Things I’ll Miss About China: Using Cash

I have nightmares about this… Out to dinner with a big group of friends in the US. We each ordered different entrees, some people had a drink or two, two people shared the appetizer, another two purposely didn’t because they’re trying to save money. We ask for the check and have to split it 6 ways, then add tax, then add tip. Some people want to pay cash, some want to use plastic. Oh, wait! You can’t split the bill? Ahhhhhhhh.

Simply put, this doesn’t happen in China. It is very much a cash-based society, and I’ve really grown to like this aspect of daily life here. If you get paid in a huge wad of cash (like I did), then you simply set aside your spending limit for the month and put the rest in the bank. Ta-da. It’s really easy to keep track of spending when you only ever use cash! It makes group dinners a lot easier too (and no tips to calculate either).

China’s biggest bill is a RMB 100  note. For reference, that’s equal to about US$16. Imagine how many of those bad boys you need to pay rent for six months! Yep, i’ve never felt like more of a baller than when I forked over all of that cash to my landlord. Just the other day I did a huge bank transfer from my Chinese bank account to my American bank account. I walked into the bank carrying this:

Covert shot-- inside the plastic bag to all of my fortune!

Covert shot– inside the plastic bag to all of my fortune!

The weird thing is… that’s completely normal! I see people withdrawing huge sums of money from the bank, putting them in a baggie and walking out without any qualms. I found out the hard way that the ATM withdraw limit is pretty low, so to take out all of this cash, I had to do the whole withdraw process many, many, many times. My guess was that maybe the counting system (or dispensing mechanics) can’t handle so many bills at one time!

I read an article recently (can’t find it now!) that talked about why China didn’t make bigger bills. One of the reasons was (supposedly) to limit corruption. It’d be too easy just to slip a few crisp ones into a red envelope and bribe someone. You wouldn’t have to fill a trunk with cash anymore!

The only place that I use my bank card here is at WalMart… go figure!


3 thoughts on “Things I’ll Miss About China: Using Cash

  1. It reminds me a little of Germany where we could only get money from the ATM once a day & it was limited. If I used it, Tim had to wait a day. We went around with cash, but the value was much larger so our pile was very small.
    Checks were guaranteed up to a certain amount so we had to write several checks for larger purchases.
    They got more into credit cards after we left in 1993.

    Aunt Noreen

  2. Cash and carry isn’t new in China. Aunt Jane (Boppop’s sister, that is) told of having to transport suitcases of cash on trains, boats, etc from the seaport to their mission, by herself!
    We might be better off if we flashed a little less plastic.

    Aunt Anne

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