Visiting China? Must-know expressions in Mandarin to deal with money and banks

Are you planning a trip to China, or better, heading there for a while to work? While in the big cities you might find some English speakers, in smaller towns or even in daily chores you will need to know some basic expressions in Mandarin to help you get by.

Expressions in Mandarin - Bank, money and currency exchange

Some of the foreign currencies I have laid on my worn-out map of Shanghai

In this post I will write some tips and expressions in Mandarin Chinese you will need if you have to deal with money-related problems.

The most common issue when traveling is money exchange. Sure you can also directly withdraw from the ATM, but in case you have brought cash, Euro, pounds sterling or US dollars, you might want to exchange them into the local currency. Usually, if you do it at the arrival at the airport you are very likely to find English-speaking people at the counter, but if you need to exchange some money once in the city, the chances become quite little.

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Here are some of the words and expressions in Mandarin Chinese you might need at the bank:

Money: qián (钱)

Withdraw money: qu qián (取钱)

Check (or cheque in the UK): zhi piào (支票)

Account number: zhàng hào (帐号)

Password: mì ma (密码)

To open an account: kai zhànghù (开帐户)

Bank transfer: zhuan zhàng (转帐)

Exchange rate: huì lù (汇率)

Foreign currency: wài huì (外汇)

To sign: qian zì (签字)

To agree: tóng yì (同意)

US dollars: mei yuán (美元)

Euro: ou yuán (欧元)

British pound: ying bàng (英镑)

Japanese yen: rì yuán (日元)

To exchange money: huàn qián (换钱)

There are many banks in China, but the most popular two are Bank of China (Zhong Guó yínháng, 中国银行) and ICBC (Gongshang yínháng, 工商银行), and every branch displays both the Chinese characters and the English translation.

If you go to the bank to exchange money, a typical dialogue you might have with the bank teller could start with you asking if they actually do this kind of service: “Qingwèn, zhèr néng bù néng huàn qián? (请问, 这儿能不能换钱?)”

At this point the assistant will ask you what kind of currency you want to exchange, the most likely ones he would mention being US dollars and Euro: “Néng. Mei yuán háishì ou yuán? (能. 美元还是欧元?)”. After you answer, say, dollars, he will ask you how much you want to exchange: “Huàn duoshao? (换多少?)”


If you are traveling to China and need a bit of quick help to get by in Chinese language you might find very handy this 6-page Chinese Vocabulary, a guide divided into tables that show Chinese characters, the pinyin (transliteration of Chinese characters into Latin alphabet) and the English translation.

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Supposedly, you want to exchange 300 dollars (sanbai mei yuán – 三百美元), probably, before giving the money you’ll want to inquiry about how much is the exchange rate: “Sanbai mei yuán, yì mei yuán huàn duoshao Rénmínbì? (三百美元, 一美元换多少人民币?)”

The bank teller will tell you the rate, here as an example would be 6.8, and will ask you to count the money: “Jintian de huìlù shì liù kuài ba. Qing nín kàn yí xià, zhèshì nín yào huàn de Rénmínbì, qing dian yí xià (今天的汇率是六块八. 请您看一下, 这是您要换的人民币, 请点一下).” And, as usual, at the end, you will thank and leave: “Hao, xièxie. Zài jiàn (好, 谢谢. 再见).”


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Of course the money-related issues you might have to deal with while abroad are countless, and here I’ve only tackled one of the most common, but if you feel there are words or expressions in Mandarin I neglected, leave it in a comment and I’ll update the post.

This is the last part of the series meant to be helpful for travelers in China. I think it would have been useful for me at the beginning of my stay in Shanghai to know some words, sentences or even have some phrases written in Mandarin using Chinese characters to show the locals when I couldn’t make myself understood. It’s with this spirit that I’ve written these posts, and I hope they will help someone out.


If you found this article helpful, check out my other posts where I give some tips and expressions in the Mandarin language for –>>

Traveling around China

Renting a house

When asking for directions

Going to the restaurant 

Getting sick on the road


  1. This is a great series to bookmark. thanks!

  2. Oh là là, ce que c’est interessant! Comme tout ce que proposes, d’ailleurs!

  3. Davvero una serie di testi molto interessanti, e utili, soprattutto per chi va in Cina per la prima volta!

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