Send Money to China Cheaply

Information verified correct on December 7th, 2016

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Sending money to China is easy, but do you know how long it takes and how much it costs?

The Chinese community in the UK grew at an annual rate of 9.9% in between 2001 and 2007, which makes it the fastest growing ethnic group in the country. Over 90% of this growth is because of net migration, and by 2011 more than 430,000 individuals of Chinese origin called the UK home. The Chinese community in the UK has amongst the highest household incomes across demographic groups.

The UK and China are important trading partners and trade between the two countries has seen a steady rise since 2004. By 2014, China became UK’s second largest partner of imports, with its share of imports increasing from 3.3% in 2004 to 7% in 2014.

Given the rise in trade coupled with growing incomes, instances of individuals and businesses sending money from the UK to China are also on the rise.

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Case study: Banks vs money transfer services

Li Yong moved to the UK recently, to start work at a university, and he moved to the country with this wife. His parents stayed back in China, and his daughter lives with them. Yong needs to send money to his parents on an ongoing basis, which he plans to transfer directly into his father’s bank account. The way things stand, he figures that around GBP1,000 every two months should suffice.

Yong has a bank account with a prominent bank in the UK that allows international money transfers, but he wishes to explore his options. After running a comparison between his bank and a leading money transfer service provider, this is what he finds.

Money transfer service 1Money transfer service 2
Exchange rateGBP1 = CNY9.1906GBP1 = CNY9.7504
Transfer fee£9£7
Amount received for £1,000CNY9,107.89CNY9,682.20
Transfer timeThree to five daysOne day
Transfer optionsBank accountBank account
Difference ofCNY574.31

After this comparison, Yong’s decision to go with the second service provider seems obvious. Not only does his father stand to receive more than CNY550 every two months, he can also expect to get the money sooner.

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How to compare transfer companies when transferring money to China

It is best that you compare multiple businesses that allow international transfers to China, given that not all service providers are equally good. When comparing your options, the following facets require your attention.

  • Fees and exchange rates. While onecompany might charge little to no fees it mayoffer a poor exchange rate, and the reverse holds true as well. A good way to establish which option is better is to take a look at the total amount the recipient stands to receive.
  • Transfer methods. Banks as well as some money transfer companies let you initiate such transfers in person, in which case you’ll have to visit a branch, store or kiosk. Other options you can find include transferring funds online or over the phone.
  • Pick up methods. Some banks and money transfer companies only allow transfers to bank accounts. With some others, the option of getting cash exists, which is ideal in the absence of a bank account.
  • Processing time. Bank transfers tend to take longer than transfers made through money transfer companies. If you choose a bank the process might take one to six business days. With a money transfer company that allows cash pickups, the recipient can get the money almost immediately.
  • Minimum amount you can transfer. Some money transfer companies require that you transfer a minimum of £1,000 or £2,000, and some others let you transfer as little as £1.
  • Customer service. This aspect requires your attention if you plan to transfer money to China periodically. You should ideally deal with a company that offers support via phone, email and chat along with high levels of customer centricity.
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How to send money to China from the UK

Trade in the Chinese yuan is common, so you get to choose from different ways when it comes to sending money to China. Details of your options are as follows:

  • Banks. You can turn to your bank to transfer money to China, and in this case it is necessary for the recipient to have a bank account. Just how long the transfer takes to complete depends on the bank you deal with, and there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll have to pay a fee.
  • Non banks. Non banking institutions like Western Union, Moneygram and PayPal also let you transfer money from the UK to China. Western Union stores exist in different parts of China, and recipients can turn to any such store to get cash. If you wish to use PayPal, you and the recipient have to register first, which you can do easily and for free. To withdraw funds from PayPal, the recipient would need a bank account.
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Emergency cash transfers in China

If there comes a time when you find yourself in China without your wallet or bags, you can still think about getting some emergency money. You have more than one way to do so, and here’s how:

  • Cash pickup. Get in touch with a relative or friend back in the UK and request for an international money transfer. The sender can use a service provider like Western Union, and you can collect the transferred money at a local outlet.
  • Cash advance. As a credit card user, you can look forward to getting a cash advance in the event you lose your card, and this can be possible if you have an American Express, MasterCard or Visa credit card. In such a scenario, you can collect the required money from a participating financial institution in China.
  • Travel insurance. Getting travel insurance comes with multiple benefits. One of them is you can get emergency cash to deal with a variety of situations, but bear in mind that not all travel insurance covers offer this feature.

If you end up losing your credit and debit cards, make sure you report them as lost or stolen as soon as possible.

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Cash pickup locations in China/ Western Union / MoneyGram branches in China

When it comes to transferring money quickly, getting in touch with a money transfer company like Western Union or MoneyGram is ideal. To get the money the recipient would have to provide some kind of a reference number that you get, as well as a valid form of identification. Some locations in China include the following.

Western Union

Shanghai

  • Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
    1300 Yuyuan Rod
    Shanghai
    +86-21-62512297
    Open 09:00am to 05:00pm Monday to Sunday
  • Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
    77 Mid Baozhen Road Baozhen Town
    Chongming
    Shanghai
    +86-21-59421743
    Open 08:30am to 04:15pm Monday to Sunday

Beijing

  • Agricultural Bank of China
    18 Bajiaonan Road Shijinshan District
    Beijing
    +86-10-68866907
    Open 09:00am to 05:00pm Monday to Friday, closed on Saturday and Sunday
  • Shanghai Pudong Development Bank
    1-2f 316 Guang’anmen Nei Ave
    Xuanwu Dist
    Beijing
    +86-10-63585776
    Open 09:00am to 05:00pm Monday to Friday, 09:30am to 04:00pm on Saturday and Sunday

MoneyGram

Shanghai

  • Bank of Communications
    99 Huaihai East Road
    Shanghai, 200002
    +86-21-63861063
    Open 09:00am to 04:30pm Monday to Friday, closed on Saturday and Sunday
  • Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
    28 Majilu
    Shanghai
    +86-21-58696969
    Open 09:00am to 05:00pm Monday to Friday, closed on Saturday and Sunday

Beijing

  • Bank of China
    10 Hing Da N Rd
    Economic & Technological Development Zone
    Beijing
    +86-10-67888361
    Open 09:00am to 05:00pm Monday to Friday, 10:00am to 04:00pm on Saturday and Sunday
  • Bank of China
    1 Hu Guang M Street
    Wang Jing Chao Yang District
    Beijing
    +86-10-64741002
    Open 09:00am to 05:00pm Monday to Friday, 10:00am to 04:00pm on Saturday and Sunday
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Tips for picking up cash in China

China continues to function as a predominantly cash economy, and while the acceptance of credit cards in major cities is common, don’t expect the same elsewhere. Outside major cities, you may have trouble locating ATMs. Bear in mind you cannot exchange Northern Irish or Scottish banknotes in China.

Foreign travel advice issued by the UK government states that unscrupulous elements can target foreigners for purses, handbags, mobile phone, laptops and passports, so it is best that you keep a close eye on your belongings at all times. The use of counterfeit banknotes is becoming common, so check your currency notes before accepting them.

Law in China requires that you register your residential address with the local Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arrival in the country. If you are over 16 years of age, you have to carry your passport with you at all times. If you plan to visit Tibet, make sure you have all the required permits, and remember that you may find the Tibetan Autonomous Region closed to foreigners without prior notice.

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How do I send money to China?

Depending on the method you choose, you’ll have to provide some details to move forward with the transfer of funds to China.

  • Bank transfer. If you wish to transfer funds to a bank account in China, you’ll have to provide the recipient’s complete name, the recipient’s bank account number, the bank’s name, the bank’s address, and the bank’s SWIFT/BIC code.
  • Cash pickup. If you want the recipient to collect cash you’ll have to start by providing your personal details like name, address, phone number and email address. You’ll have to provide the recipient’s complete name and a preferred pickup location. The recipient, in this case, will need to provide a valid form of id to get the money.

In both scenarios, you should get a reference number after you initiate the transfer, which you can use to track its progress at a later stage.

No matter whether you want to send money to a Chinese bank account or to a cash pickup location, you have multiple options from which to choose.

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