Written by: Muhammad Aaraaf Rasheed

Whether you are an incoming international student trying to navigate the process for the first time or a current student who has experienced this issue before, finding the best way to transfer money to China can be a daunting task. Many students at NYU Shanghai have found themselves in this predicament, and with so many options available, it can be challenging to determine the most efficient, secure, and cost-effective method. However, by understanding the various options, students can make informed decisions that suit their needs.

One of the most straightforward ways to transfer money is through a bank transfer. This option is particularly suitable for large amounts of money as the fees are typically low, and the transaction is secure. However, it can take several days for the transfer to be processed, and the exchange rate may not be favorable. An alternative to this is to use an online remittance service such as PayPal, TransferWise, or Xoom. These services allow students to transfer money from their international bank accounts to a recipient’s account in China in just a few minutes. This option is faster and more convenient than traditional bank transfers and often offers better exchange rates.

If students prefer not to use a bank account, they can use a cash pickup service. This option involves sending money to a local agent who will then provide the recipient with cash. This is a convenient option for those that do not have a bank account or are looking for a quick and easy way to transfer money. However, the fees for this type of service can be higher, and the exchange rate may not be favorable. Although less frequent, many students receive money directly from a relative or a family acquaintance. The student’s family transfers the money directly to the relative’s family domestically.

Using a credit or debit card to transfer money is another popular option. This option is fast and convenient, but it can be expensive due to high transaction fees. In addition, some card issuers may impose restrictions on international transfers, making this option less practical for larger transfers.

Transferring with AliPay can also be an option. AliPay allows users to link their foreign bank account to their AliPay account. This way, you can transfer money from your foreign bank account to your AliPay account and then use the funds in China. However, it’s important to note that this method may not be available in all countries, and the fees and exchange rates may not be the most competitive. AliPay also provides a cross-border remittance service for sending money from an AliPay account to an overseas bank account, available in over 100 countries and regions. Transfer time usually takes 1-3 business days. However, there are transfer limits and fees may apply. Lastly, AliPay Global, a separate service, allows international users to shop on Chinese e-commerce websites and transfer money to other AliPay users in China. However, it is not ideal for large transfers or personal payments as it primarily caters to online shopping. 

Lastly, students can use foreign exchange providers to transfer money to China. These providers specialize in exchanging one currency for another and typically offer competitive exchange rates. However, the process can be time-consuming, and the fees can be high.

In conclusion, the most efficient way to send money to China will depend on each student’s specific needs. If they are looking for a fast and convenient option, an online remittance service may be their best choice. If they are looking for a secure option, a bank transfer may be a better option. If they are looking for a cost-effective option, a cash pickup service or a foreign exchange provider may be their best choice. Regardless of their choice, it is essential to compare the fees, exchange rates, and processing times of each option before making a decision.