First of all, if you are planning to exchange your local currency for Chinese RMB, please do so at a bank or at your hotel's front desk. Also, do not exchange more than you really need. It is harder to change RMB back into your local currency...Believe me, a little of bit of your own money, can last a long time. Exchange little bit at a time. Another thing to remember, when exchanging at hotels, hold on to your receipt, it will be easier to exchange RMB's back into your currency that way.
Also, before you head out remember to get different denominations. You don't want to go out with only large bills. Reason being, if you want to buy a small item from someone on the street, you can't be sure they will give you back REAL money or even the same currency. DO NOT attempt to exchange your money on the street or in alleyways. I am told that the REAL currency has some type of watermark. Ask someone to point out the differences.
Try to stick with Bank of China ATM machines. They are EVERYwhere, you won't have a problem finding one.
I stuck my card into a non-Bank of China ATM and a second later a slip came out with: CARD RETAINED printed on it.
However, I waited patiently for someone to walk by - then I used crude sign language to show them that I had lost my card. They were able to help me, and within a half hour I had my card back.
If you lose yours, don't despair or give up - just get help.
The Chinese currency is the Renminbi (RMB), or people's money. The basic unit, the yuan, is divided into 10 jiao. The jiao is again divided into 10 fen.
1 yuan = 10 jiao = 100 fen
In spoken Chinese the yuan is referred to as the kuai and the jiao is referred to as the mao.
The following yuan notes are issued 100, 50, 10, 5, 2 and 1.
The jiao comes in denominations of 5, 2 and 1.
It is advisable to stock up on 10 yuan notes.Taxi drivers and shopkeepers are frequently unable to change larger denominations.
Traveler's checks and foreign currency can be changed at international airports, main branches of the Bank of China and major hotels. Hotels may only exchange money for their guests. Traveler's checks generally receive a more favorable rate than cash.
ATMs that accept foreign cards are few and far between. Do not rely on them as a major mode of obtaining cash in mainland China.
The most readily accepted credit cards are Visa, Master Card, American Express, JCB and Diners Club. Credit cards are gaining acceptance in China, however, count on using them only in major cities. They will, generally, be accepted in major hotels and tourist restaurants.
Be careful when shopping at the markets. If possible, pay with the exact amount of money needed or use small bills to pay because the vendors may give you fake yuan/RMB for the change. I was warned by the local about this issue. As foreigners, we cannot easily differentiate the fake from the real RMB. When you exchange the currency at the money changers or the banks, ask for some small bills.
Even though many will tell you that your ATM card will work in China (including your bank) don't count on it. We found ourselves in a worrysome situation, as our cash depleted and we couldn't get our ATM cards to work. We eventually were able to get cash from a Bank of China ATM in Shanghai, but only after many attempts at different places. Part of the problem is that they use 6 digit PIN numbers, as opposed to our four. Mine finally worked putting two zeros in front of my normal PIN. For another person with me, two zeros after worked. My mom was never able to use her ATM. Take plenty of cash with you! It can be easily exchanged in the lobby of most of the larger hotels. Also, travelors checks can be troublesome. One of our friends had trouble cashing an AMEX travelors check at a major hotel because they said her signature didn't match. She had another that they cashed.
Beware of street traders giving you counterfeit notes in your change. Check the watermark and feel of any notes you are given.
In the Summer Palace I bought some postcards from a hawker using the correct money. The hawker then tried to get me to change some small RMB notes to a larger one - at least one of the notes she tried to give me was a fake.
Be careful if changing money in the street. Even if you can get the money -rehmins or yuans- at better exchange rate than at official places, you could be cheated with jiaos which are only one tenth of yuans.
The usual stuff here. First, managing the money: can be exchanged at banks either at the airport or in the city. But don't rely on your credit cards too much (you probably won't find as many ATM machines as you do back home), it's better to take traveller's cheque. Second, always take some tissues with you because some public toilets do not provide toilet papers (sucks, i know).
Changing Money - Hotels will accept foreign currency to change but, the note (especially US Dollars) has to be spotless. Don't even think about getting foreign currency back at the end of your stay. If you have some RMB left over, the airport will take it off of you in last minute gifts for friends.
I found the hotel was not so keen to change RMB (local currency) back into other currencies, so don’t change too much to start with.