Which China ATM Can I Use?
There are ATMs on almost every corner in China, but not all of them are foreigner-friendly. There are a couple things you need to ask yourself when finding the right Chinese ATM to use.
- Which Bank? Typically you want to find a Bank of China, China Merchant’s Bank or ICBC. These banks are reliably friendly to foreign cards and have locked spaces to get your money.
- Which Cards do they Accept? You’ll usually see a sign in front of the ATM that tells whether it accepts Visa, MasterCard, Amex or any others. For the most part, if you have one of these three credit providers, you’ll be fine.
- Do I Use Credit or Debit? – the bank will accept both, but you’ll save yourself a lot of extra fees if you use your debit card to withdraw money. Make sure you know your PIN! If you want to get cash with either your debit or your credit card, you’ll need your PIN number. Didn’t know your credit card had a PIN? Then don’t expect to get cash with it!
- How Much Money Do I Need? – ATMs have a limit to how much money you can take out per day, usually capped at about 2,500-3,000 RMB depending on the bank. If you need more than this, you’ll need to go inside the bank or use multiple cards.
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General Tips on Using a Chinese ATM
All Chinese ATMs have the option to choose “English” as the language in their menu, so don’t think that your language skills are going to hinder you from getting money.
The avoid any problems, it’s best to keep the following tips in mind:
- Tell Your Bank before you leave that you’re traveling to China. This will avoid any problems with them denying any service because they think your card is stolen.
- Be Prepared with a Backup Plan in case they do deny your withdraw. Either bring an extra credit card or have some traveler’s cheques handy.
- Know Your PIN because the ATM will most certainly ask you for it, even if you’re using a credit card.
- Factor in Fees when you think about your budget. ATM’s will sometimes charge you a fee, and then your home bank will likely charge you a non-bank ATM fee (waived with some banks, so check before you leave) in addition to an international currency exchange fee. It’s usually about 3%, so be ready for it.
The one downside to using an ATM is that it will only spit out 100 RMB bills. You’ll need to find places – like restaurants and grocery stores – to break this down into smaller bills because some services (such as a Chinese taxi) don’t like breaking 100’s.