Foreigners' guide for Chinese Currency

Updated: 18 Jun 2012
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China paper money and coins


Chinese Currency
What is the legal tender of China?
The legal tender of the People's Republic of China, issued by the People's Bank of China, is the Renminbi, literally people's currency.
- Short official name: CNY (China Yuan)
- Abbreviation: RMB
- Chinese: Ren Min Bi (人民币)
- Symbol: ¥
- Monetary unit: Yuan (元)
- Fractional units: Jiao (角) and Fen (分)

How many sets of RMB have been issued?
With the establishment of the People's Bank of China on December 1st 1948, the first edition of Chinese currency was issued. To date, China has already published five sets of currencies, circulating the last edition from October 1st 1999.

Is the currency used in Hong Kong the same as that of the mainland?
The currency used in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan is different.
- Hong Kong: Hong Kong Dollar
- Abbreviation: HKD$
- Macau: Pataca
- Abbreviation: MOP$
- Taiwan: New Taiwan Dollar
- Abbreviation: NT$

Does "kuai"refer to RMB?
Yes. Colloquially in Chinese, the Yuan is called kuai, and the Jiao is called mao.

What is the conversion among Yuan, Jiao and Fen?
Answer: 1Yuan = 10 Jiao = 100 Fen
What are the main notes used now? Currently, the paper money used is 1 Jiao, 5 Jiao, 1 Yuan, 5 Yuan, 10 Yuan, 20 Yuan, 50 Yuan, and 100 Yuan. The coin used is 1 Yuan and 5 Jiao. Do not easily accept the money of other denominations.

Above is a picture of China paper money and coins.

Is it possible to receive counterfeit money in China and if yes, how to identify the them?
Like many countries in the world, China is also suffers from counterfeiters.

You should be much more careful when you receive a big note (100 Yuan or 50 Yuan); make sure that the note is not a fake.

Hereafter we provide some easy ways to identify them:
1. The fifth edition of Chinese currency has a watermark on the left of the front side. You can see it clearly in the authentic paper money against the light.
2. There is a security line in the middle of RMB100, RMB50, RMB20, RMB10 and RMB5 (the fifth set).
3. The Denomination ID in bottom-left of the front side color change hologram effect: seen from different angles, the denomination ID of ¥100 changes from green to blue, and that of ¥50 changes from golden to green.
4. Because of its special material, the authentic RMB will make a ringing sound when being snapped.


Money Exchanging
Is it easier to exchange money in China?

It is quite easy to exchange money in China and the rates will be more favorable, but it is advisable to exchange a small amount of money in your country before leaving.

Where to exchange money in China?
Usually, four-star and five-star hotels offer exchange service, but only for their guest. Mostly people will go to banks for exchange. Remember to take your passport, which need to be presented when converting currency in China. However, for remote areas, it is difficulty to exchange currency or use a credit card, so it is advisable to take enough money when you are going to travel in the remote area.

Is it possible to get some low value notes to help with paying for transport, postage and so on?
For the sake of easy carriage, the bank staff will always give you some big notes. However, you can ask them to give you a 100 Yuan of small change. It strongly advised to take some small change with you.

Is it possible to exchange the unused Renminbi back to US dollars?
Of course you can. Please keep all your currency exchange receipts, which you must present. However, such exchange can be quite unfavorable in rates, you'd better use all your RMB before you left.

Is there anything else worthy of note when exchanging money?
The following things merit attention:
1. Choose a bank which is the nearest to your hotel if you are going to exchange a large amount of money or you can exchange in your hotel directly if it offers this service.
2. Do not exchange money in the street or the small shops which is mostly illegal and sometimes forgeries may be given.

It is possible to use RMB in Macau and Hong Kong?
Of course. 100 Yuan is widely accepted in Hong Kong, however, the small domination such as 10 Yuan and 20 Yuan are not so popular. Usually, you pay them in RMB; they will give you changes in Hong Kong Dollar. Note that the exchange rate is not as satisfying as in mainland.


Bank Account
Can foreigners open a bank account in China? If yes, how?

Foreigners can open bank accounts in most banks in China. The process is fairly straight forward. A passport is required at whichever bank you choose. In addition, different banks may require different amounts of deposits when opening an account, which can be 100 CNY to 300 CNY. When you successfully open an account, a savings passbook is given, as well as a bank card. You can use the bank card to withdraw money from the ATMs.

There are many kinds of deposit, which one should I choose?
Generally speaking, there are two common ways for deposit: Savings Deposit and Time Deposit.

Savings Deposit: There are no limits on the amount and time of your deposit as well as withdrawal. A bank book with a bank card is issued after opening Saving Deposit. You can deposit or withdraw money in the Bank outlets or the ATM.

Time Deposit: There is a settled time and you can only withdraw your money on the date of maturity. The interest rate of Time Deposit is higher than Savings Deposit. There is no bank card for this kind of deposit.

If you are going to live in China for several years and the money you deposit is not in urgent need, you can choose Time Deposit, otherwise choose Savings Deposit.

when you open a new account, a certain amount of money will be needed to deposit in your account. It varies according to the bank and deposit you choose.

What are the major banks in China?
Here we list the service number and official website of some major banks. If you have any problem, you can call for help!
Bank of China: number: 95566)
Agriculture Bank of China: (Service number: 95599)
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China:
(Service number: 95588)
Usually, in the big branches of these banks, English service is available.


Credit Card and ATM
What kind of credit card can be used in China?

Currently there are seven main foreign credit cards available in China, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, JCB, Federal and Million. Credit cards can be used for withdrawing money, shopping and other transactions in most major Chinese cities, but generally not accepted in rural areas.

Do all the ATMs in China accept credit card?
If the symbols and logos of your credit card are shown on the ATMs, then it can be used to withdraw money. It should be noted that different banks have different limits on the sum that can be withdrawn each time from the ATM, with most permitting a withdrawal of 20,000 Yuan in any day.

Can a foreigner apply for a Chinese credit card?
Foreigner can apply for a Chinese credit card, but to be honest, it is quite difficult for a foreigner to have one.

The PIN number of Chinese card is 6 digital. Can the money be withdrawn from the ATMs if the card is 4 digital PIN number?
The PIN number of Chinese card is 6 digital. You can put two zero before you four digital PIN to see if it works. Some of the banks also accept the four digital PIN. However, It is advised to check with your bank first. Keep in mind not to make more than three incorrect number attempts, or your card will be locked.

If the card was eaten by the ATM, how to get it back?
Most probably, it occurs when you press the wrong number more than three times. You're your card is eaten; it is locked by the bank simultaneously. Go to the bank office with you ID card. With the right PIN number pressed, you can take back your card.


Traveler's Cheque/Check
Are traveler's cheques/checks accepted in China?

Traveler's cheques/checks are accepted in the major banks of China, where you can also buy traveler's cheques/checks.

What is a traveler's cheque/check?
The traveler's chequecheck, which is issued by international commercial banks or authorized tour agencies, offers much more security and convenience while traveling. Similar to cash, the cheque/check also has different kinds of par values, and is issued in various currencies. At present, the cheques/checks issued by American Express, Visa, Thomas Cook and others are recognized worldwide and are available in most large-scale emporiums, star-rated hotels or can be exchanged in more than 800 banks all around the world, without any limitation on the period of validity.

What is needed when buying traveler's cheque/check?
Nothing but your signature! Your signature is also required when cashing a traveler's cheque/check.

There will be a certain amount of handling charge. However, when you cash them, the service center of your cheque/check all over the world will provide you with the exchange service for free, except some non-signatory banks.

Does it have commission fee when buying traveler's cheques/checks?
Yes, but the commission fee is quite low, less than 1% usually.

What to do if the traveler's cheque is lost?
A refund or replacement can be easily refundable in any of the appointed banks of the World.

However, make sure the return receipt is kept safe and separate from your traveler's cheque because it will be required if the cheques are lost or stolen.

Does traveler's cheque/check have expiration date, and if yes, how long?
No, there is no expiration time for the cheques/checks, you can use it anytime you want.



Cost of Traveling in China
Is traveling in China very expensive?

No, Travel in China is affordable compared with other places in the world. Prices are much cheaper than in most western countries, for everything from meals to train or plane tickets.

What's the average cost of traveling China?
Every trip will be different in what it costs. It depends on where you go and the level of comfort you require. Besides, travel in the big cities is usually more expensive than the smaller ones and travel during holiday times is more expensive.

Cost of dining in China is really affordable.Admission fees to some tourist attractions are often a great part of your expenditure.

What may be the biggest expense for traveling to China?
The round-trip plane tickets may be the biggest expense.

What about the standard cost for food and accommodation?
Delicious food in China is much cheaper, even in superior restaurants, and a budget or luxurious hotel with very clean and well-appointed rooms are also inexpensive. Don't worry about this!

What is the transportation cost in China?
Transportation in China is cheap and convenient. Public transportation costs are reasonable in China and easily affordable. No doubt buses are the most economical public vehicle. However, traveling by metro, taxi or hiring a private driver can make your tour more comfortable and more efficient.

What about the souvenirs in China, are they expensive?
The souvenirs are cheap in China, but it requires you to be skillful in haggling.

Do taxis in China cost a lot?
Trains and buses are more reasonable while taxis are relatively high. Taxi fares in different cities are quite different.

The table above is a taxi fare list of 32 major cites at daytime in 2012 (excludes fuel surcharge).

It is suggested that you bring 150% or 200% of your budget, especially if you to shop – and China is the place where your money goes far – or require a higher standard of travel arrangements. Of course it will still be an enjoyable trip, even if you travel under a limited budget, keeping your average down as much as possible.



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