Exchanging cur­rency in Beijing is easy, and banks and exchange offices offer competitive exchange rates. Nevertheless, you should exercise caution when exchanging currency. Because of the volatility of the Chinese money market, you should plan ahead on the amounts you want to exchange. Each time money is changed you can receive a receipt or certificate. Be sure to have your passport with you in order to exchange money at banks. If your U.S. bank has a global alliance with a Chinese bank, you may be able to withdraw money from the ATM without incurring fees; however, there is usually a limit to how much money you can withdraw.

It is also possible to convert dollars to RMB at any tourist hotel or foreign exchange bank with a valid passport. However, avoid any black-market transactions, as it is illegal to exchange dollars for RMB except at banks, hotels, and official exchange offices. You are advised to keep all receipts from money exchanges, as they may be required to exchange RMB back to USD.

By law, business transactions in China are made only in renminbi. Credit cards are used in some areas but cash is more versatile in China when making purchases. If you make a large purchase, save your receipts and price stickers for possible customs inspection.

Places associated with tourists and foreign currency are likely to attract crime. We therefore strongly advise that, when you are changing money or withdrawing cash, you do so in the company of a friend. Exercise basic prudence—avoid these transactions when it is dark outside and avoid calling attention to yourself by speaking English loudly. Count your money before stepping away from the exchange counter. You will need to present identification when exchanging money. Your passport is ideal.

Please note that it is common for Chinese banks to accept only new, clean and crisp dollar bills. If a bill is old or torn or has any marking on it, you may not be able to exchange it.