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How do I transfer money out of China?





Photo by Tracy Olson

Sending money back home from China – or abroad if you’re Chinese, of course – is easier than some might think. Most state banks in China – such as Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Bank of Communications and Agricultural Bank of China – provide international money transfer and foreign currency exchange services. Commercial banks such as Merchants Bank of China, China Citic Bank and China Everbright Bank are also able to help. And, of course, there are a number of private services for transferring your money. Here’s the lowdown on what options are available.

 

Transferring through banks

Bank transfer

If the receiver possesses a bank account in a foreign country, the easiest way is to transfer through a bank transfer. 

Information needed

  • The receiver’s name
  • Their account number
  • Their address (if possible; some banks may allow this to be skipped if the person receiving the money does not have a permanent address yet – eg. a student who has just moved abroad)
  • Name and address of receiver’s bank
  • Their bank’s International Bank Account Number (IBAN)
  • Their bank’s Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) code or Bank Identifier Code (BIC) 
  • The bank name and account number of any third-party correspondent used as a middleman when transferring the money from the sender to the receiver (if any; for example if the services of a larger Chinese bank are required to transfer to a smaller local bank)

Transfer time 

One-to-five working days

Fee

Bank commission + telegraph fee + commission charged by correspondent’s bank (if any)

Bank commission is typically 0.1 percent of amount transferred, although the various banks limit the minimum and maximum charges applied, and these figures vary from bank to bank. For example, the Bank of China charges 50-260 yuan, ICBC charges 16-160 yuan, the Bank of Communications charges 20-250 yuan, and the Construction Bank of China charges 20-300 yuan. The telegraph fee will be 80-150 yuan

Additionally, if you are transferring yuan (whether physical money or in your bank account) to a foreign bank account in another currency, you will need to pay a fee to get the money exchanged to the new currency; this will take into account both exchange rates and exchange fees from your bank. Exchange rates can be found here

If you have physical foreign currency and want to send that money to a foreign bank account in that same currency, you will need to pay an additional commission. This will be calculated by the transferring bank according to the amount you plan to send, and the buying rate and selling rate of your foreign currency. If you are asking them to transfer actual, physical money abroad (rather than through a transfer) then this will incur a further cost.

Commission and telegraph charges are usually paid by the sender. If the transfer requires a correspondent bank, and the sender does not specify who pays the commission for the correspondent bank, it will be deducted from the amount sent. 

 

Demand draft

If the receiver does not have a bank account in a foreign country, a demand draft will be required to transfer cash. This may also be the cheapest way to send money abroad. The sender gives the money to the bank in China, and the bank will issue a demand draft for that amount. The sender can take the demand draft to a foreign bank, or send it to the receiver abroad, where it can be redeemed for money. Note that the draft must be physically sent abroad; it cannot be faxed or otherwise digitally transmitted.

Big banks in China are able to issue demand drafts in several currencies, such as US dollars, CA dollars, pounds sterling, etc, while senders can pay in the money in yuan or foreign currencies. Obviously if the money has to be converted to another currency during the transfer, exchange fees will also be charged.

Information needed

  • The receiver’s name
  • Their ID type (eg. passport)
  • Their ID number

Transfer time

It will take one to-two days for a bank to issue a demand draft. Demand drafts have a limited period of validity, which means the receiver has to redeem it within the time given. This is usually one year. 

Fee

Bank commission when issuing demand draft + cost of converting currency (if applicable) + expense of collection when redeeming the demand draft

Bank commission is typically 0.1 percent of the amount on demand draft; minimum and maximum limits will be the same as those for international money transfers. No telegraph fee will be charged. The receiver’s bank will charge a small fee from the receiver upon collection. 

 

Companies that perform international money transfers

Western Union 

Western Union claims to provide the fastest system of international money transfers, but it will only accept transfers in US dollars. The company now cooperates with several banks in China, and customers can use these cooperative banks to send money via Western Union. 

Banks cooperating with Western Union to send or receive money to or from other countries: 

  • Agricultural Bank of China (中国农业银行)
  • Bank of Jilin (吉林银行)
  • Bank of Wenzhou (温州银行)
  • Bank of Yantai (烟台银行)
  • Construction Bank of China (receive only) (中国建设银行)
  • Everbright Bank of China (中国光大银行)
  • Fujian Haixia Bank (福建海峡银行)
  • Harbin Bank (哈尔滨银行)
  • Huishang Bank (徽商银行)
  • Longjiang Bank (龙江银行)
  • Postal Saving Bank of China (中国邮政储蓄银行)
  • Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (上海浦东发展银行)
  • Zhejiang Chouzhou Commercial Bank (浙江稠州商业银行)

Information needed

  • The receiver’s name
  • The country they are in
  • Their address in that country
  • Their ID number
  • Their telephone number

Transfer time

Western Union promises that its transfers happen instantly. The sender will be given an “MTCN number” that they should pass on to the receiver, who must then take it to their nearest Western Union branch, along with their ID, to collect the money.

Fee

Western Union charges $15 when sending $1-500, $20 when sending $501-1,000, $25 when sending $1,001-2,000, and $30 when sending $2,001-9,000. Western Union does not accept one-time transfers over $9,000.

 

Money Gram 

Money Gram is another company that offers instant international money transfers. It also conducts business in China by cooperating with several Chinese banks. These banks are:

  • Bank of China (中国银行)
  • Industrial Bank Co. Ltd (兴业银行)
  • Bank of Communications (交通银行)
  • ICBC (中国工商银行)
  • China Citic Bank(中信银行)
  • Ping’an Bank (平安银行)
  • Shengjing Bank (盛京银行)

Detailed addresses of cooperative banks can be found here, by clicking the province or city you are in. 

Like Western Union, Money Gram deals solely with US dollars. One-time transfers must be between one cent and $9999.99. Currently, the company only provides services between individuals, so customer cannot send money for business purposes. 

Information needed

  • The receiver’s name
  • The country they are in
  • Their address in that country
  • Their telephone number

Transfer time

Money Gram promises instant transfers.

Fee

Money Gram charges $13 when sending $0.01-500, $18 when sending $500.01-1,000, $21 when sending $1,000.01-2,000, $25 when sending $2,000.01-5,000.00, and $35 when sending $5,000.01-9,999.99. 

 

International postal money order

International postal money orders are a service provided by the Universal Postal Union (UPU). The sender purchases money order at a local postal office, and mails it to the receiver. The receiver can then cash the order in at a post office upon receiving it, although this only works in countries that have signed up to the UPU agreement. The maximum amount allowed for each money order is $700, and the sender can send up to $1,500 a day. 

Information needed

  • The receiver’s name
  • Their address

Transfer time

Money order can be purchased directly from postal offices. 

Fee 

$11 will be charged if the sender purchases a money order of up to $750. $16 will be charged if they postal order is for $750-1,500. 

 

E-transactions

Alipay 

Alipay is an online payment system rather like the US PayPal. It allows users to pay for items online within China, but one additional function also lets people send money to a foreign bank account. 

Foreign users can set up Alipay account only if they have a Chinese bank card and a visa (though even Tourist Visas are accepted). However, to use the international money transfer function, foreigners must have one of the very rare “Chinese Green Cards”. Since you almost certainly won’t have one of these (or know anyone who does), it might be easier to get a trusted Chinese pal to help you make the transfer. A detailed explanation of the transfer process can be found here. Money you send will be automatically converting to the currencies of the receiver’s account on the exchange rate at the moment. 

Information required

  • The receiver’s name
  • The country they are in
  • Their address in that country
  • The name of their bank
  • The address of their bank account’s branch
  • The SWIFT code of their bank

Transfer time

Three-to-five working days. 

Fee

A 70-120 yuan commission fee will be charged on transfers of 1-100,000 yuan; 140-260 yuan will be charged for transfers of over 100,001 yuan. The sender needs to pay this fee. 

 

PayPal 
PayPal supports money transfers in 190 countries and regions around the world, and 27 foreign currencies can be transferred through this way. Money sent to the receiver will be kept in their PayPal account, and the receiver subsequently needs to transfer it into their bank account.

Information needed

  • The receiver’s PayPal account name
  • If they do not have a PayPal account, their email address or cell phone number

Transfer time

Instantly between PayPal accounts; if the receiver does not have an account, they will need to set one up before the money is transferred. Transferring the money from the PayPal account to a bank account will take three-to-five working days. For transfers under $150, this is free; for all transfers over $150 there is a $35 fee.

Fee

For cross-border payments, fees will be depending on where the sender and the recipient are based and how the payment is made (i.e. through the sender’s PayPal balance, debit card or credit card). Detailed charges can be found here. The sender can choose who pays the fee. 

If the sender or receiver needs to convert the PayPal balance or payment to another currency to make or receive the transfer, there will be an additional fee. Details can be found here

 

Useful Chinese words and phrases 

汇款 huìkuǎn Money transfer; transfer
汇款人 huìkuǎnrén The sender
收款人 shōukuǎnrén The receiver
电话号码 diànhuà hàomǎ Phone number
银行账户 yínháng zhànghù Bank account
手续费 shǒuxùfèi Commission fee
电报费 diànbàofèi Telegraph fee
外币 wàibì Foreign currency
美元 měiyuán US dollar
英镑 yīngbàng UK pound
欧元 ōuyuán Euro
汇票 huìpiào Demand draft
国际邮政汇票 guójì yóuzhèng huìpiào International postal money order 
地址 dìzhǐ Address
银行 yínháng Bank

 

 

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7 Responses to How do I transfer money out of China?

  • Hey, this was very useful. I was wondering how would I send money from my Chinese bank account to my paypal account? Thanks.

  • Hi!

    Awesome article. I was wondering if you had any insight on the linking of merchant services and payment processing through WeChat Pay and Alipay into American or Offshore bank accounts? From your process explained above, I would require sales to go into a Chinese bank account first before I transfer it into an American or Offshore bank account. Do you know if I can skip that process and have WeChat Pay and Alipay payment processing and merchant services directly deposited into an American or Offshore bank account.

    Business is registered in China and the US under different names.

    Thanks,
    Vic

  • Do you know if Alipay and WeChat Pay allows connecting their payment processing and merchant services to an American or Offshore bank account or do I have to connect it to a Chinese bank account first and then transfer funds to an American or Offshore bank account?

    Thank you!

  • Really great guide! I am recently trying to transfer money from a Chinese paypal account to a US one, and I am finding that the Chinese accounts don’t support sending funds to “family and friends.” This forces the transfer to act as a transaction, and the receiver has to wait 21 days until they can do anything with the funds.

    Do you know if confirming that the “ordered goods have been received” on the Chinese accounts end speeds this up?

    • Hi Wes. PayPal is different from Alipay – after the receiver has started a transaction with Paypal, any money paid in by you will reach the receiver’s account immediately. However, it is not advised to withdraw the money immediately, but instead wait until they have received the goods – generally 5-21 days afterward. PayPal’s protection rules mean that if the receiver withdraws the money immediately before the goods have arrived, the account may be deemed untrustworthy and be frozen, stopping further withdrawals.

      The “ordered goods have been received” confirmation does not affect when the funds can be accessed.

      If you are using Alipay to make a transfer, the buyer confirming that they have received the ordered goods. This is because Alipay holds onto money that is being transferred rather than putting it directly into the seller’s account. Only once the buyer has confirmed that they have received the goods will Alipay will give the funds to the seller. 

  • Hello! Thanks for the comprehensive list of resources, it’s very helpful! Can you please clarify the $35 PayPal fee? Are you saying that there is a $35 fee to transfer funds from a US PayPal account to a US Bank (for amounts over $150)? I wasn’t able to find such a fee on the PayPal website, but perhaps I’m missing something!

    Thanks again for the resources.

    • Hi Chad. PayPal doesn’t charge anything to transfer from a PayPal account to a US bank account.

      However, if you are transferring to a non-US bank there is a minimum fee. In the case of Chinese bank accounts, that fee is $35. You can check this link and choose the country where your bank is based to learn about the exact transfer fees that Paypal will charge. 

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