Travel money guide - China | finder.com
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Travel money guide – China

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Take a card without foreign transaction fees and carry some cash for small purchases.

Thankfully, China accepts all major payment methods. Even Discover cards are accepted as widely as Mastercard and Visa. But be aware that some smaller restaurants, shops and establishments in rural areas may not accept cards, so always carry some cash.

Compare travel cards for China

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles on all purchases and 10x miles at hotels.com/venture
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
90,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
$0
Earn 90,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles at restaurants, hotels and United and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
2x points on Southwest Airlines and 1x points on all other purchases
$99
Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
3x points at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 2x on travel and 1x on all other purchases
$0
50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from your account opening.

Compare up to 4 providers

Travel card, debit card or credit card?

China accepts all major credit cards, including Discover, which can be used at UnionPay ATMs and POS terminals.

It’s a good practice to use a debit card for cash withdrawals, but a prepaid travel card loaded with Chinese yuan could be a good choice if you don’t want to link your bank account.

Pros and Cons of travel money options in China

Travel money optionProsCons
Debit cards
  • No cash advance fee
  • No cash advance APR
  • No overdraft
  • Weak or no rewards
  • No access to a credit line
  • Potential foreign transaction fees up to 3%
  • Potential ATM withdrawal fees
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Can load multiple currencies
  • No cash advance APR
  • No links to your bank account
  • Many fees, including currency conversion fees if the card is loaded with different currency
  • May take time to load money
  • No rewards
Credit cards
  • Credit line access
  • Rewards
  • May come with travel insurance and coverage
  • May come with concierge service
  • Cash advance fees
  • Cash advance APR
Traveler’s checks
  • Security
  • Not accepted everywhere
  • Fees for purchasing and cashing checks
Cash
  • Payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • No need for ATMs
  • High risk of theft

How credit cards, debit cards and travel cards work in China

Using a credit card

Credit cards from major networks are widely accepted throughout China. If you’re looking for a solid credit card, consider a travel credit card to save money on foreign transactions and to earn rewards on purchases. In addition, the card may come with travel insurance, trip coverage, luggage insurance and car rental insurance against theft and damage.

If you often travel between the US and China, consider an airline cobranded credit card. You can save money on flights, on checked bags, priority boarding or lounge access. This type of card often comes with travel insurance and similar travel perks.

Using a credit card in China

Using a debit card

It can be a good idea to travel with a debit card as they have minimal fees and can rarely be overdrawn.

What are the best travel debit cards?

Using a prepaid travel card

Prepaid travel cards could be a good choice if you can load them with Chinese yuan. Otherwise, you’ll pay foreign transaction fees in addition to all the other fees that come with this type of card. Using a prepaid travel card makes sense, however, if you don’t want a card linked to your bank account.
What are prepaid travel cards

Using traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks can be helpful if you want better security for your money. However, they’re rarely accepted and come with fees on purchases, when cashing them and on currency conversion. Also, it may take longer to cash your checks.

Traveler’s checks explained

Paying with cash

Using cash is a convenient option when traveling. Be sure to exchange US dollars for local currency and note that carrying large amounts increases the risk of theft.

What’s the Chinese currency and where can I get the best exchange rate?

China uses the Chinese yuan with a code CNY and a symbol ¥. It’s also known as the renminbi.

If you’re carrying cash, you can exchange a small amount at the airport if needed. Once in the city, exchange your US dollars in a bank for a better exchange rate. The bank may decline the exchange if you don’t have your passport with you.

If you’re carrying a debit card, making a cash withdrawal from an ATM would offer you the best exchange rate.
What’s the current USD to CNY exchange rate?

Compare money transfer services for China

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
USD 1 1 - 2 days USD 0.00 6.854 CNY
34,272
Enjoy high maximum transfers into more than 20 currencies while saving up to 90% over local banks. Go to site Show details
USD 1 Within an hour USD 0.00 6.761 CNY 33,807 Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

The exchange rates in the table are not locked in. Confirm your final rate on the provider’s site before completing any transaction.

Verdict

To fully enjoy your trip to China, consider combining credit cards for transactions and debit cards for ATM cash withdrawals. Since not every establishment accepts plastic, it’s a good idea to also carry some cash.

Check out our travel money guide page to find out what payment method might work best for you overseas.

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