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How to send money from China

As you are probably aware the official currency of China is the Renminbi, also known as the Yuan. What you may not be so aware of, however, is that it is a real pain in the backside to transfer this money abroad or back to your home country.This guide will show you a whole bunch of ways how to send money from China.
For foreigners it especially hard to convert this money into the Pounds, Dollars, and Euros that you love so much back safely into your bank account at home.
Naturally, this is an issue for anyone who is spending much less than they are earning and want to save some portion of their salary in a reliable bank account.
As China is so cheap, I imagine that that is a fair few of you readers!
So fear not, here is the list:

How to send money from China

1. Don’t get paid in Renminbi
2. Bank international transfer
3. Getting a Chinese friend to transfer
4. Western Union international transfer
5. PayPal
6. Alipay
7. Bitcoin
8. Sending your ATM card back home
9. The Cash on a Plane method

1. Don’t get paid in Renminbi!

how to send money home from China
This is the number one most important rule for any high-salaried businessman or travelling executive; try to negotiate a payment in your home country’s currency. This way you will never even need to deal with the following ways how to send money from China and will be more focused on how to transfer money in to china.
The other benefit in getting paid in dollars is that if the government decides to devalue the Renminbi again, your salary won’t take a cut.
Of course, if you are wishing to stay in China for the rest of your days, or at least a significant amount of time, then you don’t need to ask your company for this (but then, you don’t need to be reading an article about how to send money from China anyway!).
This option is not really an option for people on lower pay or that have less clout in negotiations, for example, most TEFL teachers. So, let’s move on to the more realistic ways to transfer money from China.

2. Bank international transfer

how to send money from China with Bank of China
If you have a Bank of China account it is fairly simple to transfer money back to your home country. Not easy by any means, but simple. All you need is the money in your account (or cash) your passport and your IBAN/SWIFT number of your bank at home.
Oh and the patience to waste a few hours at the bank, just like every single time you need to do something at a Chinese bank it seems…
You get your ticket, wait until you are served, set up your Bank of China account (assuming you don’t already have one) and just let the bank teller know you want to transfer your money. You then have to transfer the RMB into the currency of choice before sending it. It will take a few days to get there, even more if it is a weekend or holiday in either country. Oh, and it will charge you a fee of about 250 RMB last time I checked.

Why is this method great?

• Fairly easy to set up and do this kind of transfer even if you don’t speak mandarin. Bank tellers in bigger international cities will know most foreigners would like to send money home so are expecting this kind of transaction and know what to do.
• You don’t need any other equipment like a computer or smartphone etc. like some of the following options depend on.

Why it sucks

• You have to physically go to the bank, if you include commute and waiting time doing this is going to take up a big portion of your day
• You have a transaction limit of $500 dollars a day. If you want to transfer any more than this you will have to come back another day to send the rest. EDIT: according to Reddit user muy_picante it is possible to transfer up to $10,000 in one transaction you bring in your contract, proof of income, and income tax forms.
• You get charged a fairly high fee to do this transfer
• You will lose a margin on the in-bank currency exchange
Overall, I think this way sucks. You are limited as to how much you can send per day ad have to pay a fee for each time you send the money. Not to mention you have to go to that dread time-sink – the bank.

3. Getting a Chinese friend to transfer it

This is pretty much exactly the same method as before, however with an important difference. Chinese people do not face the daily limitations of $500 per day; they have an annual limit of $50,000. If you are earning enough to be $50,000 to send back then you are rich enough to figure out your own ways how to send money from China, I’m sure.

Why is this method great?

• Just as simple as before, just with a more generous limit on the value of the transfer
• Depending on how good a friend your Chinese friend is, you may not even need to go to the bank

Why it sucks

• You need to give someone else your money, so ideally its someone you can trust
• Still need to pay a fee

4. Western union

how to send money from china using western union
Western union is another way of transferring money through the bank. In fact, it is very similar to the aforementioned method but with a crucial difference.
The bank transfer will transfer directly into a bank account, whereas Western Union will transfer to another Western union facility in a location of your choosing. This means someone will need to actually pick it up from this location. If you want to send it to your own bank account this is not a preferable option.

Why is this method great?

• Useful if you need to send to a specific person and not to your own bank account. You can choose where to pick it up and it gives you a tracking number so you can see exactly where the money is
• Usually transfers faster than the direct bank transfer

Why it sucks

• You can’t send it to your own bank account directly, you would need someone you trust to pick it up and deposit it for you
• It still comes with a fee
• You still need to go to a bank
Personally, I think this way is actually worse than the direct bank transfer as you are relying on someone picking up your money for you. Of course, if you are sending the money to another person then it would be more useful.
The next few ways how to send money back to home from China will require additional equipment, namely a computer and/or a smartphone.

5. PayPal

how t osend money from china using paypal
PayPal is a really useful tool for paying for things online; its protection can let you rest assured that they will have your back if something goes wrong. It’s used for all sorts of ecommerce websites, possibly the most famous being eBay.
But why am I talking about PayPal now? Well, it’s because utilising PayPal’s send money function is one of the easiest ways how to send money from China. It requires a fair amount of effort in the beginning, but once you have the system up and running it is relatively stress-free.
I use PayPal to transfer funds back home, and I fully recommend it. This is the process that I had to go through to set it up:
First, I had to set up online banking on my Chinese bank account. I decided to set it up on my Bank of China account for simplicity’s sake, I don’t know exactly which other banks this is possible with but I can certify that its possible with Bank of China.
I then set up a Chinese PayPal account. You unfortunately, can’t (as far as I know) attach your Chinese bank card to a regular PayPal account due to fact that Chinese bank cards use ‘UnionPay’, rather than ‘MasterCard’ or ‘Visa’ for example. You will need to know your Chinese address for this set up as well as your bank card details.
If you don’t have a regular PayPal account, set this up now and make sure it is connectted and ready for deposits to your UK USA etc. bank account.
Now you are ready to start sending money from China!
All you need to do now is:
• Get paid. Transfer it to your bank account with online banking (if it’s not the one you are paid into). You can do this at an ATM. ICBC ATMs are common and have the option to do the whole transaction in English, which is nice
• Next, log into your PayPal account select send money and enter the details of your regular or ‘western’ PayPal account. Note – you will need to send the money in your domestic currency. So that would be GBP for Brits, USD for Americans etc.
• Now you can log into your western PayPal account and see that beautiful money sat in your account (usually only takes a few minutes to transfer). But you are not quite done yet! You can now select withdraw to send it to your bank account
• Depending on your bank’s transfer time… Voila your money is now across the world. Total time elapsed varies but for me I can do all this in under 30 minutes.
I honestly think this is the best way how to send money from China, and definitely recommend it. Here’s why:

Why is this method great?

• Once it is all set up, it can take easily under an hour from bank in China to bank at home. The fastest way I am aware of
• You don’t need to struggle thorugh trying to speak Chinese to a bank teller
• In fact, once you have online banking set up you don’t even need to go to the dreaded bank again! …Thank God
• You can see your money every step of the way
• No $500 limit! You can send much more per day, especially when you lift the limits on your western account by confirming your card
Why does it suck?
• It’s not perfect, you still need to pay a currency conversion fee and transfer fee. It works out roughly the same or slightly less than the bank fee.
• Setting up the Chinese version of PayPal
If you need a more detailed walkthrough on how to send money from China using PayPal feel free to contact me.

6. Alipay

how to send money from China using Alipay
Alipay is one of the most useful apps for living in China, especially here in Hangzhou! If you don’t have it you are missing out on the wonders of the online shopping megastore TaoBao. That’s great and all but Alipay is also a potential way how to send money from China.
There is a section on Alipay for an international transfer and it is apparently possible to transfer money this way. I have tried this but was not successful as I didn’t have the correct verification ID or something, so honestly… I gave up.

Why is this method great?

• If you are already within the Alipay infrastructure this way will be simple for you
• Charges lower fees than the bank transfer and Western union methods

Why does it suck?

• The instructions are all in Chinese so may be a struggle to set up the account
• It’s hard to verify your ID proofs successfully. Or maybe I’m just stupid, who knows

7. Bitcoin – the mystery method ???

Bitcoin is the new hip tech thing right now so naturally people are using it as one way how to send money from China. I’ve never done this method; I don’t fully understand it completely. I just want you to know that it’s an option.
As far as I know you need a Bitcoin wallet to start this method. You just buy Bitcoins in Chinese Renminbi and sell them for the currency of your choice. Then send this currency to your bank.

Why is this method great?

• You can sound cool to your friends if you tell them you know how to use bitcoin.
• Because of international currency markets and fluctuations, you can actually make a profit using this method if the value of Bitcoin goes up
• You can do it online

Why does it suck?

• It’s new technology, so, therefore, it is scary and confusing
• Because of international currency markets and fluctuations, you can actually make a loss using this method if the value of Bitcoin goes down

8. ATM Card back home

How to send money  from China using an Atm
If your bank allows you to have multiple cash withdrawal cards then you can send one back home to someone you trust and simply get them to withdraw the money from the ATM in your country. Doing this bypasses the bank transfer fees and you instead pay a slightly smaller ATM withdrawal fee.

Why is this method great?

• You pay a smaller fee to get your money back home
• The whole transaction is literally a case of withdrawing money from an ATM – easy!

Why does it suck?

• It’s a two man job. You will need someone you trust enough to give a bank card and pin number to back home
• Getting the bank card to your home country may be difficult

9. Take it all out in cash and take it on the plane

how to send money from china by plane
The easiest method on the list is also the most effective. However, it may not be practical for most people to do it on a regular basis. All you do is take out your salary, fly home and convert and deposit the money.

Why is this method great?

• Its so easy, maybe even a caveman could do it! (Well, only if he wasn’t so shocked by walking into a giant machine and flying across the world… and going into a bank full of people, and why are these little pieces of paper so important anyway? Yeah, never mind I guess.)
• There is a limit of how much you can bring on a plane in cash(20,000 RMB), but it beats than the $500 a day limit

Why does it suck?

• Do you know how expensive plane tickets are? It costs more than bank fees, that’s for sure
• If you are carrying that much cash then you are a target for thieves, and I would not want you to lose that much money to a thief
• If you take more than 20,000 RMB it is possible it will be confiscated by Chinese border police. Which would really suck
So, these are the methods I know about, but now on to you – what is your preferred way how to send money from China? Oh and if you understand this mysterious Bitcoin method, let me know!

12 Comments How to send money from China

  1. Josh

    Good list you have here. Based on my own experience I’d also add one more: international currency converters. I detailed it more in my own article on sending money to/from China.

    Also, I agree with you about Bitcoin…I’ve heard it’s great but it’s not my preferred method. At least until I understand more…

    1. With a Backpack

      That’s really interesting, thanks for your input! May I have your permission to edit this guide and add a section that links to your article?

    1. With a Backpack

      Usually, it’s part of a big executive package along with other benefits and will be negotiated by you leave your home country to come to China.

    1. With a Backpack

      To a bank outside of China? For me, it takes about 3 working days but I guess it depends on what bank/which country you use.

  2. Adam

    Note there is an ~ $500 USD limit on transactions with PayPal, at least with my bank (China Merchants Bank). Both sending to my Australian PayPal account and purchasing products online fail to go through once I hit about $500 USD.

    1. With a Backpack

      Ok good info, I have only used Bank of China to connect with my PayPal. Didn’t seem to be a limit but I never sent overly huge (over $1000) amounts in one go. The restrictions of the bank company itself are something that I didn’t consider!


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