I receive money in the US for recruiting students here in China. I have a BOA account and it was free for me to use the ATM machines at China Construction Bank. However, CCB started charging a 3% conversion fee. Is there a better/cheaper way to withdraw my money in China from the US? Should I open a Chinese Bank account and do a wire transfer to CCB? If so how?

  • I wonder if a Hong Kong bank account would be lower cost...? HSBC has branches in the USA. – Paul Feb 3 '14 at 3:07

You could use Bitcoin. Bitcoin is THE fee-killer. I haven't used US and China exchanges, but you can connect your US bank account to Coinbase, buy bitcoins, transfer to BTCChina, and sell for CNY. There are many other options to convert from and to Bitcoins, but Coinbase seems to be most practical and most widely used in the US and BTCChina is the largest and probably most trusted exchange in China. You can also use LocalBitocoins for both buying and selling, but people on LocalBitcoins typically charge larger fees than exchanges, though this may vary.

Please read a bit about Bitcoin before using it, and be aware of the risks. It's still very new (but revolutionary and very easy and fast to move internationally). Try with a small amount first to check it out. Your electronic wallet can be stolen, and you're exposed to certain risks of exchanges shutting down or government/banks stepping over their boundaries. One nice thing is that you probably won't be affected by volatility as you won't be holding bitcoins for long.

Also be aware that the Chinese don't like capital leaving China and there is a possibility that China government will introduce further regulations on exchanges (though they have stated that buying, selling and owning bitcoins is legal). You're doing the opposite, importing money into China, but you'll probably feel it in one way or the other.

P.S. Approximate fast fee calculation: Coinbase has 1% transaction fee + $0.15 bank fee. Bitcoin transfer is free or in some cases with minimal 0.0001 BTC fee (a bit less than $0.01 currently). BTCChina has 0.3% trading fee and 0.5% CNY withdrawal fee. As you can see, the main fees are exchange fees, but still less than 3% and if you find a good exchange combination with low fees you're golden, or might even make money on transaction if BTC price rises. Also check this Reddit thread - there are alternative China exchanges with lower fees.

P.P.S. Found this blog post, maybe a bit outdated, but probably with better calculation than mine as it takes into account exchange prices.

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