Thursday, January 19, 2012

$ Give It To Me In New, Unmarked, 100 Dollar Bills $

I always wanted to say that! 

Chinese New Year is quickly approaching and you know what that means?  Red lanterns, dragons, firecrackers . . . AND . . .

the perfect time to order new bills from the bank.  In fact, while most banks previously allowed customers to order new bills throughout the year, many banks now only allow it right before Chinese New Year.

When traveling abroad, banks are notorious for only accepting crisp, clean, and preferably new bills.  Big bills.  Like 50's and 100's.  The exchange rate will go down (or be non-existant) for older looking bills. 

For the record, we didn't have brand new bills the last time we went to China, but we did only take bills that looked new (although this took a few trips to the bank to keep exchanging).  We primarily used travelers checks and credit cards. 

A few thoughts on money in China and Vietnam--from our limited experiences. 
  • We didn't exchange any $$ before going overseas
  • Airports offer exchange services, often with the best exchange rates
  • Hotels offer very good exchange rates--sometimes higher than banks
  • In Vietnam, you immediately become a millionaire-- $1~20,000 VND (dong)
  • In China-- $1~ 6.5 RMB (yuan--pronounced more like "yen")
  • In China, counterfeiting is rampant.  Only exchange bills in banks, hotels, and airports
  • For fraud reasons, try to pay with bills requiring little cash back--otherwise you might receive counterfeit bills as change (in other words, don't pay for a pack of gum with a Y100RMB)
  • Chinese banks and hotels accept travelers checks (hotels more easily than banks--I suggest you avoid banks if possible as it can be quite the experience!)
  • In Vietnam travelers checks can be your worst nightmare (tho nice hotels usually accept)
  • Make sure you use a brand of travelers checks that is readily accepted (we used American Express)
  • In China, many establishments (even small stores) accept Visa/Mastercard (a percentage fee usually applies)
  • Credit cards less accepted in Vietnam
  • ATMs readily available in China--less so in Vietnam (fee usually applies)
  • In Vietnam, we found US $$ to be readily accepted in most establishments, restaurants, street vendors, taxis etc. 
  • In China, we found the exact opposite--US bills were only for exchanging into RMB
  • Save some bills to keep as souvenirs--both countries have beautiful money!
  • Save a little bit of money for your wait in the airport pre-flight
  • At the end of your trip, if you have excess dong (Vietnam) or yuan (China), apply it towards your hotel bill--then pay the rest with credit card or travelers checks
  • Note:  I said "excess dong" without laughing.  Actually, that's a lie.  I just laughed.  Again. 

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