ATMs & Credit Cards
The currency used in China is the Yuan Renminbi (CNY/RNB or ¥) and the value varies around 6 - 7 Yuan to 1 US dollar. The base unit, the one used to denominate bills, is the Yuan ( ¥ ).
You will not be able to exchange Yuan outside the country of China, so make sure you exchange unwanted Yuan currency before leaving the border.
If you want to exchange your unused Chinese currency back to your home currency on the way out (i.e., at the airport), you’ll need to keep the ATM or bank withdrawal receipts, or the exchange won’t be accepted. Visit XE Universal Currency Converter for current rates.
Traveler's Checks, Debit Cards, and Credit Cards
Traveler’s checks are the safest way to carry cash, but not necessarily the most convenient. There will be a lengthy process to cash a traveler’s check in China. Allow an hour or more for the transaction.
You don't want to be caught outside the major cities without cash.
ATMs are plentiful within the city of Beijing (but scarce outside the main cities). Foreign ATM cards will work at particular locations, based on its network associations. It would be wise to check with your bank to ask if they have a Chinese bank affiliate. This may allow you to withdraw cash more easily, and with a lower ATM access fee. There are only a few banks which accept foreign cards around Beijing.
- Most "internal" Chinese banks do not accept foreign cards.
- Chinese bank machines that accept foreign ATM cards will have signage illustrating what foreign cards they will take.
- It is advised to check with your bank about PIN numbers that work with Chinese ATMs.
- All ATMs will remit Chinese currency notes.
You will often experience long lines of people at the ATM. Each person will probably do multiple transactions with multiple cards from different banks, so expect to wait a while to retrieve cash.
If you want to exchange unused Chinese currency back to dollars on your way out of China (i.e., at the airport), you’ll need to show the ATM or bank withdrawal receipts, or the exchange won’t be completed.
Contact your credit card company to see if they are accepted in China.
- Inform your bank how many weeks you will be traveling in China and staying in Beijing. If you don’t, the bank may notice atypical use of the card and block access to your cards for security reasons.
- You can sometimes use a Visa or a MasterCard to retrieve cash at certain ATMs (check with your bank). But note that you will pay a fairly large transaction fee, and interest begins to accrue immediately on cash received against your credit.
Before You Leave
- Upon arrival, make sure you've got US dollars with you to exchange into Yuan.
- Make sure you have traveler’s checks as back-up.
- Double-check with your bank to see if you need a 6-digit PIN code for ATM use in Beijing.
- Ask about fees. Ask your bank or credit-card company about specific fees that come with using their card overseas.
- Withdrawal limits: Ask your bank what your daily and weekly withdrawal limits are.
- Keep your exchange receipts (traveler's check, credit or ATM receipts) so you can exchange your Chinese currency for home currency on your way out of China.
- Yuan can only be exchanged within the borders of China.