Reply To: Transfer money from China to USA options?

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China Merchants Bank does not have any retail banking operations in New York or elsewhere in the United States nor are they licensed for such. What they do have is a single branch in NY licensed as a wholesale bank. As a result, it would be impossible for them to transact retail clearing operations via FedWire.

The same applies for China Construction Bank. It is not authorized to conduct retail banking operations in the United States.

One nifty feature of HSBC Premier is that if you have status in one HSBC entity, that allows you status in every HSBC entity without having to meet minimum balance requirements in that entity. I opened an HSBC Premier account back when the minimum balance to avoid fees in the US was $50,000. I then used that to obtain status in China with an account that rarely sees more than a few thousand RMB in it.

There are restrictions.

Unless, for the most part, you are converting RMB earned from lawful employment into US$ and have supporting documentation, an expat is limited to $500 per day in foreign currency purchase. Those people Chinese regulations consider as domestic individuals are limited to $50,000 per year. Exchanging US$ for RMB is capped for all at $50,000 per year.

The idea of being able to us US$ cash one already possesses to circumvent restrictions may seem doable, but it is not. First, there is a restriction on foreign remittances for everybody but those who are remitting earnings and have the appropriate documentation. The limit otherwise is $50,000 per year.

There are other problems with using US$ cash in your possession. First, is the additional fee involved. There are two kinds of US$ in China. There is US$ cash (chao : 钞) and there is US$ forex (hui : 汇) and they are not the same. Only forex can be remitted abroad. If you have cash, it must be first exchanged into RMB and then back to forex before it can be used to buy a demand draft or any other type of remittance. So, if you have, for example, $100,000 in cash and you need a demand draft, you need to “sell” the cash and then “buy” forex. However, there is a $50,000 limit on how much US$ can be converted into RMB each year.

Even if you have only $50,000 in cash, this would be a stupid way to remit money abroad instead of using RMB directly to buy forex. I’m certain some Einstein will come along and challenge the idea that the cash is sold to buy RMB and then further the RMB is converted into forex. However, they would be wrong. While you may not see or be aware of any “sale” or “purchase,” they do occur. It occurs behind the scene in the State Administration of Foreign Exchange database which must in realtime any foreign currency transaction in any Chinese bank, and it occurs in the fee you will be charged.

Fee? Yes. An amount in RMB equivalent to the spread the bank would have earned from physically exchanging your US$ cash into RMB and the resulting RMB then further converted back into US$ forex will be tacked onto the cost of the remittance or demand draft.

So, unless you have no other way to buy the US$ you will need to remit abroad, using your “huang niu” means you are getting FITA for an extra 2% above and beyond the initial 1% spread you pay between the buy and sell rate.

I have sent wires and also bought demand drafts for over $10,000 and have never had to fill out any additional forms.