How to make a Telegraphic Transfer (T/T) to China: A complete guide

Hannah Conway
11 minute read

If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur in the UK and want to pay your supplier based in China, then you might be considering making the payment by telegraphic transfer (T/T or TT for short). This is a popular way to send funds in Asia — but it may not be the cheapest and fastest option.

If you’re looking to save money, then it’s a smart idea to check out TransferWise, as you might be able to make the same payment for less.
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Let’s get you started. Here’s a beginner's guide to safely making payments to China.

What is a T/T payment?

A T/T payment stands for telegraphic payment. A telegraphic transfer is an electronic method of transferring money. It can be domestic or international, but is used primarily for international payments.

It’s also sometimes called a TT, T/T, TT payment, TT bank payment, telex transfer, remittance or wire transfer, but it’s just a money transfer between two banks. Different parts of the world tend to have different names for this kind of transfer. “Telegraphic transfer” is often used in the UK and Australia, while the same kind of transfer is more often referred to as a “wire” or “wire transfer” in the US.

TT payment methods

When you’re arranging payment to your supplier, they may use a different name for a TT payment, as different banks call these payments different things. You might be asked for any of the following:

  • Telegraphic transfer
  • TT payment or transfer
  • T/T payment or transfer
  • Telex transfer
  • Wire transfer
  • International money transfer
  • SWIFT transfer

To make the payment you can either arrange to transfer funds via your regular bank or use a specialist provider like TransferWise. If you’re planning on transferring funds via your regular bank, you may be able to do so by visiting a branch, on the telephone, or through online banking. Every bank has their own requirements, so it’s worth checking the process with your own bank well in advance.

How long does a Telegraphic Transfer take?

Telegraphic transfers usually refer to international payments, so the SWIFT network is used to send the money to the recipient’s bank account. Generally, a SWIFT transfer will take 1-5 business days to complete. It’s hard to get a clear picture of how long it will take because it varies wildly by both country destination and your own bank.

Here’s a list of factors that can affect the speed of your transfer:

  • Destination country - the banking infrastructure of some countries make transfers slow or more difficult to complete quickly.
  • Time differences - if you’re sending to a different hemisphere, it’s quite common for transfers to take longer as banks have to wait for correspondent banks banking hours in the sending country may not line up with banking hours in the recipient country if it’s in another time zone.
  • Different business days - while business days in the UK are Monday to Friday, this isn’t always the case in the rest of the world, where their weekend may fall on different days.
  • Holidays - many sending money don’t take into account holidays in the recipient country, which can delay a transfer.
  • Different currencies - if the sending bank and recipient bank are in different countries, there’s often a currency conversion involved, which may delay transfer times.
  • How you pay - some payment methods, like checks or money orders, may take longer to clear than others.
  • Verification or additional information - banks and money transfer services often operate under strict anti-money laundering and fraud prevention policies. This means that sometimes they may need to delay transfers for additional checks or to request further information from either you or the recipient.

Telegraphic Transfer Fee

The fees for a telegraphic transfer will vary depending on the bank or provider you use to send your money. It will also depend on where your bank is located, for example if you are sending from an account in the US then there is likely to be a flat fee of $30.

The fees that you need to be aware of are:

The only fair rate is the mid-market rate - the one you’ll see on Google. However, many banks and providers are unlikely to offer this when they convert your money. **But, why is this? **

The mid-market rate - also known as the interbank rate - is the rate at which banks and traders buy and sell currencies. However, so that they can make a profit they may add a % fee to the rate, so that the rate they offer to you is less favourable than the real mid-market rate. It’s known as adding a markup to the exchange rate.

These are essentially hidden fees. And they are often further hidden by misleading pricing such as 0% fee or zero commission.

Take this example, of sending 2000 GBP to Chinese Yuan (CNY), using a traditional bank like Barclays and an alternative provider, like TransferWise.

Provider Exchange Rate (1 GBP > CNY) Transfer Fee Recipient Gets
TransferWise 8.99465 (mid-market rate) £23.64 17,776.67 CNY
Barclays 8.75781 £0.00 17,515.63 CNY

At first glance it may look that Barclays is the better option as there is no upfront fee, but on closer inspection you can see that the recipient would actually receive less.

If you take a closer look at the exchange rate, TransferWise offers you the real mid-market rate, but the rate offered by Barclays is less favourable. This is likely because there is a hidden fee when you send money with Barclays, as they are adding a markup to the exchange rate.

Information correct on 28/02/2020. Always check the exchange rate and fees at the time of your transfer, as exchange rates can fluctuate. Information is taken from the TransferWise comparison tool.

If telegraphic transfers are taking too long, or you want a likely cheaper option, you might consider an alternative like TransferWise.

A fast and cheap alternative to slow TT bank payments

TransferWise strives to be fast, cheap, secure and transparent.

TransferWise sends money internationally at the real mid-market rate — the rate you’ll find on Google. And with no hidden fees or exchange rate markups.
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TransferWise also offers a multi-currency account, which allows you to hold, manage, send and receive money in dozens of global currencies all at the same time. You can get local bank account details in regions like the US, the UK, the EU, and Australia to be paid for free like a local.

See how TransferWise works and try today to see how much you could potentially save on international international transfers.

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How to make a TT payment to China step by step

Here’s all you need to know, to process that first TT payment to China.

Step 1: Check what information and documents your bank or international money transfer service requires to make the TT payment

To make a TT payment safely, you’ll need to give the bank or international money transfer service information about where the money is headed. Different banks in different countries could ask for slightly different information, so check with your own bank in advance to make sure you have everything you need.

For yourself, when you first sign up you will need to go through a normally one-time verification process for both yourself and, if sending on behalf of your business, also have your UK business verified.

Once the verification process is complete, which may take anywhere from 20 minutes to several business days, you will then need to input your Chinese recipient’s information.

Through TransferWise, if you’re making the payment to your Chinese supplier from the UK in US Dollars — US$ or USD for short — this is what you’ll need:

  • Recipient contact info — your recipient’s email so they know when your money will arrive, as well as their full address
  • Chinese bank info — your Chinese recipient’s SWIFT code and account number

If you’re reading this article from the US instead of the UK, you’ll want to follow our instructions on sending a USD-to-USD transfer with TransferWise.

Through TransferWise, if you’re making the payment to your Chinese supplier from the UK in Chinese Yuan Renminbi — CNY or RMB for short — this is what you’ll need:

  • Recipient contact info — your recipient’s email so they know when your money will arrive as well as their phone number
  • Business info — name of the Chinese business or charity as well as their business registration number
  • Chinese bank info — bank name, branch name, branch province, branch city
  • Account info — the bank account number of the business account, which must be denominated in CNY/RMB

Step 2: Gather up the recipient company information needed — and watch out for common pitfalls

Once you’re confident of the information your bank or money transfer service will need, you can start to collect it. At this stage, there are a few common headaches you’ll want to watch out for.

As mentioned above, Chinese company names are often long — and must be completed in full for most bank TT payments. Otherwise you risk the payment failing. In this case, your money can be held for a period of time while the Chinese tries to work out the details with the recipient. If that doesn’t work, however, then your money is normally returned to you minus the charges which have been deducted along the way. Not only is this an unnecessary cost, it’s also a waste of time for your business.

You also need to make sure you’re paying the correct company. While this sounds simple, some small companies collect payment via export agencies, and larger ones might ask for payment to be routed via a holding company in Hong Kong. This increases the risk of error and fraud, so it’s best to be wary and make double sure you have all the correct details before processing payment.

Step 3: Process the payment in person, online or on the telephone

After you’ve gathered all of the necessary information you can process the payment according to rules that govern your service provider. Depending on the amount you’re sending in the UK, or if you’re located in the United States, some banks insist that you make international payments in person. Which may mean you’ll have to go to the bank branch. Other services may allow you to arrange the TT payment online or on the phone.

If you’re using TransferWise, you’ll be asked to complete your personal details and fill in the recipient information online, or using the app.

Step 4: Make sure you pay all the transaction fees

When a supplier in China sends an invoice, the payment amount will be what they expect to receive. However, with normal international transfers through your bank, there are always fees and costs which can reduce the amount the recipient eventually gets. If the supplier hasn’t been paid in full, then you can bet it may delay your purchase and cause a headache for your business.

International SWIFT payments through your bank normally come with the following costs:

  • Upfront fee — sending bank
  • Intermediary bank fees — up to 3 intermediary banks will likely charge their own fixed fees
  • Exchange rate markup — an often hidden cost, on average, banks add a 4-6% spread to the real exchange rate when your money gets converted
  • Recipient bank fee — generally charged for incoming international transfers

If you’re placing a telegraphic transfer with your bank, you can at least pay your own bank upfront fees. Many banks may offer you the option to pay the intermediary as well as the recipient bank fees, which is a help.

However, a bulk of where the cost often comes in international transfers is in the exchange rate. Most banks and transfer services hide most of their profit in the exchange rate they use. It allows them to claim that they charge only low fees, while still pocketing a good slice of your cash.

You’re likely better off using a specialist service like TransferWise rather than sending money through your bank. All TransferWise transfers use the real exchange rate — like the one you see on Google — with no hidden fees. Just a low, transparent, and upfront cost.

Step 5: Make a record of the transaction for reference, and send it to your supplier

Once your payment has been processed, make sure you have some proof of the transaction and send it to your supplier. Your bank or the money transfer service should be able to provide you with a receipt or something showing that your payment was made. If you did the transaction online, you may just be able to take a screenshot. This shows that the payment is on its way and helps you and your supplier track it.

How safe are telegraphic transfers?

The process of making a TT payment is fairly safe. However, it always pays to be cautious when sending money. If anything looks odd or unusual about what you’re being asked to do, then be wary.

If you’re working with a legitimate supplier, then you need to make sure you have all the details correct and give the bank or money transfer service all of the information required to process the transfer. This should ensure it all goes smoothly. If there’s an error in the documentation and the payment can’t be made, then the money will be sent back to you, but this will not only take time, but it will cost you more money because oftentimes the fees and charges aren’t returned.

There are some practical problems which can arise when working with a Chinese supplier. For example, Chinese company names are often very long, and if your bank isn’t used to making TT payments to China, there might simply not be the space on the payment form to complete the full company name. A seemingly small issue — but one which could result in a failed payment and delays to your business.

LC or Letters of credit: What are they? And do I need one?

Letters of credit are commonly used for transactions over USD 50,000. Although they’re considered to be a very safe method of payment, they come with high charges and complex paperwork. Usually, you’ll need to take specialist advice to arrange a letter of credit, at least until you’re comfortable with the process.

For smaller transactions, or if you’re working with a smaller supplier, then these LCs aren’t usually used.

Want more info on telegraphic transfers?

If you’re new to the world of telegraphic transfers, then you might be looking for some more information. We are here to help.

Here are some other resources which could help you navigate the world of TT payments, and make sure your transactions go smoothly and safely:

If you’re looking to send money internationally, you may want to consider using TransferWise. They specialise in sending money abroad, and with the real mid-market exchange rate and low conversion fees - you can save everytime you send.

Join TransferWise for free

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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