Musicjunkie wrote:Regarding bringing the money, I would definitely recommend the use of a prepaid travel debit card such as those provided by Travelex and Caxton FX. You load money from your U.S. bank account in dollars either online or over the phone and you can withdraw the cash in China from any ATM in RMB. The fees are very small and the exchange rate is very good too. If you lose it, you can have it replaced with funds intact where if you lose a wallet full of greenbacks it's gone forever.
This is perhaps a bit late for joe but for others I would just like to add something here regarding Travelex Debit Card. Their fees are definitely low but they don't give good rates. I have this card in Australian Dollars and I have found that using my Visa Debit from my Australian bank (Suncorp) actually comes cheaper even with all the "hefty" fees that my bank imposes. So I think it would be worth investigating all the fees etc with your current bank and making a decision on that.
I will give you an example of the kind of rates I get with Travelex vs Suncorp. I still use my Travelex to make small purchases and give the details of this card to people I don't necessarily trust, since I don't have a lot of money in this card anyway.
I bought something in GBP on 19th of October using Travelex. I got a rate of 1 GBP = 1.72 AUD
. While the official rate on the day was 1 GBP = 1.61 AUD
. I know Suncorp uses this rate for sure as I have verified this over hundreds of transactions. Now if the amount you are withdrawing is small then the differences are negligible but they widen if you withdraw large amounts of money at once. This is of course preferred as you don't get charged fees multiple times. Let's watch the numbers at work.
I withdraw 500 GBP from both banks:
Travelex => 500 x 1.72 = 860 + 3.50 AUD transaction fee = 863.5 AUD
Suncorp => 500 x 1.61 = 805 + 5 + currency conversion fee (comes to around 10 AUD for every 400AUD withdrawn) = 805 + 5 + 20 = 830 AUD
A saving of about 30+ AUD.
You also have to remember that there is usually a 1% loading fee for putting your money onto Travelex. All the costs add up. So for the above transaction that would cost 860 AUD you would have already paid 8.60AUD to have that much money put onto your card. Making the total cost of Travelex: 863.5+8.6 = 872.1 AUD. You'd actually be saving about 42 AUD
by withdrawing from Suncorp.
The bigger you withdraw the bigger you save.
From my experience alone, I would highly recommend you study your bank rate carefully. Of course, this is trivial if you don't plan to use this card often or for large withdrawals.
Since I knew my travels will last 15 months (most of it china), I figured that I would actually end up saving hundreds of dollars by forgetting about Travelex - and I have
Downside is of course you don't have the extra backup card that Travelex provides you with as well as the guarantee that they will get you access to emergency funds wherever you are if you lose both cards. But if you don't plan to move that much then this shouldn't be too big a concern. I got around this downside by having my bank issue my girlfriend (who is also travelling with me) another card attached to the same account. So if I lose my card, I still have access to the money through my girlfriend's card. It didn't cost me anything extra.
To summarise, the point of this post has really been to make you aware that the rates given by Travelex aren't the best - although some might call them good. So I would highly recommend doing some detailed research before deciding to choose them.