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When visiting Beijing you may find some places for it to be difficult using your USA based credit card. This can lead to you being placed in an embarrassing position, less cash than you wanted to release at the time and a considerable amount of hassle if you challenge the situation.
Lets first look at legitimate credit card issues. Union Pay is standard for payment transactions in China. Basically Union Pay is a debit card that works well for Chinese based citizens. In other words......cash.
The second reason why USA based credit cards are not accepted is down to human error on the store you are visiting. The staff have not been trained properly in how to process a USA based credit card. It is processed differently from that of a Chinese based credit card.
The third potential reason why USA based credit cards may fail is down to purposeful actions by the store to force you into handing over cash. Cash is really what the store owners want as getting refunds is almost impossible here, or it becomes a long drawn out affair which is to the benefit of the Store owner.
What to do when you are faced with this issue. First you can stand your ground and ask that the manager get involved to help with the transaction, as it could be simple human error. It is also possible that the bank that the merchant uses does not process USA based credit cards, so this needs to be verified with the manager.
Planning is key here. You can ask upfront if the store takes USA based credit cards and to be safe, show them your card so that they clearly understand it is a USA based credit card. This way you can plan if you wish to stay in the shop or move on.
Under no circumstances do you create a public scene or start an argument that could escalate into you being portrayed as creating a public disturbance. This could lead to much more serious problems.
At the end of the day, cash is the way of life in China. Come knowing this and enjoy this amazing country.
Happy Shopping in Beijing or elsewhere.