Best way to transfer Chinese RMB (earned in China) to a US account as USD
May 9, 2009 9:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm a US citizen, and have lived in Beijing for just over a year. Right now I'm interviewing for jobs here. My salary will be paid in RMB, but I need to convert/transfer a portion of my monthly salary into USD in a US bank account as I still have some expenses in the USA and I would also like to save a bit of money for when I go back. So, I'm looking for advice from someone who has successfully done this: is it possible? what's involved?

Whatever job I ultimately accept will be "legit" -- e.g. I'll have a legal work permit, etc, so I'll be able to prove that I paid taxes on the income, etc.

As nice as it would be, I'm not going to be setup with a sweet expat package, so any "wealth management" type solutions set-up for wealthy foreigners will likely not apply to me.

I've Googled around a bit, and I spoke with HSBC on the phone. It sounds like they can do it. Their "standard" account has a minimum balance of 100,000 RMB which is too much, but if I have to I can eat the 150RMB monthly below-balance fee. But if there's one thing I've learned from being in China is that there's always some wrinkle (or 10) that will make things much more complicated than they seem.

So I'm hoping that someone here has done this, or better yet is currently doing it and can let me in on some of the twists and turns.
posted by duoshao to Work & Money (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You don't need the big accounts to do an international transfer. A standard account at the one of the big four banks should be enough. When you set it up, just make sure that it is a multi-currency account and can have dollars deposited as well.

The exchange from RMB to USD can be a bit trickier. Assuming you have all your documentation from your employer, you should be able to get the bank to convert a decent percentage (not sure what it is now, less than 50% maybe). That can be sent to the US bank for a fee of ~1% + 100-200RMB.

You can also find a black market to change your cash. Usually the guys with the handbags standing outside of banks. The BoC around the embassy district were always swarming with them when I was there a few years back.
posted by FuManchu at 10:57 PM on May 9, 2009

Also, in my experience, Chinese citizens have much greater freedom and options to change from RMB to USD. I don't know the numbers, but their limit for currency conversion is generally quite high. Whenever I've needed RMB changed to USD, I've just asked a Chinese friend to do it at their bank. No paperwork needed from you. Very easy for both you and your Chinese friend.
posted by msbrauer at 11:15 PM on May 9, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks! The big four banks you're referring to are Chinese banks (BoC, ICBC, etc...) or foreign banks (HSBC, Citi, etc)?
posted by duoshao at 5:40 AM on May 10, 2009

I have used for international transfers. They have had better rates than banks and more trading options too.
posted by avex at 6:00 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to RMB ease of use, but HSBC seems to have a China based bank. I currently use them for both Australian and US banking and have linked accounts where I can move money over as needed. They also have multi-currency accounts, but I have not had a need for that.

The process of moving money over from one country to another has been seamless, although I can't say the same for when I used Citi. I just set up a transfer online and it goes to the other account in a day. I've also been very impressed with HSBC's customer service and their knowledge in handling international banking issues.
posted by qwip at 10:12 AM on May 10, 2009

The big four banks you're referring to are Chinese banks (BoC, ICBC, etc...) or foreign banks (HSBC, Citi, etc)?

The Chinese banks, yes.
posted by FuManchu at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2009

I'll also vouch for ( is the currency exchange URL).

I've used them to exchange Euros from my Austrian bank account into Dollars in my US account.
posted by syzygy at 2:16 AM on May 11, 2009

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