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I will be traveling to the United States soon. My money is all in Chinese renminbi. My understanding is that I have 5 options available for converting my RMB to USD:

  1. Buy USD from Chinese banks and carry the cash to America
  2. Wire transfer money from my Chinese account to an American account
  3. Carry cash RMB into America and exchange at the airport
  4. Carry cash RMB into America and try to deposit it at a bank into an American account
  5. Try to make ATM withdrawls in America using my CHN bank cards

I have not done this before. My research has turned up the following possible caveats for each method:

  1. Chinese banks may not allow me to convert as much RMB, or may not have enough USD on hand, to meet my needs
  2. Chinese international wire transfers are heavily restricted and require an intentionally discouraging amount of paperwork to complete
  3. Easy, but potentially yields very poor exchanges rates.
  4. American banks may lack the equipment necessary to check the validity of my CHN currency and refuse to accept it
  5. American ATMs might refuse my CHN cards, or my CHN accounts may not allow overseas access. Exchange rates are generally poor.

I am looking for the best combination of low hassle/reasonable exchange and am expecting to convert in the neighborhood of $8,000 for this trip.

If anyone has some suggestions on the best course of action I would be very grateful.

  • 2
    This question may be better at travel.stackexchange.com – Kellenjb Aug 16 '12 at 2:16
  • #4 is highly unlikely to work except possibly in some large metropolitan centers/entry-points into the US at large banks. On the other hand, if you can get your bank to issue a bank draft or cashier's check in RMB, some larger banks will accept such checks and convert the amount to USD (at whatever that day's rate is, minus a fee which could be quite large), while some smaller banks will refuse outright. – Dilip Sarwate Aug 16 '12 at 4:30
  • What about something like a PayPal debit card? They do serve China but i cannot read Mandarin so i cant read that part of their site to ascertain if their forex rates are fair. – rism Aug 17 '12 at 10:04
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As an American who lived in HK for 6 years.... I see a trip to HK in your future.

Walking around in America with $8,000 in cash or valuables -- or hiding it in your luggage is a bad idea. That is too much. People steal.

  1. Find a Hong Kong bank that will allow you to have account. May be easier to wire RMB to HK, change to USD, keep in bank in USD or wire to USA. Most banks in HK have multi-currency account that can hold any currency, as well as gold.

  2. Many Hong Kong Banks issue VISA / MASTERCARD that work in USA. The interest rates were astronomical (like 3%/month ~ 36+%/year). I do not know if they would issue credit visa to mainlander. But debit visa may be available.

  3. HK ATM cards (Hang Seng and HSBC) worked fine at a US bank ATM (and in Europe and Australia too) but not at a point of sale like fuel station or shop.

  4. HK Banks can issue travelers cheques or even bank cheques that are good in the USA.

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