Exchange RMB for USD at Pudong Airport

I got an email asking me about how he/she can exchange RMB to USD in Pudong Airport. Well. There is no easy answer. Let me explain it in details.

China Residence

For people with P.R. China residence status, exchange between RMB and USD is not free. The Regulations on Individual Foreign Exchange applies.

According to the regulation, any Chinese citizen can exchange up to 50,000 USD from RMB, or 50,000 USD equivalence of RMB from USD per calendar year.

If you have a valid national ID, or passport, and you have not exceeded the quota, you can go to any bank with foreign currency business, and ask them to exchange RMB to USD or USD to RMB to you. All the banks leverage a specialized, connected terminal to process your request, so your quota is calculated across all different banks and cities.

The problem is, however, there are NO bank in Pudong Airport that handles the foreign exchange business as most of the banks in downtown do. So, if you want to get USD, you’d better get to any bank instead of wait until you are at PVG. The last time, I have to start to US trip without a single USD bank note in my pocket. I am lucky that I didn’t use paper money during the trip.

Citizen of Foreign Countries

As far as I know, there is no hard limitation about how much RMB foreigners can exchange in airports in China. However, if they want to exchange RMB back to USD or other currency, they have to provide the original bank transaction sheet to prove that he/she has just exchanged the RMB using foreign currency. Without the bank sheet, foreigners cannot change RMB back to USD. Please pay special attention to this regulation.

9 thoughts on “Exchange RMB for USD at Pudong Airport

  1. Claudia Frias

    Strange I have never heard of the 50K quota, indeed I had problems with people and friends who werent able to change any money, not usd not euros! So they asked me to do it!!!

    Do you know if this limit is official? Or for everyone? They told me only if they will have a passport and travel abroad they could have permission…

    Im confused now, hope you can help to clear this up hehe!

  2. Denis

    the rule for forex in china is simple.

    -for Chinese citizens (those with china ID card) they are able to exchange CNY/RMB into forex currency up to the value of US$50,000 per year. They simply need to produce the cash, their Chinese ID card, and complete a document and the transaction will happen, without needing any other supporting evidence.

    -for Foreigners there are several ways to exchange CNY/RMB into forex currency.

    ..1st way is if the foreigner has previously exchanged forex currency into CNY/RMB then they can convert back (CNY/RMB into forex currency) by providing the transaction receipt from the previous transaction

    ..2nd way is for foreigner legally working in PRC with “Z” /temporary residence visa. must provide passport, tax receipts, copy of business license, copy of employment contract, along with other documents and complete the bank form

    ..3rd way is to use unofficial methods… “golden cow”

    ..4th way is to ask a local (Chinese with China ID card) to do the exchange, since they only need provide their ID card and complete the bank document… this is the easiest way IMO.

    keep in mind that TIC and therefore not all banks in all regions or cities/towns in China can handle forex. having a bank account with one bank in one city may not give you access to that account in another city or province.

    also that things are in a constant state of flux and one rule today may not be the same tomorrow or elsewhere. think of each town, city, province as a seperate country within China, with differing rules and interpretations of central government rules and regulations.

    to exchange forex currency into CNY/RMB is easy and simply involves going to almost any bank, with passport and cash.

  3. Denis

    the rule for forex in china is simple.

    -for Chinese citizens (those with china ID card) they are able to exchange CNY/RMB into forex currency up to the value of US$50,000 per year. They simply need to produce the cash, their Chinese ID card, and complete a document and the transaction will happen, without needing any other supporting evidence.

    -for Foreigners there are several ways to exchange CNY/RMB into forex currency.

    ..1st way is if the foreigner has previously exchanged forex currency into CNY/RMB then they can convert back (CNY/RMB into forex currency) by providing the transaction receipt from the previous transaction

    ..2nd way is for foreigner legally working in PRC with “Z” /temporary residence visa. must provide passport, tax receipts, copy of business license, copy of employment contract, along with other documents and complete the bank form

    ..3rd way is to use unofficial methods… “golden cow”

    ..4th way is to ask a local (Chinese with China ID card) to do the exchange, since they only need provide their ID card and complete the bank document… this is the easiest way IMO.

    keep in mind that TIC and therefore not all banks in all regions or cities/towns in China can handle forex. having a bank account with one bank in one city may not give you access to that account in another city or province.

    also that things are in a constant state of flux and one rule today may not be the same tomorrow or elsewhere. think of each town, city, province as a seperate country within China, with differing rules and interpretations of central government rules and regulations.

    to exchange forex currency into CNY/RMB is easy and simply involves going to almost any bank, with passport and cash, but not when comes to exchange CNY/RMB into forex. the central theme is that the CCP wants to tightly control forex and capital in general. China seeks investment into the country, not out of it….

  4. Elliott Ng

    Wanted to add what I know (or think is correct) from the perspective of a Foreign Citizen:

    Exchanging USD into RMB:

    – best way is to simply use your ATM card to withdraw money from ATM machines at the airport

    – many machines say “overseas card only” and have a limit of sometimes RMB1500 to RMB3000

    I am pretty sure there is a USD equivalent $50k maximum per year on incoming USD. I did not know about the interlinked terminals used to enforce your quota. But that makes sense, and is probably tied to your passport number. I have opened a China Merchants Bank account in China and that account is tied to my passport number. So chances are all other banks would reference my passport number to check my conversion quota.

    The conversion quota is on a calendar year basis.

    Exchanging RMB to USD:

    There is likewise a $50k annual limit to transfer back from RMB to USD.

  5. martin

    Please note that Chinese citizens need to show their ID card when converting currency (they cannot use their passport).

  6. DB

    I have heard about the 50k-USD-quota for FX->RMB conversion described by Elliott Ng as well. But economists in the know have convincingly proven that currency speculators betting on a further rise of the RMB have found reliable informal channels to circumvent the restriction. Otherwise the recent massive FX inflows into China would be impossible.

  7. JH

    Just one comment on using ATM to get RMB in China: If you have an account and a ATM card at Bank of America, you can use the card to withdraw RMB at a ATM machine at China Construction Bank without fee. And vise vesa.

  8. RS

    This is good info… Does anybody know what the restrictions are for non-individuals i.e. for Corporates? How do they receive money for, say, the export services they provide? Do they invoice the foreign company in a non-CNY currency always and, upon receipt of the payment, convert to CNY locally?

  9. CM

    I live in the US and is selling an apartment in Shanghai to fund the purchasing of an apartment in New York. How do I convert and transfer the money to the US? The money with which I bought the apartment in SH was wired to China via Bank of China years ago.

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