This article is about the China vacations. You can find some helpful information in it if you are planning your China vacations now. As a Chinese graduate student pursuing my Master’s Degree in the U.S. , I think I can have a better understanding of how to use the America issued debit or credit card in China. 🙂
Lots of traveller have this kind of questions: Can I use America issued debit or credit card ( VISA,Mastercard,American Express,Discover ) in China? How to get cash and make purchases in China?
For most international travellers, they don’t have a Chinese credit card. But the Visa and Mastercard credit cards are accepted at most ATMs (with the VISA or Mastercard logos in them) in China. You can get cash from these ATMs in China using your American VISA or Mastercard credit cards. Some Chinese banks also provide this kind of service and you can get cash (U.S. dollars or Chinese RMB) from your Visa or Mastercard credit cards by asking the tellers in these banks. But the fees are a little bit high and you will need to pay attention to this. For making purchases with the Visa or Mastercard credit cards in China, you will need to find the VISA or Mastercard POS machines. Most international hotels and high grade department stores accept the Visa and Mastercard. Technically, these 2 types of credit cards are accepted in China, but in most places of China, the VISA or Mastercard POS machines are not easy to find. Most Chinese retail merchants do not have these specail POS machines, all they got is the China UnionPay POS machines, which do not accept the Ameria issued VISA or Mastercard. (more info about Beijing airfare and China vacations at Travel2ChinaInfo Dot COM)
For the Discover credit card, it is much more convinient than Visa and Mastercard in China. China UnionPay is now the partner of Discover and they made a deal which enables the Discover cardholders to make purchases and get ATM cash in China. You can get cash in all the China UnionPay ATMs in China. ( Actually, about 99% of the ATMs in China are run by China UnionPay and this makes the Discover credit cards acceptable in almost all the ATMs in China ) Now China UnionPay has 80,000 ATMs and 365,000 retail merchants in China. For getting cash with the Discover credit cards from the ATM, you will need to pay some fees for this service. But if you wanna make purchases with them, there is no any hidden fees for your purchases in China. Pretty cool, right? (more info about Shanghai airfare and China vacations at Travel2ChinaInfo Dot COM)
I used my Discover credit card many times in China. It is always working. No any hidden fees even when you use it in the small cities or towns in China. (you will need to pay a 3% foreign transaction fees for Visa or Mastercard credit cards) Some chinese cashiers do not hear about this Discover credit card before, you can just tell them it is a dual currency China UnionPay card. In China, your Discover credit card is the same as the China UnionPay card in making purchases. No differences at all !
One good thing I find out about getting cash in the Chinese ATMs is that we can use the BOA (Bank Of America) debit cards to get ATM cash for free in China. Now the BOA is the partner of the CCB (China Construction Bank) and they made a deal which enables the BOA debit cardholders to get cash (the Chinese RMB) for free in all the CCB’s ATMs in China. No hidden fees for this service. For instance, if the exchange rate is 1:7 (1 U.S. dollars=7 Chinese RMB), you will get 7 rmb for every dollar in your BOA debit card account. Although BOA claims that the BOA debit cards are accepted in all the ATMs of the CCB, I found that it is not working in some CCB’s ATMs. Some friends of mine got cash successfully from the CCB’s ATMs in some small cities or towns of China. But I failed sometimes in some CCB’s ATMs in Beijing and Shanghai. Maybe this is because of the differences of these ATMs. The CCB’s ATMs are new in the small Chinese cities, but you will probably meet some old ATMs in the big Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai. A lot of people think that the old CCB’s ATMs is not able to provide this kind of service to the BOA debit cardholders.(more info about Lhasa travel, Beijing airfare and Shanghai airfare at Travel2ChinaInfo Dot COM)
For the American Express credit card, it is not widely accepted in China. As I know, you can get cash with the American Express credit card in the Starwood and Ritz Carl Ton’s international ATMs. The CITI’s ATMs accept this credit card too. Most international hotels and high grade department stores accept this type of credit card in Shanghai and Beijing. But it is not as good as the Visa, Mastercard or Discover in China.
If you wanna make purchases online in China, most Chinese web sites do not accept the Discover credit card. I once bought something with my Chase Visa credit card. But I paid a 3% foreign transaction fees for it.
In summary, if you are planning your China travel, I think you can bring some U.S. dollars in cash. If you need some Chinese RMB, you can get cash with your BOA debit card in most CCB’s ATMs (free currency exchange service). For the shopping in China, the best way to make the purchases is through a Discover credit card (no foreign transaction fees).
By Shane Lee. Date: 05/20/2009.
Copyright belongs to Travel2ChinaInfo Dot COM . You can find more information about China vacations, Lhasa travel guide, Beijing airfare and Shanghai airfare from our web site.
NOTE: Permission is granted by the copyright owner to disseminate this article in whole or in part provided credit is given to the author (with a link to the article’s source URL Travel2ChinaInfo Dot COM ) and this NOTE is not removed.