This option is my personal favorite, as it’s an instant transfer (there’s no waiting for the money to hit your account) and the fee isn’t very high ($10). The downside is that there’s a transfer limit of USD$500 per day, per person (which makes it $490 after the fee). Also, you need a trusted friend or family member back home to pick up the cash from a Western Union outlet. You must send USD through Western Union, so this means buying it from the bank before the transfer (they won’t actually give you the cash, it’s all electronic). Then you can specify your home country’s currency for your receiver to pick up (after they show the transaction tracking number, as well as their ID).
A number of the major banks in China have Western Union partnerships, so look out for the distinctive yellow and black sign in the window. Be sure to take your passport with you, as well as your and the receiver’s details (name, address, phone number, etc). Also take your patience with you, as there are a number of forms to sign and a few different bank windows to visit!
International Bank Transfer
If you have a bank account with them, most major banks in China will let you transfer money to your bank account back home. If you’re working in China, you should already have a local bank account, but they’re easy to get.if you don’t. When making an international bank transfer, you’ll first need to buy USD. The transfer fee with these transactions varies from bank to bank, but is usually around USD$20-$40. The maximum transfer amount per person, per day is USD$500 (minus the fee). Although, I have heard of some banks allowing up to USD$1000 per person, per day (minus the fee), so it pays to ask around (pun intended). Also, be aware that your bank back home may also charge you a fee to receive the money (this could be another USD$20-$30 depending on your bank). This method generally takes about 5-10 days for the money to hit your account. Be sure to take your bank account details, including the SWIFT code and/or BIC (and once again, your patience!).
A Chinese Friend
If you’re lucky enough to make some great Chinese friends, they’ll likely be more than willing to help you send money home through their bank account. The ‘how’ is much the same as the international bank transfer (above), but there’s a key difference with the ‘why’: the daily limit is much higher - as much as CNY50,000, depending on the bank. The easiest way to do this transfer is to give the cash to your Chinese friend and ask them to kindly do the rest! It’s likely your friend will then transfer the money online to your account back home, and it will be there in 5-10 days. I’d recommend then taking your friend out for lunch or dinner to thank them!
Hopefully this short guide on how to send money home from China will help you get your cash where it needs to go. If your Chinese language skills aren’t great, when using Western Union and international bank transfers, I’d recommend taking a Chinese friend with you the first few times, so you get the hang of the process. Most bank staff speak at least basic English, so you should be able to fumble your way through the process if you can’t find a Chinese friend to accompany you.
Have you ever sent money home from China? Do you know of any better options? Tell us about your experiences.
*Please note that this information was correct at time of publishing, and things can (and usually do) change. Also be aware that there may be slightly different options, fees and limits in your area of China, and this information is correct for Tianjin.