Travelers' cheques and other money matters in China

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Travelers' cheques and other money matters in China

Postby long_way » Sun Jun 22, 2008 3:27 pm

This article covers only some of the important money related topics, for other useful travel tips please visit our main TRAVEL TIPS section:

http://www.yilongwei.com/tips/travel_tips.htm

In China you can use your credit cards (mostly in big cities) both for purchases and cash withdrawals, your debit card to make cash withdrawals at many banks (best idea is to go to one of Bank of China or ICBC branches and use ATM machine INSIDE the bank so if something goes wrong, for example if your card is "swallowed" by the machine, you can ask one of the bank employees for assistance), you can cash foreign currency at most banks, and finally you can cash your Travelers’ Cheques (only at Bank of China branches).

It is recommended that you make all these options available to you:

* Take one credit card with you (VISA and Mastercard are widely accepted, lower your credit limit before the trip, just in case, and don't forget to call your credit card company and tell them you will be in China so that they don't block unexpected transactions. Also make sure you know your PIN number for cash withdrawals, make it a four digit number and the PIN number should not start with zero). Credit card is better option than debit card for cash withdrawals because credit card companies MAY recover some of losses in case of fraudulent activities on your account whereas if someone uses your debit card and makes withdrawals from your account it is almost impossible to get your money back (banks will remind you that it was your responsibility to guard your card and your PIN number). Use your credit card only if you have to, try to use cash whenever possible. Also speak with your bank representative (the one who issued your credit card) and see if you can credit your credit card account so when you make cash withdrawals from your credit card they won't charge any interest, they will only charge a $4 or $5 fee for cash withdrawal. Royal Bank of Canada (VISA) will allow you to do that. (Here is how it works: let's say your credit card balance is zero, then you transfer $500 from your cheching account to your credit card so your new credit card balance will be +$500, then when you get to China you withdraw Chinese Yuan worth approximately $400, at the same time your bank will charge you $5 for transaction fee but they won't charge any interest on those $400 withdrawn because you are using your own money as opposed to your credit. Unfortunately not all banks will allow you to do that; some of them will charge interest even though it doesn't make any sense).

* Debit (bank) cards are very useful because you can make cash withdrawals at most Bank of China and ICBC (and possibly other banks) branches. One thing you can do before your trip to China is to open a brand new bank account and deposit certain amount of money there, say $2000, so that you can use it in case of emergency (there should be enough money to purchase your air ticket back home) and take that bank card with you. I don't think it is good idea to carry your bank card with you in case if your card COULD help someone to wipe out your life savings in a matter of minutes. The maximum amount that you (or someone else) can withdraw in one day is 2500 Yuan (approximately $380, which depends on the bank/ATM you use and the current exchange rate), so even if things go wrong you will still have some time to prevent the disaster. As I mentioned above it is better to use your credit card than your debit card for cash withdrawals.

* Foreign currency (American dollars, Canadian dollars, Euros are best options) is something you can also take with you. The downside, of course, is that flashing large amounts of cash in front of unknown people is NEVER a good idea, it is impossible to trace stolen cash (as opposed to credit cards, debit cards or travelers’ cheques) and certainly no one will replace lost or stolen cash. I never carry foreign currency with me (with exception of ONE 100 Euros bill plus ONE 100 yuan bill which I hide in my hidden belt compartment in case everything else is stolen, but fortunately it has never happened). Keep in mind that exchange rates are better for travelers’ cheques than for cash, I'm not sure why.

* Travelers’ cheques should be your best friend when it comes to money matters in China. You can buy them in most western banks and often your bank won't charge any commission in case you have Gold VISA credit card with that bank (that is the case with the Royal Bank of Canada). You can choose the currency (I always choose Canadian Dollars) and denominations ($100 is recommended because you will cash your travelers’ cheques as you go, so you don't want to carry too much cash with you, or you don't want to exchange too much money if the exchange rates are not good). best thing about travelers’ cheques is that they can be replaced in case they are lost or stolen, banks have good exchange rate for travelers’ cheques and you can deposit them back into your bank account when you return home. The down side is that only Bank of China can cash them and sometimes even not all of the Bank of China branches can do that, they may direct you to another branch near-by. Often you can exchange your travelers’ cheques at the hotel reception desk for a small additional fee (but they will take the same cheques to the Bank of China too).

It is recommended that you carry most of your money in travelers’ cheques, hide them along with your passport, air tickets and debit/credit cards in your money belt and don't foget to write down the serial numbers of your cheques so that you can tell the numbers to the American Express (in case you buy their cheques) representative if/when your cheques are lost and stolen. I usually write those numbers down and then scan them and e-mail that jpg file to my e-mail address (along with my scanned passport, e-ticket and travel insurance policy) because if I keep those numbers next to my cheques I may lose them together.

It is also worth mentioning that you can open a Chinese bank account in less than 30 minutes at ICBC bank; you will need your passport and Y20-30, you will get your bank card which will give you access to network of ATM machines all over China (not only ICBC machines but most other banks will allow you to use your ICBC bank card to make cash withdrawals but they will charge almost $1 per transaction). If you are heading to the areas where cashing travelers’ cheques may be difficult you can cash some of them ahead of time, deposit that money into your ICBC account and after that use ICBC bank card.


Here is what happens when you decide to cash your travelers’ cheques:

+ First locate one of Bank of China branches; your travel guide book will help you with that,

+ When you find the branch you will (usually) have to get a number using a special machine which is close to the entrance. On the machine you will see two or three buttons and writing in Chinese and English underneath each of the buttons. Press the correct one and the machine will print one ticket like this one:

http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg18 ... mber_1.jpg

or this one:

http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg18 ... mber-1.jpg


+ Now that you have your number you can have a seat and wait until your number appears above one of the wickets. While waiting prepare your passport, your travelers cheque(s) and also your telephone number (explanation that you don't have telephone number because you are a traveler won't be accepted because there is a field in the form that asks for your telephone number so you better have one. Fake one will do fine. The same applies to your address; if you are staying at a hostel take their business card with you because you will have to write down your address. You may also write the passport number on a piece of paper because when they give you forms to fill out they will keep your passport at the same time so you won’t be able to copy the passport number. Also while waiting rehears the phrase Wǒ xiǎng duìhuàn lǚxíng zhīpiào (I would like to exchange travelers' cheques) or write this on a piece of paper:
我 想 兑换 旅行 支票. That may not be necessary because many bank employees nowadays speak English but it is good to be prepared.

+ When you number appears and you tell the clerk what you want they will ask you to give them your passport and your travelers’ cheque(s) (actually they may roll they eyes first :) because cashing travelers’ cheques involves more work than their other duties, plus they do not have that many clients who are cashing travelers’ cheques so they may have to ask their supervisor for instructions, then make telephone calls to figure out the exchange rates etc… all in all they may not be delighted to see a foreigner who doesn’t speak Chinese with travelers’ cheques in their hand).

+ After that the clerk will hand you two forms, one white one and the yellow one which you will take with you (and which I scanned and you can see it below). You will have to enter the following information: your name, telephone number, address, your passport number and also the amount of money you want to exchange. The last question may be tricky; if you for example want to cash $100 you would expect that you write $100 in the form but actually you have to write $99.25 because there is $0.75 commission, so instead of writing that you are exchanging $100 and paying 75 cents for commission they will ask you to write that you are exchanging $99.25 and there will be no mention of commission (in that form), don’t ask questions, just write $99.25. Speaking about commission make sure that they charge only 0.7500% or 75 cents for each 100 dollars. That is usually not the problem but only one time I had to complain when the clerk charged almost $10 for $100 cheque, she later apologized and I believe it was an honest mistake. Also the clerk may ask if you want to exchange your travelers’ cheques for Chinese Yuan or some other currency.

+ Finally you will get your passport back along with a wad of yuan, one copy of the big form you filled out and two small receipts. Keep those receipts with you in case of unlikely event that you have to return yuan and exchange them back into foreign currency.

Here is the picture of the form and the receipts:

http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg18 ... s_form.jpg

http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg18 ... eceipt.jpg

http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg18 ... rece-1.jpg


Additional information on travelers’ cheques:

(source: http://www10.americanexpress.com/sif/cd ... 995,00.asp )


For lost or stolen travelers’ cheques call these numbers:

China

Northern Provinces: Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia,
Liaoning, Jilin, Heilonhjiang, Henan and Shandong

10 800 7 44 0106

Southern Provinces: Anhui, Chongqing, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong,
Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hunan, Hubei, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Ningxia,
Qinghai, Shanghai, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Xinjiang, Xizang, Yunnan and
Zhejiang

10 800 440 0106


LOST OR STOLEN CHEQUES
SAFE TRAVEL CASH SOLUTIONS FOR ALL YOUR TRAVEL NEEDS.

AMERICAN EXPRESS TRAVELERS CHEQUES.
SAFETY AND SECURITY WORLDWIDE.

American Express(R) Travelers Cheques are safer than cash. If they are
ever lost or stolen, the funds can be replaced virtually anywhere in
the world,usually within 24 hours.*

REPLACING CHEQUES

What to do if your Cheques are lost or stolen.

* Call an American Express Travelers Cheque Customer Service
Center as soon as possible and have the serial numbers of the Cheques
in question on hand.

* For worldwide Service Center phone numbers, click the first
letter of the country in which you need assistance: A-C D-K L-R S-Z.

* Refunds must first be pre-authorized by an American Express
Travelers Cheques Service Center.

* Service Center personnel will assist you in determining the best
way to obtain a refund.

* As another option, you may download a Refund Claim Form,
complete it and fax it to 1.800.417.0060.

Note: Your refund, once approved, will be sent in the form of a
company check to your home. Please allow 7-10 business days for the
check to arrive.

http://www10.americanexpress.com/tconli ... 20Form.pdf

What you should know before you go.

* Telephone numbers and complete instructions for reporting and
replacing lost or stolen Cheques are included with your purchase.

* Service Centers handle claims for lost or stolen Cheques 24
hours a day, 7 days a week.

* Replacement Cheques and refunds are available at American
Express and partner locations around the globe.*

KEEP A RECORD OF YOUR CHEQUES SERIAL NUMBERS

Keep a Record of Your American Express Travelers Cheques Serial Numbers**

If you need to contact American Express regarding lost or stolen
Travelers Cheques, you will be asked to provide:

* the serial numbers of the Cheques in question

You should keep a record of the serial numbers separate from your Cheques.

Read the complete Travelers Cheques terms & conditions.

*Subject to local laws and cash availability.

** Foreign currency purchased through American Express is not
refundable if lost or stolen.
long_way
 
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