Susan Bradley, blog author
Susan Bradley

As we plan to travel the world or to even work and live abroad, one consideration is money, as in how much to bring along with us initially, and how do we access money or send money back and forth from where we might find ourselves. And it is important to give this some thought before leaving your home country. This is important for convenience and for security. Most expats do not have checks lying around to send payments back home for bill paying, and you wouldn't want that anyway. Likewise, most expats are security conscious about having credit cards and bank cards lying around for an international account.

Setting Up Your Chinese Bank Card

When you become a teacher with EF here in China, your onboarding trainers will help you establish a checking account at a local Chinese bank. This account will be where your monthly salary is deposited and this local bank account and bank card will be essential to setting up the taxi app Didi, or for paying for anything through the WeChat or Alipay apps, for renting a shared bike like MoBike, or paying for rail and plane travel via

To open the banking relationship here in China, regulations require you to provide your passport, another piece of ID from your home country, and your taxpayer ID or insurance ID number from back home. Your onboarding team can clarify what you will need to provide so you can be prepared to bring those documents with you when you come to China. EF will take you to the local bank branch to set up your account within a few days of arriving in China. Prior to setting up your account, you will need to determine a reasonable amount of money to bring you to China or to access via debit card from your bank back home.

First Month's Expenses: Be Prepared

These are the main expenditures you'll have in your first month:

  1. Food. For convenience, you will probably order takeaway or eat out in your first month. Be sure to budget for this expense.

  2. Laundry and household items. I'd recommend purchasing towels, bedding, and some basic cleaning supplies to start off with.

  3. Transportation. Whether you're going to a big or small city, you'll need to budget for metro, bus, taxi, and/or shared bike rides to get around.

Exchange Rate

For a good number of teachers, the exchange rate here in China from the Renminbi currency to the currency of many countries is good; meaning that many people work in China and send money back home where it goes really far (very true in African countries, South Africa, Philippines, Ukraine, to name a few). And this is where so many expats have difficulty figuring out how to get money back home to loved ones or in to their bank account back home with a minimum cost. Most all teachers earn more than enough to support a comfortable lifestyle here in China and still have money to send back home or to save.

Wiring Money

You might just say off-hand to use a wire transfer to send money, and this is one option, though for many people, the costs on both ends is too high when it is something they are doing each month. For a good number of people, they will use Western Union - which requires a trusted person on the receiving end, but it is quite costly for the person that is sending money frequently.

PayPal Option

Several expats have a local friend, or a trusted person, send the money via PayPal to your western PayPal account that is linked to your home bank account. There are nominal fees with this option, but it is also a common practice. Also, many people are able to establish a Chinese PayPal account where they do not have to depend on a friend or otherwise, to send and receive money back home. Also, have a PayPal account does open up options for purchasing items from a variety of online sources for any number of things.

Many countries have regulations about money being sent into China, this is true with many banks and investment companies, so it can be difficult to near impossible to either access money at all or significant amounts of money. This is why most people will use the money transfer method of Western Union to a person as convenient and low cost. Many expats will establish a standalone bank checking account in their home country that is not linked to any credit cards, etc. and is accessible to perhaps another individual back home, or expats are able electronically to transfer money into and out of this standalone account and to pay bills back home, or to put into a savings account, etc.

Just another important aspect of travel and living abroad. Everyone's situation and circumstances are unique and their own. To start off on a positive note, we all

need to be aware of what's needed when we arrive here in China and how to get money back home when we need to.

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