Your Guide to Living in China - Expenses


Students should open local bank account in China if they are studying in China for more than three months. Foreign students can easily open bank accounts in China. You need to provide the copy of your passport and your address in China (school dormitory will do). You will receive a bank book and ATM Card after your bank account is opened. The following are the common practices for handling school fee and daily expenses in China for your easy reference: 1) Electronic Payment (Mobile Payment); 2) Remittance; 3) Cash Payment; 4) Traveler’s Check; 5) Credit Card.

It is very convenience to use mobile payment apps in China, just need to scan a QR code in the store or restaurant. Most popular service providers in China are Alipay and WeChat Pay. You can set up mobile payment with bank account in China. Foreigner can now set up the account with credit card if they don’t have bank account in China.

Out of these practices, Remittance requires students to set up a local account in Mainland China, it involves complicated procedures with at least 2 to 3 days processing time. It is not suitable for any urgent cases if students need cash promptly. Major local banks in China also work with money-transfer services like Western Union and MoneyGram which is a safe and effective way to transfer money to China.

For some occasions, students carry plenty of cash exchanging RMB in Mainland China to settle school tuition and accommodation fee. As a matter of fact, this is not a wise choice as there is a maximum limit for bringing cash in and risk for counterfeit note. Traveler's checks are more convenient and safer to use when traveling. You can travel without the hassle of currency exchange or concern over carrying cash. Always remember to keep the record of check numbers to separate from the checks for reference in the event of loss. The Bank of China can cash travelers' checks sold by international commercial banks and travelers' check companies in many countries. Also the Bank of China sells travelers' checks for other banking institutions such as American Express, Citibank, the Sumitomo Bank of Japan, the Swiss Banking Corporation, etc.

Using Credit Card settle payment is simple and easy but it may not be widely accepted by merchants in Mainland China. At present, the following credit cards are accepted in China: UnionPay, Master Card, Visa, American Express, JCB, and Diners Card. Cardholders can withdraw cash from the Bank of China and pay for purchases at exchange centers of the Bank of China, appointed shops, hotels, and restaurants. However, this applies only in major cities and they are not always accepted in remote areas. Also, credit cards are not always accepted for the purchase of rail and air tickets. ATMs that accept foreign cards are few and far between. Do not rely on them as a way of obtaining cash in China. Consult with your bank before departing to make sure that your credit card will be accepted.

Learn more about life in China, please visit Your Guide to Living in China

The Sino-British College Shanghai