Exchange RMB to/from Foreign Currencies

RMB is not a free trade (do you call it free trade) currency. I mean it cannot be exchanged to or from foreign currencies freely, not as USD or Euro.

From RMB to foreign currencies

For local residents (China passport holder), they cannot directly go to a bank to exchange their RMB to USD or other foreign currency. People can exchange foreign currency only before an international trip. For example, before my business trip to Seattle, I can go to a bank with my passport (with valid U.S. visa) to exchange about 16400 RMB to 2000 USD (if the rate is 8.2). Sometimes, the bank may require you to show them your flight ticket. After then give you the USD cash, they will put a stamp to the next page of your U.S visa – Foreign Currency Exchanged. Then you can not get more USD for the trip.

What if I really need more? Typically, I will have to turn to my friends who have enough USD to exchange it. Of cause it is illegal. The policy is, you cannot exchange foreign currency outside a bank.

Recently, the policy is not as strict as before. There are more ways to exchange more foreign currencies.

1) You don’t need to exchange too much foreign currency. Just use your RMB credit card outside China and after you return, you can deposit RMB to balance your card.

2) If someone needs to go out of education or business, 2000 USD may not be enough for them to support their lives, there is special approval process to exchange more.

From Foreign Currencies to RMB

Upon arrival at airport, you can directly exchange RMB at bank counters.

I remember (not sure) there is an limitation of 200,000 USD for the exchange at once. Here is what I wrote before.

2. After checking with the Bank of China hotline, The USD to RMB exchange limitation is 200,000 USD (Two hundred thousand USD) for both local residents and foreigners. Exchanging above that limit need to be reported to the Foreign Currency Exchange Administration and waiting for approval and register. I think the limit should be OK for you, but you still need to check if you need to claim the cash at custom if you bring too much money. The limit applies to exchange in cash.

I believe the article Currency Exchange at Shanghai Pudong Airport

39 thoughts on “Exchange RMB to/from Foreign Currencies

  1. How easy is it to use foreign ATM cards to withdraw RMB in China now? In most countries, you get a better exchange rate from ATMs than at Bank counters. Is this true in China as well?

  2. I don’t know the exchange rate since I never try. But I ASSUME it is the same as you get at counter. The exchange rate is official and there is no bargin spare space for any bank or user. You can easily draw RMB with your Visa, Master or AmericanExpress. This can be confirmed.

  3. How can a foreigner working in China get a RMB Credit Card? Does one has to open a savings account with the China banks?


  4. How can a foreigner working in China get a RMB Credit Card? Does one has to open a savings account with the China banks?


  5. ICBC the industrial and construction bank of china offers slightly better rates for Australia dollar to RMB than Bank of china offers. Not really sure about other currency rates though, and as far as I know, only Bank of China ATMs allow the use of foreign bank cards, or you can also try to find ATMs set up by your home country bank in Shanghai, Eg, HSBC in Huai Hai Road, American express ATM at the Bund. As China opened up their financial sectors early this month, we should see more foreign ATMs available in China.:)

  6. Hi James,

    Is it true that ICBC offers better rate than other bank? I believe the rate is official and maybe it is unified. I am not sure why a bank can offer better rate. I believe it is not allowed. Would you please help me to understand this?

    Also, what is the experience of other expats? I do not use foreign bank cards, but I see foreigners insert their American Express into an ATM, (not Bank of China) and can get cash. Anyone can confirm this? Thanks.

  7. To. Jian Shuo Wang

    ICBC offers slightly better rates, not by a big margin tho, I’m not sure why is the case but that is what I get when I need to exchange AUS dollars to RMB.

    As to your second question, BankOfChina ATMs and foreign bank ATMs accept foreign bank cards and allow RMB withdraw. They can do this because they support Cirrus or Maestro banking network which of course the foreign bank card need to support the network as well in order to get it work. ICBC also support this, but somehow it just doesn’t work, which I have tried a number of times.

    I presume you can find more information about Cirrus and Maestro network by making a search on the net.

  8. Can you suggest the best way to visit, research temples in Shanghai. I am doing research and desire to visit active, real life temples of worship, not just the tourist sites.

    Taoist, Buddhist, or Confucianist

    I will be arriving around Aug. 1, 2004



  9. Trying to understand value of RMB

    What is US $ equalivent to 6000 RMB?

    Or do you know a web site that provides this information?

    Thank you

  10. Hi there. I was just wondering what’s the best way to get funds into a US bank account from China? About how much does a transfer/exchange cost? Thanks!

  11. hi i m vincent from malaysia,i would like to know isit bank of china in malaysia have issue out credit card??if nope how can i apply the boc credit card?can i apply from china?but i work in malaysia,now i hope others bank credit card….

  12. You should be able to easily get one if you are in China, even you are not a China passport holder. However, I doubt that you can get it in Malaysia.

  13. Am from India, working in JiangSu Province, can some one guide me for the following queries,

    1. How to send money to India? and How much I can send, I like to send over 5000 to 6000 RMB every month.

    2. I like to have a Credit Card issued by a Chinese bank, whats the formalities and whom should I approach.

    3. If I need to take a loan, can I approach my Bank? my Bank account was provided by my Employer. I have ATM Card.

    4. I want to learn Chinese, suggestions please…

    Is there anyone from India?

  14. I was in Shanghai for 2 weeks in May–trying to set up house for my parents from the USA. One problem I had with local banks there is that they really don’t like it when you hand them a wad of USD to change into RMB for deposit into their accounts. The policies vary from bank to bank. Some stop at $2000USD, others $5000USD, one actually took $9000USD (Agricultural Bank). But these limits is per transaction (I think either per day, or per week, not quite sure). So my question is, Mr. Wang, the $200,000 that the Bank of China is talking about, does it only apply when you take $200,000 to the BOC for exchange into RMB at any one time? Or do they mean that you can only exchange $200,000USD Maximum, during your lifetime in China, and if you exceed that amount, you need permission? If that’s the case, then I assume they have a means of tracking how much you have exchanged in your lifetime in China?

  15. “1) You don’t need to exchange too much foreign currency. Just use your RMB credit card outside China and after you return, you can deposit RMB to balance your card.”

    This is true ONLY in Hong Kong. A RMB credit card will NEVER work outside of Greater China (excluding Taiwan).

    Foreigners looking to obtain a credit card from any Chinese bank have a VERY difficult time ahead of them. Unless you have establish extremely solid credit in China already, many banks will outright deny you a card. If you are VERY lucky, they will issue you a card after you deposit double the card limit as a security deposit.

  16. P.S. There are now strict foreign currency exchange controls in place. I am not sure what the actual limit is, but it is not extremely high. You must show your passport (for foreigners) when exchanging foreign currency into RMB and the bank files an exchange report with the People’s Bank. There is a daily limit and an overall weekly / monthly / lifetime limit.

    I don’t think these controls will be lifted anytime soon because of all the speculation about a pending adjustment to the official exchange rates.

  17. Hi,

    I’m Oren from Israel, and I’m right now in China.

    I got an American Express credit card, but no bank or ATM here seems to accept it.

    Does anyone happen to know why, or how I CAN use it?

    thanks alot.

  18. There are many ATM accepting AmExpress card. You should look for the logo or just call American Express to solve the problem. At least I know some friends who can use it without any problem

  19. I am a foreignor living in Shenzen

    How can I get money from my account in China into my account in the UK?

    Have been to several banks in China but the forms they request are too confusing for my fragile brain. So i would be willing to travel to Hong Kong if any easier



  20. Hello,

    I am only a visitor in Shanghai, and leaving next week. I have a problem considering the exchanges from RMB to US$ or EUR, because in most banks they say it is not possible. I have found out that on the airport where I leave Shanghai next week could exchange it, but with receipts for my RMB. The other problem is I do not have that anymore. So, where can I change at a reasonable and fair exchange rate? Thanks for the help,

    Best Regards,


  21. hello

    i need to know. it’s possible to get money from india by westren union or is there any other way to get, let me know soon if you got this messege.

  22. Good blog there ! It helps me a lot to prepare my moving to Shanghai for my one year course..

    I understand that you can actually change USD to RMB in places other than banks. Is there any big difference between banks and these place? Do you, by chance, know any place with better deal to change USD to RMB?

    What’s the current rate now btw?

    Thank you..

  23. Hello Wangjianshuo,

    I have a question for you, please answer to it, thank you!!!

    I’m French and live in China. I want to change RMB into Euro because I will come back to my country.

    Is it possible to exchange RMB into Euro?

    And what is the maximum amount?

    Thanks for your answer


  24. oh god!

    2004 is a year i am in a high school work my best to go to a college,and at the same time you are there talk about Exchange RMB to/from Foreign Currencies.

    i think that i can know what’s the titel mean now bue at that time !!!!??

    and JS it’s time to answer Thibaud ‘s question!!!!

    i must say that i don’t know about that Thibaud .so if you see this you wont think i amnot a good person!!

    french is must beutiful!!

    i want to goto there one day !

    please may me success!

  25. I would just like to say that i live in the UK and i have used my visa electron card on previous journeys to china and it tends to give me quite a good rate compared to what i get back home in england

  26. Dear Wang Jian Shuo,

    The information your provided in 2004 on the The USD to RMB exchange limitation (at 200,000 USD) is very useful.

    Would you be able to let me know if the same limitation (for bank accounts opened by foreigners) still exists? I understand that the current exchange ceiling for Chinese Nationals is USD 50,000 per year.


  27. Can anybody tell me in US how I can exchange US dollar to RMB in China Bank New York or some Bank?

    Or there is anyway to exchange Dollar to RMB in US?

    Is it still true that I can bring less than $200, 000 to China and exchanged to RMB?

    What I should do if I leave US with $200, 000, do I need to report to the US custom? Do they charge any fees to leave US with $200, 000?

    Thanks so much for so many questions.


  28. @Israel,

    you can exchange dollar to RMB in most big banks in US… you need to call and put in an order. There maybe special banks that allow you do at the spot… there is none in my area.

    You can also do it at AAA… sometimes they have “in stock”… call advance is always better.

    And at every international airports, there are exchange counters.

    If it’s a bigger amount than normal (even if it’s at bigger international airports… they may not have a lot… over a few thousands maybe too big amount) it’s better to make advance arrangements.

    All these places change fees. The cheapest way I learned was to do exchange in China… you’ll need to find out which bank offer the service… sometimes with the same bank only a few locations have the service.

    Traveler’s checks were the most convenience way for me in the past. Some banks change fees for that… AAA didn’t but you need to use their credit card to purchase. And my experiences were all from before the this downturn… many rules have changed since.

    In terms of how much you can carry… I think you are required to report to the US custom if the amount is over $10.000… again, this information is 3 years old.

    How I learned about it was like this… I brought $10.000 for my parents… I didn’t know there was rule on this… I did put exact amount on the form… nobody said a thing. Half a year past, I was on my 2nd trip to China… before the departure the radio at the airport called my name for “security clearance”… behind the counter and a wall there was this big guy in custom uniform greeted me, polite and formal, and asked me how much money I had on me. I told him (this time I only had a few thousands)… and asked why. He said you need to report if it’s over $10.000. He didn’t mention about the previous trip all that. So, it’s nothing for me, but I did realize that they do read those litter forms… and they “remembered”.

    I don’t know if there is a fee/tax for more than $10.000. There must be official information about this on some .gov sites.

  29. I help traders achieve consistent income trading Forex while spending less time trading. My focus on trading is a combination of Fundamental Analysis, Technical Analysis, and Market Sentiment. Far too many retail Forex traders concentrate on just one aspect of trading, technical analysis, and ignore everything else; it is my goal (and vision) to educate every trader on how to take advantage of Forex trading and become more balanced traders with this popular website that which have created for every forex traders

  30. Heading to Shaighai branch to work. Was told not to stay exceed 183 days a year.

    Plan to work 2 years in Shanghai off and on (in 183 days rule).

    If open an US bank account for US company to direce deposite and withdraw from Shanghai branch, will that work??

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *