This morning I had a random encounter with a stranger. It lasted perhaps no more than six minutes, but it was a great way to start my day. Before work, I stopped by the China Construction Bank near my house to do a fee-less cash withdrawal with my Bank of America card (see how to avoid the fee in my post titled “Withdraw cash in Beijing with NO FEE!“). A foreign-looking man was standing in line (and by foreign, I mean he was white) but I saw an empty ATM.
Better late than never…but I thought I’d share my top 5 blog posts (based on views) of 2012! Here’s the list, starting with the top post…..
#1: How To Get A Z Visa In Beijing This was the most popular post, as visa issues are one of the biggest problems we face as expats in China.
#2: Chinese Status Symbols: A Car, A Home, And A Mistress Having a mistress is a common practice among the wealthy, while their wives turn the other way.
#3: Where To Buy Sporting Goods In Beijing This is one of my favorite stores in Beijing and a great place to find all types of sporting goods.
#4: Withdraw Cash In Beijing With NO FEE! If you’re American and have an account at this bank, welcome to the world of no ATM fees.
#5: Chinese Wedding Photo Shoot Supermodels A day in the life of a Chinese supermodel…or just a bride-to-be.
I realized that as it is summer, there are probably people looking for tips on traveling in Beijing, not just living in Beijing. When I first came to Beijing, I was looking for a way to avoid credit card and debit card fees, because I know that those can pile up as you travel or live abroad. Here are some money tips for travel in China:
1) If you are American, and you have a Bank of America (BofA) bank account, welcome to the world of no ATM fees!
In 2005, Bank of America acquired a 9% stake in China Construction Bank. As a result of that deal, BofA debit card holders can withdraw money from China Construction Bank ATMs with no overseas fee, which can normally be between 1-3% of your withdrawal. Keep in mind that it only works when you use BofA cards at China Construction Bank. It won’t work if you try using other bank cards at China Construction Bank, or your BofA card at other Chinese banks.
A lot of people have asked me if the cash comes out in yuan or dollars. Just to clear it up, if you withdraw cash from an ATM in China, it will come out in Chinese currency. Even more convenient, because you don’t have to bring dollars and have them exchanged for RMB (yuan). It’s like skipping the middle step! Unfortunately, as excited as I am about no ATM fees, this does only apply to people who have a BofA account. If you plan on living in China long-term, I’d highly advise opening an account with Bank of America. I promise I don’t get any commissions from them if you do. Oh! One more warning: There is usually a limit to how much you can withdraw using your BofA card per day. So do bring some cash (you can leave it in your hotel safe) and don’t rely solely on withdrawing from China Construction Bank ATMs.
As a general rule, you shouldn’t carry too much cash on you while traveling, especially in China. Though I have never been pickpocketed, I’ve heard ridiculous stories lately about people getting their iPhones stolen from their pockets…..while they were listening to music on it. I’ve heard three cases so far, no joke.
2) The magic credit card with no international fees
If you haven’t heard by now, Capital One is the card to get if you are traveling or living overseas. As with all credit cards you plan on using abroad, make sure to call your credit card company and let them know where you will be and for how long. Credit cards normally charge anywhere between 1-3% of your purchases when you use them internationally. However, with Capital One credit cards, there is a 0% charge!
Another money tip, which I was uncomfortable with at first but have gotten used to (especially because it means I don’t ever have to do math after a meal) is that there is no tipping in China! That means anywhere. Restaurants, taxis, Starbucks, bars (which, fortunately, does away with the drunken $100 tip). The one exception would be nicer hotels. It’s really up to you how much you want to tip the bellboy, or housekeeper, but anywhere between 5-10RMB is appreciated.
I feel like there’s a lot I’m missing. Please leave a comment if you have any further questions, since I’m drawing a blank right now. Hope this helps!