Importing products from China is a great way to boost the effectiveness of your business operations. However, rarely do people consider the different payment options at their leisure and the associated pros and cons of each.

When contemplating which method to choose, it’s important to assess the size of your order, protect yourself by sending money to a business bank account, and draft a strong agreement that aligns with your best interests. The cost to import from China will be significantly lower if you select a payment option that works for you.

Once you’re ready to secure the right arrangement, you’ll benefit from utilizing one of the following payment modes to pay suppliers in exchange for high-quality goods:

International Wire Transfers

This procedure involves a system of electronic transfers coordinated via a network of banks and agencies across the world. International wire transfers can be used to send funds from one location to the next, including bank-to-bank money transfers, western union, and more.

Bank-to-bank wire transfers are one of the most common, reliable ways to send funds, especially when you’ve done your due diligence and have verified that you trust the supplier. International wire transfers are a widely accepted payment method among buyers and sellers, however, charges are renowned for being high.

You will need to pay a fixed fee per transaction and the receiver will occasionally have to pay some sort of fixed fee too. International wire transfers typically take 2-5 business days to process, meaning the supplier will be at risk of currency exchange fluctuation during the interim period.

This method is generally considered safe because banks run forms of identity checks on both parties, meaning you’ll be more protected than you are with other payment options. You can also further protect yourself from risk by paying suppliers in tranches, for example, 30% on placing an order and 70% down after quality inspection and shipping.


This is a trustworthy payment method that protects both parties by holding funds in an intermediary source. Funds are released to the seller only when predetermined criteria have been met, like for example when you’ve received the merchandise within an agreed time window.

Many Chinese businesses offer a service similar to Escrow known as ‘Trade Assurance’, so, for example, if you’re looking at how to get furniture from China, you can protect yourself by utilizing an approach that adds an extra layer of security.

Though this approach certainly protects buyers, Escrow is often preferred because it protects both the buyer and seller. When engaging through Escrow, sellers are incentivized to accept preferable terms because they’ll be guaranteed payment providing they deliver goods as promised.

Letters of Credit

A payment mechanism that’s orchestrated via a bank guarantee, letters of credit represent an agreement to pay a seller on your behalf. Banks usually issue these letters for buyers who have pledged collateral, before charging a percentage of this as a fee for the arrangement.

Letters of credit are great for large companies with high orders, otherwise, the high bank fees can offset the tight margins made by smaller companies. There are many types of letters of credit, so if you’re paying import duty on goods from China to UK, you’ll be set to benefit from this reliable mode of payment.

With this being said, letters of credit are undesirable in many cases due to being expensive, involving lots of paperwork, and being cumbersome.

Western Union

Though it’s a convenient payment method for urgently sending money across the globe, serious buyers often avoid Western Union. That’s because it fails to offer any payment protection and involves high charges.

When sending money via Western Union, you’ll be given a 10-digit Money Transfer Control Number that you should hand to the person you’re paying. When sending money to another party, they can pick up the funds from a Western Union branch using the code and their ID.

The more troublesome aspect of this approach is that if anyone disappears with your money there is nothing that can be done to recover said funds. Legitimate suppliers rarely demand payment via Western Union, so always have your guard up if a supplier insists on this method.

Sourcing Agents

Working with a sourcing agent like Easy Imex is a great way to elevate buyer protection and operate with maximum reassurance. Not only can sourcing agents help you find the products you need, but they can also coordinate a secure payment arrangement too.

A trustworthy sourcing agent will coordinate a reliable payment method, though it’s important to check the sourcing fee and other attached charges. Working with a sourcing agent is a great way to eradicate some of the associated risks of dealing with Chinese companies, as you’ll only have to deal with a domestic firm.

Easy Imex works with reputable Chinese companies, having established collaborative relationships that can be leveraged for maximum client benefit. The collaboration will help you secure faster lead times, better pricing, improved product quality, and most importantly elite buyer protection.


If you’re looking to import a small number of goods, Paypal is a great payment method because it’s swift and effortless. However, if you’re importing a large number of goods, it’s important to be wary of how you’ll be charged a percentage of the transaction amount AND a currency conversion fee for each transaction.

Be aware of high charges and be certain to read the small print before making any large payments via PayPal. You should also be sure to pay into a business account, not a personal one.

If you want to know about how to pay factories in China, we invite you to read this guide on negotiating favorable payment terms in China.

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    About the Author: Adam

    Adam Gilbourne is the Founder and Managing Director of Easy Imex. Since 2005, he has helped hundreds of companies worldwide to successfully import from China. He has a large expertise on product sourcing, quality assurance, and supply chain management.


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