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Travel money guide: Hong Kong, China

Nieh hau or hello? Here's the best way to take and spend money in Hong Kong, Macau and China.

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Learn which types of travel money to take on a trip to China, Hong Kong and Macau so you can spend for less in the Pearl of the Orient and beyond. Renminbi is the official currency of mainland China, Hong Kong dollars (HKD) is the currency of Hong Kong and Macanese Patacas (MOP) is the currency of Macau — though you can also use HKD in Macau.

China is a huge country with an even bigger history, making it one of East Asia’s must-see travel destinations. Hong Kong is the financial hub of Asia and Macau is known as the Vegas of the East.

Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options.

China is still largely a cash economy. You can use your card to make payments at major department stores, hotels and restaurants. Taxi drivers, guides, any merchant on the street and most shops outside big cities accept cash only.

Spread your travel money options across a number of products to ensure your vacation will go off without a hitch. Debit and credit cards are the best options for getting access to the money you need on your trip to Hong Kong, China and Macau. Save money by finding cards that waive fees for foreign transactions, withdrawals and maintenance.

Should I choose a travel card, debit card or credit card?

How to use a credit card in China

How much should I budget for my trip to China, Hong Kong and Macau?

Hong Kong’s status as an international city puts prices on par with New York, Sydney or Paris. Although Hong Kong is about as expensive as New York, you can make your trip as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. If you do your research and know the right places to eat and are willing to share a room with other travelers, you could could get by on less than $60 a day, though if you’re not careful, you could spend up to $400 a day.

Hong KongBudgetMid-rangeExpensive
to-sleepHostel dorm
$15–$80 per night
2-star hotel
$60–$200 per night
5-star hotel
$300–$1000 per night
to-eatTsim Chai Kee Wanton Noodles from a street stall
Less than $5
SuperStar Seafood Restaurant
$20–$40 per dish
5-star dining at Island Tang
$100 per person
to-seeMuseum of Tea Ware, Railway Museum, Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum
Free
Hong Kong half day guided tour
$50 per person
Private full day tour to Macau from Hong Kong
$300 per person

*Prices are approximate and subject to change.

The official currency of China is called the renminbi and it is made up of yuan. When referring to the name of the Chinese currency we use the title renminbi, which means “the people’s currency” in Mandarin.

Vacation prices in China little cheaper than other developed nations in the region like South Korea and Japan, although expenses can easily stack high if you’re on a 5-star vacation. Budget travelers can expect to pay around $30 a day, while travelers with a bigger budget can plan for $80 to $250.

BeijingBudgetMid-rangeExpensive
to-sleepHostel dorm
$10–$20 per night
2-star hotel
$20–$150 per night
5-star hotel
$150–$600 per night
to-eatYang rou chuan’r (street food lamb kebab)
$1
Mid-range restaurant
$10–$20 per person
High-end restaurant experience
$60 per person
to-seeVisit and hike on The Great Wall of China
$6–$8
1-day Forbidden City tour
$50 per person
Beijing photography tour
$300 per person

Using a credit card in Hong Kong

Exchange rate history

The Hong Kong dollar is tied to the US Dollar — $1 gets you $7.75 Hong Kong dollars. Two travel products let you lock in a rate: prepaid travel cards and traveler’s checks. You can secure your travel budget using these products if you think the value of the dollar will fall during your trip to China.

US Dollar to Hong Kong Dollar Exchange Rate

How each travel money option works in China, Hong Kong and Macau

Using a travel prepaid card

  • Using a debit card

    Using a credit card

    Debit and credit card exchange rates

    Withdrawing funds once you get to China is a popular way of getting your hands on some cash. The Visa and Mastercard foreign exchange rate applies when you use your credit card or debit card to make an over-the-counter purchase or to withdraw cash. The rate offered by Visa and Mastercard is similar to the interbank rate and may be better than what’s offered by Chinese banks and licensed exchange offices.

    Using a traveler’s checks

    Paying with cash in Hong Kong, China

    Have cash waiting when you arrive

    Always consider using an international money transfer service – you can always send money to China or send money to Hong Kong beforehand.

    Our pick for a prepaid travel card
    Travelex Money Card

    Compare travel credit cards

    Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
    Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
    80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
    $95
    This popular travel card's signup bonus is worth up to $1,000. Get even more value out of your travel, dining, and Lyft rewards by transferring them to miles.
    American Express® Gold Card
    35,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
    3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
    $250
    Earn 4x points at restaurants worldwide. Rates & fees
    Chase Sapphire Reserve®
    50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
    10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
    $550
    Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
    Hilton Honors American Express Card
    75,000 points after spending $1,000 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 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
    Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
    N/A
    1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1% for cash back
    $195
    Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
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    Using ATMs in China, Hong Kong and Macau

    Exchanging cash

    The best way to get foreign cash is to make an ATM withdrawal in the airport when you arrive at your destination. You’re subject to the Visa and Mastercard exchange rate, which is the best everyday consumers can get. And if you’re using a no currency conversion and no international ATM fee product to avoid the international ATM withdrawal charges, it’s the cheapest way to get foreign cash.

    Hong Kong

    US dollars can be changed at banks and exchange offices in Hong Kong and Macau. Hang Seng Bank, Wing Lung Bank and the Bank of China are popular for changing cash due to low commissions and better rates.

    hong-kong-dollar-banknotes

    • Tip: You’ll pay more to exchange cash at international hotels. Money changers in the tourist districts (Tsim Sha Tsui) are likely to provide a poor rate and charge a higher commission.

    China

    You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a bank or licensed exchange office that can exchange USD for CNY. The renminbi is regulated by the Chinese government. The rate you get at the airport is the same as the rate you get at banks and at official exchange offices.

    chinese-yuan-banknotes

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    Case study: Shirley's experience

    Shirley profile photo
    Shirley

    Shirley’s Hong Kong & China holiday

    Before joining her family in mainland China, Guangzhou for Chinese New Year, Shirley traveled to Hong Kong with her friends.

    What cards did you take with you?

    Why did you take these cards?

    Shirley took the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. She liked this card because it waived the foreign transaction fee and let her earn rewards on her vacation spending. She had been saving for this trip for a while so she used her Bank of America debit card for most of her transactions.

    Where could you use your cards?

    Shirley says there were no issues with card acceptance when she tried to use her credit card. She used cash most of the time. She says in rural areas of China, card acceptance would have been a problem.

    What about ATM withdrawals?

    Shirley didn’t use ATMs when she was in Hong Kong. She withdrew most of her money when she arrived at the airport to avoid withdrawal fees.

    What’s your travel money recommendations?

    Shirley says the Chase Sapphire is the card to use in China or anywhere overseas. The foreign transaction fee is waived and she earned travel points for next vacation abroad.

    Do you have any travel money tips?

    Shirley says if you’re traveling during the Lunar New Year, expect all the banks to be closed for as long as two weeks straight — so have your money already exchanged beforehand. She also says the Octopus Card is a popular option; while she didn’t get one, a friend of hers did. It simplifies the payment process on public transport and many retailers take the Octopus card too.

    Bargaining in China

    If you’re shopping for tourist items, haggle for a price you think is fair. The point is to come to an agreement over what the item is worth. Remember that haggling is a friendly and social interaction and should always be approached with a smile. There are no hard or fast rules about haggling, but keep these tips in mind when you’re hunting for the best price:

    • Shop around. The same item is often sold at different shops and stalls. Visit a few places to find the best deal before you make a purchase.
    • Don’t be afraid to walk away. If you don’t like the price, smile and say thank you and move on to the next place.
    • Don’t feel bad. The vendor isn’t going to sell something for a loss. Don’t think the price you’re paying is too low if the vendor agrees to a sale.

    Cash pickup services in Hong Kong

    Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
    $1 Within an hour USD 3.99 7.711 HKD 7,681 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
    $1 Same day USD 8.00 7.576 HKD 7,515 Easily transfer cash to more than 350,000 locations around the world. Show details
    $1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 7.556 HKD 7,405 The biggest name in money transfers can get your funds to friends, family, or businesses in almost every corner of the globe. Show details

    Compare up to 4 providers

    Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

    Compare travel insurance for your next trip to Hong Kong, China

    Name Product Trip Cancellation Emergency Medical Expenses Baggage Coverage Trip delay
    Allianz Travel OneTrip Emergency Medical Plan
    $50,000
    $2,000
    $1,000
    Budget-friendly policy designed for international and domestic travelers who want medical protection. Trip cancellation and trip interruption not included.
    Allianz Travel AllTrips Basic Plan
    $20,000
    $1,000
    $600
    Annual policy that offers affordable protection, but doesn't include trip cancellation or trip interruption.
    Travelex Travel Basic
    100%
    $15,000
    $500
    $500
    Essential travel coverage — with the option to customize — that can protect the cost of your trip.
    Travelex Flight Insure
    $10,000
    $1,000
    $100
    Protect the cost of your flight and choose the coverage amount that meets your needs — trip delay protection included.
    RoamRight Essential Travel Insurance Plan
    100%
    $15,000
    $750
    $500
    Basic policy with coverage that includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
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    Compare up to 4 providers

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