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3 Payment Methods in China: Cash, Credit Card, and Mobile Payment

Many articles have stated: “China is living the future because you can do almost everything with a smartphone“. But how effective is this for travelers from the rest of the world? We have listed three main payment methods in China to help you.

Pay in Cash — the Most Valid Option

Paying in cash is the most common payment method for travelers  and is accepted in every corner of China. Making mobile payments is popular in most Chinese cities; however, if you want to explore rural areas, cash is the main way to pay.

How to Get Chinese Money?

There are two ways to get Chinese money: exchange some currency or withdraw cash from an ATM in China.

Currency Exchange
  • Before Your Trip

Exchange about 20,000 CNY (3,150 USD) at your local bank before you go to China. It’s more convenient than changing your notes in China because you will not be confused by the language barrier.

  • Exchange Your Currency in China

You can also take about 5,000 USD or other common currency (such as British pounds, Japanese yen, or euros) to China to exchange. Before you go to a bank in China, you’d better prepare what you need to communicate and write it on a piece of paper in Chinese in advance so that you can show it to the clerk.

ATM Cash Withdrawal

There are some facts you need to be aware of if you want to withdraw cash from an ATM in China.

  1. Your card must be a Visa, Mastercard, or Maestro. It’s not possible to use foreign bank cards in a Chinese ATM.
  2. Find the ATM you can use according to your bank card.
  3. You can select English as the language on ATMs in China.
  4. A 3% fee will be charged on the withdrawn amount.
  5. If you have a Chinese bank card, you can withdraw at every ATM.
  6. You can withdraw no more than 2,500 yuan during a single transaction.
  7. You can find ATMs easily in the city center, such as shopping malls and office buildings.
Pay by Credit Card — Shopping or Accommodation

In big cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, you can pay with foreign credit cards. But that doesn’t mean credit cards are accepted everywhere. Generally, you can pay by credit card in these situations:

  • Most Major Hotels

Five-star hotels, four-star hotels, hotel chains, and business hotels

  • Restaurants

Some restaurants in famous local hotels accept credit card payments, but some small restaurants on the streets do not.

  • Shopping Malls 

Walmart supermarket, Tesco, Carrefour, Metro, China Resources Vanguard supermarket, and Beijing Hualian Group

  • Travel

Travel agencies, airlines, and international ships or trains

Mobile Payment — May Be a Little Complex for Foreigners

Mobile payment has become the most popular payment method in China, and you can see the payment QR code almost everywhere. For foreign travelers, however, it may not be a good choice. If you only want to have a short trip in China, it’s not worth doing this. If you have a long journey in China or simply want to experience the mobile payment method then it’s essential you try it.

Follow these steps:

  1. Download the Alipay or WeChat apps.
  2. Acquire a bank card in China using your valid passport.
  3. Link your Chinese bank card with your smartphone.
  4. Prepare a translation app or some common phrases that you can use with it when you make payments.
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