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.
What's in this guide?
- Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options.
- Should I choose a travel card, debit card or credit card?
- How much should I budget for my trip to China, Hong Kong and Macau?
- Exchange rate history
- How each travel money option works in China, Hong Kong and Macau
- Compare travel credit cards
- Using ATMs in China, Hong Kong and Macau
- Exchanging cash
- Bargaining in China
- Cash pickup services in Hong Kong
- Compare travel insurance for your next trip to Hong Kong, China
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 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.
$15–$80 per night
$60–$200 per night
$300–$1000 per night
|Tsim 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
|Museum of Tea Ware, Railway Museum, Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum|
|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.
$10–$20 per night
$20–$150 per night
$150–$600 per night
|Yang rou chuan’r (street food lamb kebab)|
$10–$20 per person
|High-end restaurant experience|
$60 per person
|Visit and hike on The Great Wall of China|
|1-day Forbidden City tour|
$50 per person
|Beijing photography tour|
$300 per person
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.
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.
- Load your card with your choice of 6 available currencies: Euros, British pounds, Australian dollars, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, and Mexican pesos
- Lock in your exchange rate
- Use your card abroad at millions of locations
Compare travel credit cards
Using ATMs in China, Hong Kong and Macau
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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Case study: Shirley's experience
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?
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Bank of America debt card
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
Compare travel insurance for your next trip to Hong Kong, China
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