Foreign visitors to China can either withdraw RMB in cash at bank machines (Automatic Teller Machine, ATM) or exchange foreign currencies they brought with them for RMB in most branches of the major Chinese banks e.g. Bank of China (BOC), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) etc., with a valid ID document (e.g. passport).
The disadvantage of withdrawing cash at ATMs using normal EC or VISA cards is that you are charged a fee (usually approx. 5 euro) for every withdrawal. The maximum withdrawal amount is approx. 3000 RMB. Before travelling to China, you should inquire whether your EC or credit card allows you to withdraw cash free of charge in other countries. A number of banks offer this service.
The currencies which can be exchanged differ from location to location and branch to branch. Almost all branches of the Bank of China allow you to exchange money from 17 common currencies (including USD and EUR) to RMB.
The exchange rate of the RMB is pegged to the US dollar, but the Chinese government sets the exchange rate. For years, this has provoked major international controversies, as western countries have repeatedly called for revaluation of the RMB due to the rapid growth of the Chinese economy. China has rejected these demands each time, pointing to the number of impoverished people in their country as justification.
Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted in China, but you cannot always depend on being able to pay with them.
Cash is still the most used medium of exchange. Certainly at international-standard hotels, upscale restaurants, shops and tourist offices you will be able to use them. However, ask before you purchase to ensure no commission is added on to your purchase. This can happen at tourist offices when purchasing domestic travel flights or tours.
The most readily accepted credit cards in China are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Dinerʼs Club, and the JCB card of Japan.