The best way to send money to China comes down to your specific needs. A specialised money transfer company will offer more competitive exchange rates than a traditional bank, but which company is best for you depends on how much you’re sending and how quickly you need it to arrive.
Top picks are our selection of some of the best money transfer products and services, based on our extensive research and market experience. Our top picks are displayed at the top of some pages to help you make decisions faster, but our top pick may not be the best pick for you.
Online money transfer providers typically offer the strongest exchange rates and lowest fees on money transfers to China. Some offer transfers straight to Chinese bank accounts, while others allow the money to be picked up in Chinese yuan in person. Banks, PayPal and other options are available but come with high fees, weak rates and longer turnaround times.
Digital money transfer services
Companies like XE and CurrencyTransfer specialise in foreign currencies, making them some of the most cost-effective transfers. Most offer transfers directly to your recipient’s Chinese bank account, often in as little as a day or two.
Services like MoneyGram allow you to transfer cash for pickup at a local branch in China – often in 15 minutes. While it’s a fast way to send money, you’ll pay for the convenience in weak exchange rates and high fees. If a cash pickup is necessary, compare MoneyGram to digital services like WorldRemit or Wise when possible.
Chinese yuan may be carried by your bank, especially if you visit the main branches offering international service. Although your local bank can convert your pound sterling into Chinese yuan, beware of high fees and wide margins on the exchange rate compared to digital and other options.
Let’s crunch the numbers: Sending £5,000 to China
Let’s say you need to send £5,000 to family in China. Here’s what you might face as far as fees and exchange rates as of 23 September 2020.
Digital money transfer service
£20 + additional correspondent bank fees
1 GBP = 8.63 CNY
1 GBP = 8.58 CNY
1 GBP = 7.88 CNY
Slowest and most expensive
The bank option ends up being both the slowest way to send money to China and gets the smallest amount of money to your recipient. If you go with the digital money transfer service, your recipient ends up with CNY¥3,752 more than the bank offers. If speed is crucial, a cash transfer can typically have your transfer to China in as little as 15 minutes for just a slightly higher fee.
How to send money to China online
Sign up and send money with a digital money transfer specialist in four steps:
Sign up for a free account. Pick a provider and sign up for a free online account using your contact information, proof of ID and your preferred payment method.
Provide transfer details. Submit your recipient’s contact information and pick a delivery method. If you’re transferring to a bank, you’ll need your recipient’s Chinese bank account details.
Confirm transfer details. Double-check your payment method, expected fees and destination.
Save your receipt. Record your receipt’s confirmation number to track the progress of your transfer to China. Some money transfer providers send a text or email when your transfer is complete.
How to get the most out of your money transfer to China
Weigh costs and fees against convenience, and learn how to compare money transfer providers that send to China to meet your needs:
Exchange rates. The GBP-CNY remains relatively stable, with occasional shifts on a larger scale. Exchanging currency ahead of time, or locking in prices, can help you prepare for these shifts.
Transfer fees. Transferring money overseas nearly always requires fees, but they might be hidden in the exchange rate. When sending large amounts, it may be cheaper to pay a flat fee to secure a stronger exchange rate.
Transfer limits. How much you can send varies by company, and different amounts can attract higher or lower fees. Shop around for the best deal on the amount of Chinese yuan you’re sending.
Turnaround. It can take a business week or longer to send money to China through a local bank. If you need the funds delivered quickly, seek out a digital specialist that offers instant transfers.
Maximum limits. When exchange rates are favourable, sending more money can save you money in the future. If you plan to send large amounts of money to China, be sure to pick a provider that won’t limit you.
Transfer methods. Whether you want money sent to a Chinese bank account or picked up as cash at a local agent, narrow down a company that matches your preferred delivery method.
How to send an emergency cash transfer to China
When it’s more important to get your money to China quickly, look for money transfer companies that support cash pickup in minutes. You can pay with a credit or debit card for fast pickup, but fees are higher than other methods.
If you don’t have a bank account, you can still use cash transfer services to send money to China. Similarly, a recipient can get the money with a cash transfer if they don’t have a bank account. These services are widely available around the world and although they’ll typically not be the cheapest available, they can be fast and convenient.
Many companies that we use for money transfers in the UK offer “reload” services for prepaid credit cards and mobile plans that make it easy to convert cash into communication – often within minutes.
If you need to send minutes to a prepaid phone in China – whether for you or a loved one – consider online providers WorldRemit and Xoom. To add or gift minutes from an agent location, standbys Western Union, MoneyGram and Ria are an option.
The exchange rate determines how much one country’s currency is worth in another country’s currency. When a country’s currency is strong, it yields more money when exchanging it in a country with a weaker currency. China’s exchange rate doesn’t often fluctuate when compared to the pound sterling, so expect relatively stable exchange rates between these two currencies. Factors that influence the exchange rate include interest rates, economic stability and inflation.
Documents needed for sending to and receiving money in China
To send money to China from the UK, you’ll need government-issued ID and other documents, while documents needed to pick up money in China may be different by company.
Documents to send money from the UK
To send money from the UK to China, you’ll need documentation and details that include:
Identification. Most services require a driver’s licence, passport or other government-issued ID.
Payment method. Your service may accept credit or debit cards, cash, bank accounts or personal cheques.
Recipient information. Submit your recipient’s name as it appears on their ID, along with their phone number, Chinese bank account and routing number if sending to their bank.
Documents to receive money in China
To pick up money in person, documentation can include:
Transfer number. The person sending you money can forward the transfer’s confirmation details – called a PIN, a MTCN, a reference number or a tracking number, depending on the company.
Government-issued ID. A China Identification Card, a passport (excluding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan passports), or a mainland travel permit (for Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan residents only) will be accepted for identification for most money transfer cash pickups.
Amount sent. You may need to know how much was sent, usually within 10% of the total.
Sender’s information. Take along your sender’s full name, the sending country and their address, if known.
It shouldn’t cost a fortune to send money to China. Compare transfer companies that specialise in foreign for the strongest rates, lowest fees and flexible delivery. For transfers to other countries, rely on our country specific guides the next time you need to make a transfer.
Zak Killermann is a writer at Finder. He’s ghostwritten hundreds of articles on fintech, finding his love for publication at St. Cloud State University. Traveling internationally for nearly half his life — and getting burned once by an OTC money exchange — Zak's vowed not to settle for anything short of the mid-market rate again.
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