For many educators in China, the need to transfer their earnings back to their home country is a common requirement. Some teachers do this on a monthly basis, while others choose to access their savings when their tenure in China concludes.
In a previous blog post, we shed light on the substantial savings potential when teaching English in China. In this article, we will delve into the different strategies for converting your diligently earned Chinese Renminbi into your preferred currency to seamlessly send it home.
Among the most traditional methods used by teachers in China to transfer funds abroad is the trusty bank transfer. This approach is known for its security and reliability but does have its drawbacks. Foreigners in China have a $500 limit on how much money they can withdraw, before having to provide certain documentation. For any amounts over $500, proof of ownership and proof that tax has been paid have to be provided to the bank. This means that any teachers who want to send home a large amount of money will have to go through a very time-consuming process at the bank and ensure that they have all the required documentation.
Moreover, bank transfers come with fees, including transaction charges and currency exchange fees, which can range from 2% to 4%. Therefore, sending a substantial amount of money through a bank transfer can be costly.
Find a Friend
For those seeking a cost-effective and rapid solution, relying on a Chinese friend can be a game-changer. As mentioned earlier, foreigners have a $500 limit for sending money abroad, while Chinese nationals can send up to $50,000 annually with greater ease. If you have a trustworthy Chinese friend or colleague, you can transfer your funds to them, and they can, in turn, transfer it to your overseas account via bank transfer or using Alipay.
Alipay, in particular, offers convenience as it enables direct transfers to your home bank account through the app, eliminating the need to visit a bank. To delve deeper into Alipay’s uses, refer to our blog post on 5 Must-Have Apps When Moving to China.
An alternative method to consider is PayPal, which offers a relatively straightforward way to transfer money out of China. In order to do this, you’ll need to create a Chinese PayPal account linked to your Chinese bank account. While it’s convenient, it comes with drawbacks, including a 2% to 3% international transfer fee and currency conversion fees, making it a pricier choice.
Fly With Funds
If your time in China has come to an end, or you’re simply heading home with some money to repatriate, carrying cash on your flight is a straightforward option and will save you money on international transfer fees. However, be aware that there are legal limits on how much cash you can take out of China. Individuals leaving with over 20,000 RMB must declare this to customs. Given that most teachers save more than this amount over a year, this method is best suited for small sums.
If you return to your home country from China, and you still have money in your Chinese account that you’d like to retrieve, then one method of accessing it is to simply withdraw the cash from an ATM using your Chinese bank card, otherwise known as a Union Pay card. Certain big banks do allow withdrawals from their ATMs, such as Barclays in the UK, but finding and accessing specific ATMs like this may be a pain. Additionally, withdrawal limits may restrict access to large sums, making this method suitable for obtaining small amounts of cash.
An alternative worth exploring is Wise, an online platform renowned for secure and efficient cross-border currency transfers. Wise charges a modest flat fee of 88.99 RMB plus 0.68% of the transfer amount, making it a cost-effective choice compared to some alternatives.
In order to send money from your Chinese bank account using Wise, you must provide the same initial documentation that is requested when doing a bank transfer. However, unlike with a bank transfer, you only need to show this documentation once for an initial verification during your first transfer. Wise estimates that verification should take 1-2 days, and once complete you don’t need to submit any documents for future transfers (which should be complete in just 4 hours!), thus making Wise a very quick and secure method in the long term.
In conclusion, various channels are available for getting your money out of China, each with its advantages and limitations.
The fastest way to move your money out of China is by having a trusted Chinese friend transfer it to your home account. It’s hassle-free, doesn’t require initial paperwork, and is cost-effective. However, make sure you choose someone you know.
Looking ahead, Wise could become the top choice. Although it requires some initial documentation, it’s an official, reliable, and cost-effective option, and transfers are quick once verified. It is worth mentioning that Wise have only very recently introduced this option and is new to the business of transferring money out of China, so time will tell if they are the best and most reliable long-term option for expats in China to use!
While not the quickest or cheapest, a secure and dependable method is to use a bank transfer. Just ensure your teaching contract is legitimate, and taxes are correctly paid to make this option work smoothly. Having proof of this will enable you to send money home via a bank transfer and simplify the process of getting your money out of China in general.