Advice for an Overseas Student in Shanghai

August 12, 2010, 02:04 AM posted in General Discussion

Dear Amber,

I just started and there may be a lesson covering this, but I figured I would post anyway just in case:

I'm going to be studying at Shanghai Normal University this fall, and I'm really excited to start my trip! However I found out that in order to pay for my room and board, I will have to pay in cash.

My family is nervous enough about me studying 8000+ miles away (I'm in the US now), and I was wondering if anyone knew whats the easiest and safest way to handle money coming in from overseas.I certainly don't want to fly in carrying thousands of dollars in cash!

If anyone has studied at SHNU before, or has some experience, I would love any advice!

Best wishes,



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August 12, 2010, 05:38 AM

I suggest using an ATM card.  Someone can put money in an account from the US and you can take it out from an ATM machine in Shanghai.  You should be able to take out enough to cover your living expenses within your daily withdrawl limit.

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Maybe this needs to be clarified - your daily limit is set by your US bank, where your account is held. You will also find a limit at the ATM set by the Chinese bank, but this is the limit for a transaction. You can keep taking money out until you reach the limit set by your US bank. This ATM approach using a debit card may also give you the lowest transaction costs. If using a credit card, load the account with the cash required to avoid paying interest on cash withdrawals.

PS. Nearly everything is paid in cash, even your tuition fees (unless you are doing it on exchange with a US university & its already paid at the US end.) I don't know anything about the SH Normal, sorry. These 'Normal' universities are like teachers' colleges in the West - although they will have a wide range of disciplines their main purpose is producing teachers.

I take it you are studying Chinese language? Good luck and enjoy yourself!

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August 12, 2010, 02:27 PM

Regarding ATM cards, I second Mark's advice.  There are just a couple of issues:

  • First and most important, many US banks have fraud flags on US accounts that shut your ATM card down if a foreign transaction occurs.  If your bank does have this, then just tell them that you're living overseas and will be making overseas withdrawals; they will then remove the flag.
  • Second, your U.S. ATM card only works at certain Chinese banks.  Since one of these is Bank of China, that's not a problem; just be aware of the fact.
  • Third, in the long term I would recommend setting up a Chinese bank account.   Most US banks charge two or three dollars for every foreign transaction.  Not huge, but it adds up over time.  What I did is set up a Chinese bank account with a bank that partners with my bank (Agricultural Bank in this case) for cheap transfers.  That way I can transfer larger chunks of funds from my US bank to China for a nominal fee and use the Chinese ATM for daily transactions.
Finally, because so many people use their ATM as a source of travel cash, many places do not accept travelers checks.  Thus, they are not as convenient a solution as before.

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August 12, 2010, 05:23 PM

Wow, all of that is good to know. I've never had to deal with withdrawl limits or anything like that before so that's good to be aware of. 

I'm gonna have to save this thread. Thanks for all of your help and the peace of mind everyone