul F. Duke)

contemporarydog

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2007, 09:53:20 AM »
OK I will be changing money in the reasonably near future just using the wife's ID card.  I'll let everyone know how it goes...
It is too early to say.

non-dave

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2007, 01:35:51 AM »
Set up an account at Bank of China, or any other bank that issues cards that have Maestro access.

Send the card home and tell them the pin number via e-mail, phone or something (i.e. don't send it with the card).

Put money into the account whenever you eed to. Others can withdraw cash from ATM's at home, in local currency.

The money is changed. Hey Presto!
You have to care for it to matter.
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Mr Nobody

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2007, 01:43:19 AM »
This is what I do, only the other way around, to get money into China from my wealth machine at home.

I wish it was a wealth machine, but it does have a surplus that I can use here. Strangely enough, this is also the best exchange rate, better than any other method. Best way to get money sent anywhere, if you can get it set up.

Funny, ND seems to think it is easy his end. It didn't used to be. Plus, I just checked, still hard to do down here in the deep south.

Times they are a changin.
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contemporarydog

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2007, 04:24:53 AM »
Set up an account at Bank of China, or any other bank that issues cards that have Maestro access.

Send the card home and tell them the pin number via e-mail, phone or something (i.e. don't send it with the card).

Put money into the account whenever you eed to. Others can withdraw cash from ATM's at home, in local currency.

The money is changed. Hey Presto!

You probably lose a fortune doing it this way though.  Withdrawing money on a foreign account in the UK costs about 1.50 a go (in pounds)
It is too early to say.

Mr Nobody

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2007, 06:25:08 AM »
CD, you gotta withdraw enough money for the improvement in the exchange rate to wipe out the fee. I just always take the maximum amount per transaction. Then the $5AUD is a small thing compared to commissions or poor exchange rates, indeed. Anyway, you are going to pay one way or another. Credit cards are good for this. I am pretty sure mine doesn't have a foreign exchange fee at all. Just gotta transfer the money via net-banking immediatorily, if I can coin a word.

If you use it for day to day withdrawals, you will lose a bundle, though. I made that mistake one trip around the Pacific, in the eighties, and got burned. Make the same stupid mistake once, about 1999 or 2000, on a trip to HK too. Don't do it again!! I say. Still, I didn't lose as much as using traveller's cheques.
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dragonsaver

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2007, 03:58:23 AM »
Every 2 months I go to the Bank of China.  I take the required passport and Foreign Experts Book and tax receipts from Uni.  I get permission to change the money from one teller then get a number and go to second teller to transfer money directly to my bank account in Canada.  Total time is 1 hour (or less). Bank fee is 200RMB for the process. The girl that does the second part likes me, so as soon as she sees me she calls me over next (I don't have to wait for my number to come up).  Friday her superior saw me and called her from her break so she could help me.  In 2-3 days the money is in my bank and my son can pay the bills.  The exchange rate was lower this time so I got CAD80.00 less than 2 months ago. Changing money is other ways is maybe ok, but I would still have to pay to have it transferred to my bank.  If I wanted cash the money changer would be good but for a transfer, the BOC is the easiest.
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Raoul F. Duke

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2007, 05:49:20 AM »
Yeah, for transfers you gotta go somewhere official-like. Only way.
When possible to use it, I've found Western Union a lot faster, cheaper, safer, and more reliable than The Bank of Mei-You. However, it does send the money to a person, not a bank account...
"Vicodin and dumplings...it's a great combination!" (Anthony Bourdain, in Harbin)

"Here in China we aren't just teaching...
we're building the corrupt, incompetent, baijiu-swilling buttheads of tomorrow!" (Raoul F. Duke)

contemporarydog

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2007, 08:48:27 AM »
Went to the bonk today to ask about changing money for our forthcoming trip.  They indeed confirmed that my wife could obtain USD on the spot just with her ID card.  Piece of piss.  However, we want pounds as otherwise we'd have to change twice.  That counter said they couldn't get pounds without some faffery, but they directed us to a posh office at the back where there was another woman who could indeed get pounds.  Most odd.  Anyway she's going to ring us when she reckons the exchange rate is most favourable.  It is pretty cruddy at the moment - 9000 RMB only gets 589 squid.
It is too early to say.

contemporarydog

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2007, 01:45:06 PM »
Set up an account at Bank of China, or any other bank that issues cards that have Maestro access.

Send the card home and tell them the pin number via e-mail, phone or something (i.e. don't send it with the card).

Put money into the account whenever you eed to. Others can withdraw cash from ATM's at home, in local currency.

The money is changed. Hey Presto!

But the pin code for a chinese account has six numbers.  UK ones only allow for 4.  So how does this work?
It is too early to say.

darrick

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Re: Changing Money
« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2007, 08:13:49 PM »
Non-Dave,

what about the six digit Vs. four digit thing?