How To Transfer Money Out Of China

Expats who live and work in China will attest to the hassle banking can be. From opening an account to making deposits and transferring money it’s not particularly foreigner friendly and frequently requires the patience of a saint. Things get even more tricky if you get paid in Renminbi (RMB) and want to transfer some of your earnings back home. In general, China is averse to money flowing out of the country and due to the complexity of the process bank staff will often look for any excuse to deny you being able to do so.

100 Yuan
Photo by David Dennis

I’ve recently completed the rather tortuous process successfully for the first time so thought I’d share how it works in the hope that others might be able to avoid disappointment –

What you will need:

  • Passport with valid Residence Visa (and sometimes Residency Permit)
  • Employment contract original copy officially stamped or ‘chopped’
  • Tax receipts for each month of your employment (depending on how much you want to transfer)
  • SWIFT code of your bank back home (e.g. BARCGB22 for Barclays UK)
  • Bank account information for both sending and receiving parties (name, address etc.)
  • Sufficient funds up to the amount you have paid tax on (duh!)

What it will cost (other banks may vary):

  • Bank of China – 150 RMB service charge, 0.1% of the total to be transferred
  • Bank of Communications – 80 RMB service charge, 0.1% of the total to be transferred
  • Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) – 150 RMB service charge, 1% of the total to be transferred

In the past, only the Bank of China could make foreign transfers but this has been recently liberalised so most banks should now be able to provide telegraphic transfer services.

The process (Chinese speaker needed to help unless you are fluent yourself):

  1. Take all your documents to your bank who will take photocopies (and probably be less than cooperative)
  2. Buy the amount of foreign currency you want to transfer (usually Dollars, Euros or Pounds Sterling) – this will be placed in your account – you won’t receive any cash only a receipt
  3. Fill in an application form for funds transfers (overseas). Be sure to enter your details very carefully otherwise, your money could end up in someone else’s account! The bank will probably insist that the charges be “shared” between both banks
  4. Submit the form and wait a day for the transfer to complete (praying optional!)
  5. Return the next day to the bank who will give you a receipt detailing whether the transfer was successful or not.

Last but not least, avoid illegal/black market/unofficial money exchangers as you will probably get ripped off or worse. If you’ve had any other experiences of currency exchange in China feel free to leave a comment below.

David avatar

104 responses

  1. Kevin avatar

    The trickiest part is converting money to a foreign currency, especially if you didn’t know about the receipt requirements beforehand and don’t have any on hand. But it’s worth mentioning that these requirements don’t apply to Chinese citizens, so if you have a Chinese person you trust you can probably get them to help you. Put the money in their account (withdraw+deposit is faster and more convenient than transfering it), let them convert it, and then put the EUR/USD/GBP/whatever back in your own account for the relatively simple task of wiring it abroad.

    1. Thanks for the tip Kevin. That sounds like a good way to get around the tax limits. When your Chinese person has converted the RMB into a foreign currency is it easy to transfer it back to your account? I would imagine the bank might be a bit suspicious about that!

    2. KalanStar avatar

      It is now illegal for Chinese to transfer money for other people.

  2. Awaful for a country wanting to be a world leader. China needs to make this transparent and easy just as the other emerging great leader India has for a few years now

  3. Hello,

    I have just had to deal with these banking problems in China.

    I am almost 100% positive 1.0%. NOT 0.1 % ! I wish it were the other way around.

    Also HSBC is the worst bank in China if anyone is wondering. (maybe not the worst, one of them)

    1. Hi Joe – thanks for the info about HSBC – sounds like they charge a higher rate than the Chinese banks. It’s a pity the process is still so hard and expensive!

  4. Smith avatar

    I’m working in ShenZhen and I found this article a few days ago,what is it real?

    1. Thanks for the link Smith – that’s another useful resource. Agreed this method is complicated and a waste of time but in the end you don’t have much choice.

  5. feelie avatar

    the link seems useful, thanks Smith, it is very hard to send some money from pingdu-shandong province, china-to Indonesia. ugh, the tellers in pingdu couldn’t speak english, they don’t have the western union service, though their banks’ names are on western union list. huff! dead end.. (0.o)

  6. Ines Waiz avatar
    Ines Waiz

    Is it possible to send small amounts of money (200 USD) from China abroad by Western Union or Money Gram? Can these companies operate properly? Thanks and regards, IW

    1. Yes this is still possible but probably a little more expensive than doing via a bank.

  7. Jacob avatar

    Cheers guys,

    Thanks for the advice, I live in Shanghai and need to send some money back home, so appreciate the advice and the comment. Luckily there are like-minded people in the land of confusion.

    Have a nice day.

  8. smiyh avatar

    plz can you help me out eiyh the site of which i can use in transfering money to bank of china from cc to bank account?
    you prompt reply will be duely and highly appreciated.
    Best Regards

  9. Olivia avatar

    I found this post extremely useful and you were right about needing to have the patience of a saint. I just completed the process successfully for the first time by myself today and I wanted to cry. I used the China Construction Bank, which charged me 120 RMB fee for transferring out the money, which does not include the fee that your western bank may charge. Apparently, the 100 RMB is a flat fee and there was a 20 RMB service charge. Ouch.

    I was intending to do a monthly transfer but now I might as well just wait it out and transfer a lump sum. Sigh.


    1. Glad it helped a bit Olivia – I also ended up doing quarterly transfers because of the fees. After a while the bank got used to seeing me so it became a bit smoother but still enough to tear your hair out sometimes!

  10. Vinh avatar

    Thanks this has been really helpful!

    Does anyone know if it is possible to use a Chinese bank card to withdraw money from an ATM outside of China?

    1. Hi Vinh – presumably your Chinese bank card uses the “Union pay” system? If so it’ll work in many countries around Asia but unlikely anywhere else. Also check with your bank how much they charge for foreign withdrawals or you might get a nasty surprise!

      1. Steve avatar


        I’ve used my Bank of China Unionpay card at Travelex machines in London before. NatWest (another UK bank) cash machines seem to work as well. In Russia I find I can use Bank of Moscow and TransKreditBank. Not sure if you’re from either of these places, but it does show that these Unionpay things can be useful outside Asia.

        I remember there being a charge, but it wasn’t too much (Sorry, don’t know the exact figure).

        1. Ketan avatar

          Do you atleast remember vaguely/approx how much is the fee to transfer from one of these banks Bank of Moscow or transkredit bank in Moscow?Thanks!

  11. ushisama avatar

    Thanks David for useful information.
    I need to transfer money 30K USD to Japan and UK. Is there any restriction
    depending on tax paid?

    Tax receipts for each month of your employment (depending on how much you want to transfer)

  12. Harsh avatar

    This is a very useful string. Can someone help me understand the following:

    What is the process of transferring RMB from a Chinese bank account to a bank account in Hong Kong? Is the process very complicated?

    thanks much!

  13. Xiaohua avatar

    And what about making a transfer money if I am student in China?? I have no employment contract, so how could I make a transfer?

  14. Great article, I will be trying this soon so fingers crossed.
    Just a few things I have found out:
    1. With western union you cannot transfer money to yourself because you need to be at the other end to collect it.
    2. HSBC operate in so many different countries so I thought this would make things easier. It doesn;t unless you have one of their special accounts (need high deposit to open or monthly fees entail) however I was lead to believe that if you were doing it often (like a business wit international transactions) then it would be a good idea. What they basically do is open up accounts for you in all the countries you operate, there are still charges and waits – and no ‘single account’ but the actual process of doing it supposedly easier.
    3. Money that has been converted (other than rmb) may not show up on your printed bank book. I had money arrive and had no idea it was there for a long time.

  15. Danny avatar

    Currently (Oct 2011) foreigners can transfer only US$500(approx 300GBP/3000RMB) in one transaction. I have used a few, CCB charge 100 while SPD charge 80. Problem is the limit makes it expensive (around 3%), in addition overseas banks will charge to receive the money (about GBP7 in the UK), turning your 3000 yuan limit into 2800 per time.

    I’ve done it a few ways (that’s what she said ;). The easiest is to get a Chinese person to take their ID card and do it in their name. This removes the $500 restriction as each Chinese can transfer US$50000 a year overseas – enough for most of us!

    For those in Guangdong (and with a multi-entry visa) or who go to Hong Kong every so often, opening an HSBC account in Hong Kong is a good alternative, they will convert your RMB to your home currency (for the major currencies)and you just go online when you want to send it back (your bank at home needn’t be HSBC). To open the account you need your passport and proof of residency on the mainland. The other benefit is that the money usually in your account at home in a day or two, whereas using the cashier at a Chinese bank can mean your cash doesn’t get home for over a week. HSBC charge HK$110 for this, but be aware that your home bank may charge more for using HSBC’s express service, also some HSBC accounts have a below balance fee so you may need to keep a minimum amount in there to avoid this.

    1. Thanks for the update Danny – that’s some very useful info.

    2. Clive avatar

      My understanding (and experience) is that foreigners can transfer out any amount as long at they have tax certificates to prove they paid tax on that amount. As others have said, it can be very hard to find a bank which is approved to do overseas transfers – then you have to find the specific person who is trained and authorised to go through the process, which is quite complex. Allow 2 hours the first time – and be prepared to come back the next day to complete the process with the document you forgot the first time! Some staff will try to dissuade you from doing it because it causes them a lot of work – I recently had a manager tell me that foreigners are subject to the USD50k per year limit which applies to Chinese citizens.

  16. Busra avatar


    So how much FX a foreigner is allowed to transfer out of China, maximum?
    $500 per day or per month? A friend told me $500 in a year!!! It can not be true right?
    And is this amount limitation all same for Western Union, MoneyGram, bank accounts?

  17. peiman avatar

    Thanks for this post, it was helpful. In my case I just transferred 240 USD out of china using the communication bank. The total charge was 184 RMB. They told me that if I come here with a Chinese friend to the transfer the fund in their name the charge would be lower but they did not know by how much. They also said that it may take at least one week to process.

  18. Very interesting post, thanks to all participating members to share experience
    . 2 more question though :
    – if you succed to exchange your RMB to foreign currency in China, there is no limit to transfer out this foreign amount?-
    – Danny mention about HSBC HK, but means you need to carry cash in HK and exchange there right? or you can have a RMB account in HK?


  19. chris avatar

    I tried this yesterday and was indeed told that I needed the documentation you listed. It also seems that a lot of branches are incapable of, or too lazy, to help so it’s worth finding the branch HQ.
    I wasn’t told about any limits, somebody mentioned 3000, and I want to transfer 6000.
    Nightmare! There wasn’t any problem receiving the £16,000 that i have transferred into China n the last 3 years, but now I want to send £600 back and it’s like this! Family might not be getting Xmas prezzies this year =(

  20. Biji avatar


    My husband has recently moved to China. Is Western Union Money Transfer good, (meaning cheap and hassle free)?

    Need your expert advise please. Also, he will be needing to transfer the amount on a monthly basis.

  21. Mike avatar


    A Chinese person who lives in Hong Kong is moving to the UK and is buying my house.

    You literally couldn’t write the script so far, but the saga finally seems to be drawing to a close!

    I received word that the buyer transferred the money from an account in Hong Kong last Thursday (UK Thursday – not sure about time differences!).

    Does anyone have any idea how long this transfer process can take?

    Thanks for any opinions,


  22. marjorie avatar

    Just a bf is in the process of moving out from China and retiring here in the Philippines. He said his lawyer transferred all his funds in a bank here in the Philippines and been waiting for a confirmation. My question is how long does it take for him to get a confirmation both from the bank here and his bank in China?
    And is it true that he will not be able to withdraw money from his bank account in China while it’s still in the process of transferring all his funds? He cancelled his work and residence permit already…that is what he told me.

    Some opinions will be very much appreciated

  23. Simon avatar

    Thanks for the tips.
    Here in Thailand, I just took an extra ATM card, sent it home, and a relative can withdraw money with very little cost from Canada.

    Is it possible to do the same with a Chinese ATM?

  24. Anna avatar

    And is there any way to transfer money online from China? Wouldn’t it be easier?

  25. Charlotte avatar

    I appreciate this page as I am faced with the task of sending money overseas to the UK. I went to try and do this but found I didn’t have all the documents so I have to go back again.

    Something I’m confused about is what they mean by the ‘account number’ for the receiving account in the UK. Do they actually mean the 8 digit UK bank account number (surely this won’t work without a sort code?!) or the 16 digit card number or the IBAN number? Perhaps anyone who has successfully transferred to the UK could help me??!!

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Charlotte – when you write down the ‘account number’ be sure to include both the 8 digit UK bank account no. and your sort code. I’m pretty sure there is a separate field where you can enter the international code for your UK bank.

  26. Sheila avatar

    I have a clarification on “The Process #2”, does this mean that I also need to have a USD account, aside from the regular RMB account? Thanks.

    1. Hi Sheila – no, you don’t need a USD or other foreign currency account. The converted amount is somehow stored in your existing RMB account till you transfer it.

  27. Silverado avatar

    Transferred money yesterday morning from Shanghai to accounts in US and Japan.Took a bag of cash; about 60,000 RMB. Got my Chinese friend to fill in the forms, change the money to Dollar and Yen then Wired it. Hit both accounts on the same day.

    About 350 RMB in fees and $25 on the other side taken from account.

    Bit of filling in the forms, probably a good idea getting these in advance, to have them ready for the transfer. All relatively painless (in China terms) and hassle free.

    1. Silverado avatar

      Also, your Chinese friend must have an account with the bank from which you intend to send money. 🙂

      1. Thanks Silverado – that’s a really useful tip!

  28. Hi guys,

    My wife and I are looking to buy a house in Ireland and we want to transfer some funds from China. Is it totally impossible to transfer €100,000 out of China? I’m becoming more and more disillusioned with the forums I read on line.
    please help!


    1. Jimmy_da_hnd avatar

      Silverado, what bank was the Chinese friend using?

  29. Silverstar avatar

    Hi Bob,

    My wife and me are in the same situation. We want to transfer 500,000€ out of China. So far, we haven’t find a solution. Let’s keep each other updated.

  30. AllanF avatar


    I am in a similar situation my wife and i wish to transfer 110,000GBP from the sale of our flat in China back to the UK.

    We were told today that we could only transfer $10,000 a year!

    Is there anyway to do it in one lump sum?


    1. Joseph Lemien avatar
      Joseph Lemien

      Yes, actually, there is. Chinese nationals are not limited by the same rules as foreigners. You need a trustworthy Chinese friend to transfer the money for you.

      I’ve also made extensive use of Western Union while I was earning RMB in China, changing it into USD and sending it to the United States. When I had larger amounts of money I would simply abide by the daily limits and visit the bank several times a week during my lunch break for this errand.

      One final way that I am aware of is to have an account with both Bank of America and China Construction Bank. I believe that then you are able to freely convert and withdraw from either end. You would do well to go to one of the banks in person and ask about it first, though, to be sure.
      More info here:

      1. Thanks Joseph – those are some really useful tips

  31. Wendy avatar

    I am selling my house to a cash buyer that lives in China. Normal escrow is 30 days. The folks in China asked for a 2 week extension because they were having issues getting their $875,000 wired to my U.S. Bank to complete the purchase. Do you think that it can possibly take a total of 45 days for them to complete a wire transfer out of China? How many days should this take? Thanks!

    1. Peter avatar

      It can take 4 to 6 weeks, because they probably have to go through SAFE for such a large sum. I’d just sit tight if I were you, everything should be okay.

  32. Davie Jones avatar
    Davie Jones

    Hey guys,

    Has anyone ever heard that a Chinese national cannot wire transfer money from their personal account to a foreign business account? Does it have to be from a personal acc to a personal acc?


    1. Jana Brankova avatar
      Jana Brankova

      Yes, for example ICBC has it written on their website, the type of the account on both sites has to be the same.

      1. Jana Brankova avatar
        Jana Brankova

        Actually it doesn’t apply to Chinese national, but to everybody. At least in this bank.

  33. Annemarie avatar

    Please help, a company in China owes us money as an order we placed was short. They acknowledge they owe us money but say they can not give it to us as it is not possible to put it into an account. Any ideas how we can get our money ???

    1. shane avatar

      annemarie, what is your email address? let me see if i can find a solution to your problem

  34. Jana Brankova avatar
    Jana Brankova

    I went with Chinese friend to the bank and did the transfer with her. Let”s see what happens. They did the transfer from mine to hers and from hers to my home country at one time. ICBC, flat charge was 150 RMB + 1% of the total amount. It took like 30 minutes (not including waiting), but with native speaker it wasn’t so painfull. I needed only my bank card, my friend’s ID and bank card.

    1. Thanks for the tips Jana – seems much simpler to do from a Chinese nationals account.

  35. RL TEGART avatar

    Planning family visit to China to visit son who teaches ESL there. Want to send money to his account Bank of China to cover our costs while touring with him. Our Canadian bank says impossible to wire money in Chinese currencyso we have to send in Canadian dollars and convert there. Does this sound right? We would rather do the conversion here so we know the correct amounts will be available.

  36. […] Moving money, assets and property out of China is quite a sensitive matter in China, though such moves take place every day across the Chinese borders. It is a known secret that a bulk of the money so moved is illegal proceeds generated by corrupt officials and their cronies. While we see a great deal of illegal transfer across the border, for ordinary people, moving money and fund out of China may be a big headache, and many foreigners will be willing to attest to the very headache: “how to transfer money out of China“. […]

  37. There is an easier way: Go to the official, mint appointed Gold dealer “China Gold Coin” . There are shops in Shanghai and Beijing.
    Buy 1 ounce Gold Pandas for approx USD 1800 a piece (don’t go for commerorative coins, but bullion only). Make sure you keep the receipts, so that you can demonstrate the legitimate origin of the coins.
    Take the gold coins into your wallet and fly out to destinations such as Hong Kong or Singapore, where there is no import duty on gold. Sell them at Hang Seng Bank in Hong Kong or at one of the dealers at Lucky Plaza in Singapore.
    Or even better: Given the current economic situation, simply hold on to your gold (check the regulations in your destination country). It will be the best preservation of wealth given the relentless money printing that is going on in all major currencies.

  38. Jonathan avatar

    Time consuming, but cheap!

    I use my bank of Communications and it is definitely around the 0.1% mark, as it costs almost nothing. I actuallybefore used a money changer in China – who charged 1% – and carried USD cash back to england only to face being COMPETELY screwed by my HSBC bank on exchange rate to GBP. They wanted over 10% commission in fixed exchange rates!!! I carried the cash back to China and did it the official way, which is time consuming but cheap. compared to HSBC rate I could have bought a free flight to London.

    If you earned it in China and paid tax on it, then you can send it home. Sounds very fair!

  39. Just a heads up, for those of you in the city of Zhuhai, not one single bank will allow you to transfer funds out of China if you’re a foreigner. Trust me, they won’t flex on this one inch! I had to cross the border to Macau, open a bank account which originally the bank didn’t want to do since I don’t work in Macau so I don’t have a “blue card”, and then deposit RMB which is then turned into HKD and then MOP and then USD to transfer to the UK.

  40. Western Union only accepts US $ in China. I tried this morning to send some cash to UK but I am forced to change to Dollar (losing money in the conversion) then change to pounds again.

  41. i use to transfer to philippines when encounter large amount, because its so hassle to transfer in small amount and have to do many times also they have limit in china. and i always have someone to arrange for me when large amount. and only have to paid small fee. but atleast safe.

    1. Shannen Canete avatar
      Shannen Canete

      I plan to send money to philippines from here in Chengdu thru western union or moneygram. Is it possible to send even i dont have bank account here in China? Are thre many requirements to ask if i send money twice a month?

  42. Mags avatar

    Do You know what amount of money can I legally take with me when I go back Home (EU)?

  43. NoMa avatar

    Very useful article!
    I would like to know where do you get these rules from? And where can you find the SAFE rules? I couldn’t find it on their website…
    I think it woud be very convenient for everyone if they could actually check the regulations and requirement by themselves, in order to find an answer to their questions.

    1. That’s the problem – you wont find the rules written down anywhere and even if you did they would be slightly different from region to region and bank to bank.

      1. NoMa avatar

        Thanks for your answer. I thought there was at least a SAFE regulation about that.

  44. michael avatar

    I have sold my house in Shanghai and try to wire transfer the lump sun of RMB 3 million back home to Australia, but I’ve been told that there was no way I could do that through a legal way in China, it is really pain in the ass!!! need your help, fellows !! thanks a lot!!!

  45. […] worden ingevuld om de overboeking ‘aan te vragen’ en er is een hele waslijst aan documenten en bewijzen nodig, waaronder je arbeidscontract en een officiële verklaring van belastingafdracht. Naast […]

  46. Lawrence avatar

    Hi guys,

    Any latest news on this topic of transfering money out from China? Buying Bullion gold is a good idea for people having big sum of money to transfer. Does DBS bank in China helps?


  47. Daisy avatar

    Urgh…so bad you go china to earn money for family but in the end headache for transferring no more food to put on my plate because of waiting of this transfering drama.maybe i should take a ticket to go there and pick up cash personaly 🙁

  48. Ricky avatar

    Hi everyone,
    i’ve been working in Shenzhen for one month,,and
    Tomorrow i want to transfer my money to my parents in indonesia,
    is there any new news about this kind problem??

    please help me

    1. Tony Ryan avatar
      Tony Ryan

      I’m in Shenzhen too and need to send money to the UK. I might try Western Union first.

  49. I find that withdrawing funds that I intend to wire and handing them to a trusted Chinese friend works best. They can convert into USD or other currencies and then wire to your final destination. I just ask for the bank receipt to show what the charges and exchange rates were so that I know the final amount sent.

    For the US it is hard since a US citizen can only exchange $300 USD per day. You can spend all month in the bank doing it this way. But a chinese can exchange up to $50,000 or in that range in a year and wire it to your account.

    It is not that I am cheating anyone. I am just paying for school for the kids back home and child support but still, what a pain. I used my personal secretary for this work and the first time I went with her but it got easy enough to just transfer the money and then she can do it electronically from her bank account.

    Another note: if you have a gmail account they will not go through any longer. Get on Gmail with a VPN and then forward your gmail to another e-mail account. Then people will still be able to get you that have your old address and you will get all of your mail.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Augustine avatar

      I actually did the same thing on my way back to the US from China. One of my students volunteered to go the bank with me and help with process. Also, it was very hard for me to do transfer through Western Union. After 3 days of trying, I gave up. Now, that I am going back next month (as it has been 3 years), I hope things changed for the better.

  50. Debbie avatar

    sorry for hijacking the post, but I would really like to find some expats in Shenzhen. for those of you posting in 2014, where do I go to find other expats to share some conversation? thank you

    1. Andrew Athias avatar
      Andrew Athias

      Hello, I was an American living in Shenzhen for most of 2014. The best place I want to meet other expats was down at Coco Park in Futian. There is a nice bar/night life scene with a bunch of Americans and Europeans. There is also a GREAT restaurant/bar called Frankie’s close to the Futian Checkpoint subway station where I would go to meet other Americans and get some American food.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *