There is a first time for everything.
You would think that getting 500 USD out of China and into another account is easy since China is promoting herself as a major economic powerhouse and cities like Shanghai is a major financial hub etc…BUT, after two unsuccessful attempts at the Bank of China and China Construction Bank, I decided to give Western Union a go. Surely it will work?
After getting details from the tour company with all bank information, I headed to China Agricultural Bank. I avoided China Post since they are incompetent and given how only a few banks have cooperations with Western Union in China, CAB is a safe bet. I was right and wrong. Right for picking CAB and wrong about how ‘easy the process would be.’
Foreigners are not allowed to transfer or receive more than 500 usd per day. That is the limit so yes- major pain. Tip: If you need to urgently change lots of foreign cash exceeding the 500 USD threshold, ask a Chinese friend to do it for you or plan ahead and as ridiculous as it sounds, take 500 usd out per day. For the CAB transaction, I couldn’t just hand over money for the transfer so I had to open an account which took some time. Sigh, the very patient clerk said that this is the branch’s first time in dealing with Western Union so it will take some time. And it did, in total, it took me 5 forms, two trips to the bank and 6 hours in total to finally transfer the money to the account in Pakistan.
Filling the Western Union form was not easy- it took me five times to get it right so to avoid any time wasted, here is what you need to pay attention to:
- Do not write the form in Chinese. It must be in English. Use a black pen and write neatly.
2. Fill in all the details correctly and if you make a mistake, start all over again
3. There is a handling fee of 20 USD so if you are trying to transfer 500 USD, do not write 500 USD but 480 USD. Be correct with amount.
The staff at the bank went through a lot as well- they called the headquarter, they baidu (googled) certain numbers and codes and double checked the forms to ensure that all is well. I was surprised by the level of great service and was most happy that at least someone took their work seriously! This transfer and start of my Pakistan trip is already stressful – I really don’t need this especially with heavy workload but at least I got the money transfer out of the way so the rest should be easy right?
Wrong…. more drama awaits.