Best Credit Cards for Travel in China (DFS)

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Best credit cards for travel in China (DFS) | Credit cards from

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Credit card use and acceptance in China has increased dramatically over the past decade, especially in major metropolitan areas such as Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. This is good news for many tourists who prefer the convenience of credit cards over carrying large amounts of cash. While many large hotels, department stores and nicer restaurants accept credit cards, it is helpful to know which cards are generally accepted and which do not charge a foreign transaction fee. Read on to learn more about credit card use in China.


An agreement between Discover Financial Services (DFS DFSDiscover Financial Services66. 44-0. 87% Created with Highstock 4. 2. 6 ) and China UnionPay, China's only national bank card payment network, makes Discover the preferred choice for travel to China. Under the agreement, Discover cards are accepted at all UnionPay locations where a credit card is accepted throughout China.

Discover's website notes that if a sticker with the Discover or UnionPay acceptance mark is not visible, you can still present your card for payment if the merchant accepts credit cards. Hotels) don't always display the acceptance decals.

Discover also notes that while Discover cards have been accepted in China since 2006, some merchants may not yet be familiar with the Discover brand. To help cardholders, download a wallet-sized instruction card (in English and Chinese) from Discover's website that can be presented to merchants to facilitate transactions.

Additional benefits with Discover cards: you can use your card at any UnionPay ATM for cash, and there are no foreign transaction fees. Note that Discover states that you can use the card in "Mainland China". Some online forums report that Discover cards are not always accepted in Hong Kong. Check with your hotel to see if you are arriving. For more information on these cards, see Discover Credit Cards: advantages and disadvantages .

Other cards

Many hotels, retail chains and tourist attractions accept other international credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and American Express. A number of cards do not charge foreign transaction fees and may offer other incentives that benefit frequent flyers. (For more information, see Meet the Travel Benefits of the Card Your Credit Card? And Highest credit cards with no foreign transaction fee .) The BankAmericard Travel Rewards credit card, for example, has no annual fee, charges no foreign transaction fees and offers 1.Earn 5 points for every dollar spent. Points can be redeemed as a credit toward a travel purchase, including airfare, baggage fees and hotels.

Other cards that currently do not charge foreign transaction fees include CapitalOne Venture Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express Platinum (see Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. AmEx Platinum ) and Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Master. Card.

The Bottom Line

Although more businesses across China now accept credit cards, you still need cash to pay for goods and services at smaller businesses in larger cities and rural areas.

ATMs in major cities typically accept foreign bank cards (look for signs indicating which cards are accepted). Be aware that you pay high ATM fees for each amount you withdraw. Therefore, limit the number of withdrawals you make. You'll receive RMB (renminbi, Chinese banknotes; the base unit is the yuan). It's a good idea to hold on to your receipt – you may need to show it if you want to exchange your RMB for your home currency on your way to China.

It is not uncommon for businesses in China to add a surcharge to the total cost of your purchase if you use a credit card instead of cash. In some cases, surcharges are a result of how the processing bank handles the transaction. If you use some credit cards, the bank processing the transaction will convert it to your home currency at an unfavorable exchange rate, essentially adding 4% to 6% to your bill. If possible, make sure the transaction is in the local currency (RMB), with the Chinese bank charging your bank for the RMB amount. Your bank will then convert it into your home currency at a fair exchange rate. If in doubt, ask for a surcharge before handing over your credit card so you can decide if it makes more sense to pay in cash.