China remittance guide: How to send money to China from Singapore

Shermaine Tan5 mins
Business tipsGuides
China remittance guide: How to send money to China from Singapore
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Singapore small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) can gain cost savings and competitive advantage when they work with businesses in Mainland China. However, sending money to China remains a major hurdle. 

Bank wire transfers have high fees, and can take up to five working days to clear. Opening a corporate bank account in China solves some of these challenges, but SMEs may lack the capital and paperwork required to qualify for one. Business owners also need a clear understanding of the differences between China’s currencies to properly anticipate costs and risks. 

Fortunately, Singapore business owners have international money transfer options beyond the traditional banking system. Fintech companies like Airwallex enable SMEs to send and receive Chinese Yuan (CNY) with their Global Business Account. Unlike opening a bank account in China, creating an Airwallex account can be done easily, without extensive paperwork or in-person branch visits required.

What is the best remittance service to send money to China from Singapore?

Whether it's through a bank, online platform, or mobile app, there are multiple ways for Singapore businesses to transfer money to China, each offering varying benefits and drawbacks. Weighing these against your business requirements can help you pick the most suitable remittance service for paying your Chinese suppliers. 

Let’s take a look at the table below where we compare common CNY transfer methods including fintech platform Airwallex, money transmitting specialist Western Union, mobile payments app OFX, and traditional banks.

Airwallex Convera/Western Union for businesses OFX Banks
Fees Low or no transfer fees (charged in a flat rate) + FX rates Low or no transfer fees + FX rates Low or no transfer fees + FX rates Usually high transfer fees (charged by commission) + FX rates
Speed Can be as fast as same day Payments are on time Can be as fast as same day 1-4 business days
Reliability High. More than 60 licences and permits globally, including Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), in addition to meeting international PCI DSS, SOC1, and SOC2 compliance High. Regulated by global bodies including Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) High. Regulated by 50+ regulators globally and licensed by Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) High
Customer Reviews 4.27/5 on Statrys No review available on Statrys yet 3.9/5 on Statrys NA

Sources: Airwallex, Convera, and OFX as of 10 March 2024

Airwallex

Airwallex is a global financial platform and payment provider designed to make international money transfers faster, easier, and more cost-effective. It provides a comprehensive online solution that allows businesses to send money across borders without having to open an overseas bank account, streamlining the traditionally complex process of international money transfers

In 2023, Airwallex also secured the China Online Payment License, allowing them to gain greater access into the local market as a third-party payment provider in the country.

Pros:

  • End-to-end payment platform offering comprehensive global financial solutions including overseas remittance, payment gateway to receive customer payments, and holding of currencies dedicated to businesses only

  • High-speed international transfers with an all-in-one multi-currency Global Account.

  • Market-leading FX rates and no transaction limit

  • Greater price transparency through charging a flat rate, instead of a % based commission, for SWIFT transfers

  • Option to make payment to China with Airwallex Borderless Card 

  • Quick and simple account opening and onboarding process

Cons:

  • Lack of physical presence that traditional banks have

Bank transfer

Cross-border bank transfers, commonly known as wire transfers or telegraphic transfers, are a common way for businesses to make payments to China due to their widespread use and efficiency. All major banks in China use the SWIFT code system for secure international bank transfers between accounts. Due to the higher bank transfer rates and exchange fees, this may not be cost-effective for small or frequent transactions. However, in cases where traditional vendors do not accept alternative transfer methods, wire transfer could be the most viable option. 

Pros:

  • Secure and trusted institutions

  • Widely accepted. Most Chinese businesses still use SWIFT transfers for receiving overseas payments.

Cons:

  • Expensive. Bank transactions may incur commissions, account fees, and service charges on top of SWIFT fees.

  • Longer remittance times. Different banks have different cut-off times. If the transaction is submitted after the cut-off, it will be processed on the following business day.

  • Less convenient. You will need to collect information about the recipient bank's SWIFT code, account details, personal information, and remittance purpose for each transaction.

To avoid the longer payment processing times typically associated with SWIFT transfers, Airwallex connects directly to local payment rails and eliminates the intermediary steps between different banks. This direct connection ensures that all payments are processed swiftly, sidestepping the delays often encountered in the standard banking system, and significantly enhancing efficiency and cost-effectiveness for businesses. However, it is important to note that SWIFT transfer is the most common way for businesses to send money to China. Airwallex supports both SWIFT transfers to China and local CNY transfers for eligible businesses.

Using Airwallex, businesses can also save their recipient details onto the system. Each time they’re paying the same supplier, they can simply select their account details from a search bar – without having to manually input all information from scratch.

Convera

Convera offers global payment and foreign exchange services to businesses of all sizes. They can facilitate transactions in over 140 currencies with their financial network that spans across 200+ countries. In 2023, Convera completed the acquisition of Western Union Business Solutions, positioning the company to offer more comprehensive digital solutions for cross-border payments for both individuals and businesses.

Pros:

  • Easy-to-use online platform

  • Offers batch payment options

  • Businesses can receive CNY payments into holding balances for later use

Cons: 

  • Transfer and foreign exchange fees vary depending on the selected payment method and transaction size

  • Does not issue debit or credit cards, which can limit payment options

OFX

OFX is an international money transfer specialist that supports over 50 currencies across 170+ countries. They offer secure and efficient services for both individuals and businesses looking to send and receive funds internationally without the burden of excessive bank fees. 

Pros:

  • 24/7 customer support

  • User-friendly web and mobile app

  • Real-time currency exchange rates and historical data 

  • Forex risk management solutions including hedging strategy

Cons:

  • Minimum transfer of 1,000 USD

  • OFX offers introductory rates across selected currencies for your first transfer – however, the offer is not available for CNY transfers

  • Does not issue debit or credit cards, which can limit payment options

For businesses that need to make transfers under 1,000 USD, Airwallex does not have any minimum payment value requirements. Airwallex also offers Borderless Visa Cards, which link directly to the Global Account, for those who may need to pay via debit or credit cards. 

What is the cheapest way to send money to China from Singapore?

To cut down on expenses, look for services that provide low and transparent transfer fees along with competitive exchange rates. For instance, opting for a bank transfer to China from Singapore often incurs steep wire transfer charges for both the sender and recipient.

Airwallex is a cost-efficient way to send money from Singapore to China, thanks to its highly competitive exchange rates and minimal fee structure. It is completely free to open an account, nor are there any hidden charges. 

What is the fastest way to transfer money to China?

Transferring money to China is significantly faster with fintech providers like Airwallex than through a bank, which may have more tedious administrative processes, including stringent regulatory checks, multiple intermediaries, and the necessity to adhere to international banking protocols. On the other hand, Airwallex has leveraged technology to streamline these processes. By optimising operations for efficiency, 70% of Airwallex’s global transfers arrive within the same day.

What is the safest way to send money to China from Singapore?

When it comes to sending money internationally, security is a top priority. Airwallex takes this seriously and ensures all data and transactions are kept secure. Airwallex is regulated by top financial authorities such as the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), providing businesses with peace of mind knowing they can confidently send money to China without worrying about potential risks. The funds their customers' deposit are securely safeguarded in a client-segregated trust account, which is out of reach from creditors, banks, or third parties.

Moreover, Airwallex has local customer support teams in both Singapore and China available online to assist with any concerns or questions regarding transactions. This level of support ensures a smooth and secure money transfer experience. Airwallex also provides a full transaction overview and tracking dashboard allowing businesses to monitor each step of their remittance process.

Other financial providers such as traditional banks and Western Union also offer safe and secure ways for sending money to China with traceable transactions and rigorous regulations by financial authorities in both sending and receiving countries.

Why is it hard to transfer money to China? 

In December 2023, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) mandated remittance companies to cease all remittance activities to China through non-bank and non-card channels, including mobile wallets, money changes or cash pickup services. 

By prioritising traditional banking and card-based transactions, the MAS aims to strengthen the financial transaction corridor between Singapore and China against potential risks like money laundering or illicit funding.

This new directive brings added complexity for individuals and businesses seeking to transfer funds from Singapore to China. While security remains paramount, limiting non-bank and non-card channels could significantly inconvenience those who previously relied on these methods for their speed, accessibility, and low cost. 

Singaporean businesses, in particular, may face challenges if they rely on instant, cost-effective remittance options to support their operations in China or settle payments with Chinese suppliers.

Luckily, businesses can leverage the Airwallex Chinese Yuan account – which can be used just like a Chinese Yuan business account – for secure remittance of Chinese Yuan from Singapore to China. Once you’ve created an account, you’ll be issued an account number for receiving CNY, holding funds in your account, and sending money to China-based partners via direct deposit. For businesses who need to pay their Chinese supplier in other foreign currencies, your Airwallex account also gives you access to 23+ different currencies, including CNY and USD, for a seamless remittance process. 

What should you consider when sending money to China

Regulatory aspects in Singapore and China - KYC requirements

Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements are an essential aspect of conducting financial transactions in Singapore and China, serving as a preventative measure against fraudulent activities. These regulations mandate that financial institutions verify the identity of their clients, understand the nature of their clients' activities, and assess the associated financial risks. 

In the context of sending money to China, this involves submitting documentation that verifies personal identity, residential address, and the legitimacy of the transaction’s purpose. Order information is mandated by the Chinese State Administration of Foreign Exchange for inbound CNY transactions to verify the fund source.

Aside from KYC requirements, it is also vital to stay informed about regulatory changes in both Singapore and China to maintain compliance and avoid delays or penalties. 

The difference between Yuan (CNY) and Renminbi (RMB)

The terms CNY and RMB are often used interchangeably, but they refer to different aspects of the Chinese currency. RMB is the official currency of China, while CNY is the RMB currency that is traded only on mainland China – and cannot be used offshore.

Understanding this difference is crucial when sending money to China, as it affects the exchange rate and fees involved in the overseas transaction. Read our article on CNH vs CNY (which are the two different types of RMB) to learn more about the nuances of the Chinese currency.

The remittance limit in China

When sending CNY from a Singapore business account to a Chinese business account, there are typically no restrictions. However, to abide by the Guidelines on Foreign Exchange Administration for Trade in Services, additional transaction proof and documentation may be necessary for remittances exceeding 50,000 USD.

Use case example: Singaporean eCommerce business sends money to Chinese suppliers

In the realm of global eCommerce, businesses often face the complex task of managing cross-border payments efficiently and cost-effectively. A common scenario that highlights this challenge involves paying Chinese suppliers. 

An efficient way for businesses to send money to China is through direct CNY transfer. Airwallex enables registered KYC pass businesses to easily convert SGD to CNY with competitive FX rates and transfer these funds to their recipient’s account. This ensures not only the timely payment to their Chinese suppliers but also the stability and reliability of their relationship.

First-timer tips for business sending money to China

  • Compare remittance services: Thoroughly analyse and contrast various money transfer options to pinpoint the most cost-effective and dependable choice for your requirements. Seek out competitive exchange rates and minimal transaction fees. Prioritise selecting a reputable service provider that ensures fast and secure transactions. Check if there are any account opening fees, options to set up a multi-currency account, and other types of services that will help streamline payments and make your business more efficient.

  • Check all associated fees upfront: While some banks or financial providers may offer enticing exchange rates, be vigilant of potential higher transaction fees to make an informed decision. Using the Airwallex Global Account, you can enjoy market-leading FX rates and avoid hidden transaction fees at all times.

  • Understand the tax implications. Stay informed about potential tax responsibilities related to sending substantial sums to China, considering both Singaporean and Chinese tax regulations.

  • Build strong supplier relationships: Prioritising transparent communication with your suppliers or business partners in China can result in more favourable terms and prevent payment-related misunderstandings. Convey the expected timeline and any necessary details to your recipient for a smooth money transfer.

Conclusion

In successfully navigating the complexities of international payments, Singapore businesses can reap huge benefits in the long run. To achieve efficient and reliable transactions, businesses can leverage modern financial solutions such as Airwallex, which offers market-leading exchange rates and speedy money transfers. It's crucial to research and understand all options, be aware of the regulatory requirements and tax implications, and potential remittance limits when using various providers. Taking these steps will not only optimise your financial operations but also foster a foundation for long-term business growth and success in the global marketplace.

Frequently asked questions

1. Can businesses use Airwallex for high-volume transactions when sending money to China?

Yes. There are no transaction limits for SWIFT transfer, which is the most common way for businesses to send money to China. Note that businesses should also check the transfer limit of the receiving account and local regulations to ensure a smooth transaction – for example, additional proof and documentation may be required for transfers exceeding 50,000 USD.

For businesses using local transfer methods, there is a maximum payout limit of 9,999,999 CNY, which can be increased by providing CNY Inbound Declarant information. Due to regulatory restrictions, businesses can only utilise local transfers if both the sender and recipient have Chinese IDs and can meet the following criteria:

  • They are a China domesticated business

  • They are an eCommerce seller with a Chinese legal representative or UBO exporting goods from mainland China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) 

  • They are purchasing goods from an eCommerce seller in Mainland China (pending case-by-case approval)

2. How can businesses track their remittance status in real time with Airwallex?

The Airwallex dashboard provides real-time status updates on when a transfer is sent, pending, and arrived. Domestic transfers are usually completed almost instantly, while most international transfers can be completed within the same day thanks to Airwallex’s partnerships with local payment rails.

3. What support does Airwallex offer to businesses encountering issues with their remittance transactions to China?

Businesses can submit a support request to Airwallex’s customer support team online. For China-based businesses, you can call +86 4008663888 from 9am - 6pm CST. 

4. How do I make sure my money is safe when transferring to China?

  1. Choose a reputable service provider: Make sure to select a reliable remittance service that is licensed and regulated by global authorities, such as the Monetary Authority of Singapore

  2. Verify the recipient's details: Before sending any funds, double-check the recipient's name and bank account details to avoid any potential errors.

  3. Track your transactions: Find a record of all your money transfers, including the amount sent, date, and recipient details on the Airwallex dashboard. This will help you track your transactions and verify them in case of any issues.

***Note: This publication does not constitute legal, tax, or professional advice from Airwallex nor substitute seeking such advice, and makes no express or implied representations/warranties/guarantees regarding content accuracy, completeness, or currency.

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Shermaine Tan
Manager, Growth Marketing

Shermaine leads the development and execution of content for businesses in Singapore and the SEA region.

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