Travel Preparation

Chinese Currency

How to recognize and pronounce the names of Chinese currency? How to avoid getting fake notes while traveling in China? What are the most commonly used bank notes and coins in China? How to minimize exchange losses when booking a trip to China? This article will offer visitors to China some money-related tips.

One currency, several names

People are often confused by how to refer to Chinese money. In English, some people call it the Chinese "dollar". In Chinese, there are three common names and two symbols in regular use.

The official name for the currency is Renminbi, which literally translates to People's Currency and is abbreviated to RMB. The most widespread international usage is Yuan, which is abbreviated to CNY. You can write CNY 1,000 or RMB 1,000.

The official symbol for the Chinese Yuan is ¥, however, in most stores and restaurants in China, the symbol is represented by the Chinese character "元" instead, which is pronounced "yuan". You will also hear people say "kuai", pronounced kwai, which is a local word for yuan. So make sure to remember at least one of the Chinese currency's names!

To further confuse you, there are two names for 1/10th of a Chinese yuan. This can be called one "mao" or one "jiao". Both refer to the same thing: 1/10 of a yuan.

The Chinese Yuan or RMB is only used in Mainland China. Hong Kong's currency is the Hong Kong Dollar and Macau's currency is called the Pataca.

Commonly used bank notes and coins

At present, bank notes in denominations of one, five, 10, 20, 50, and 100 Yuan are in circulation. One Yuan coins are also widely used.

Due to inflation, bank notes or coins with a value of less than one Yuan, including one Jiao and five Jiao, are not widely used. Many places just round up or down to the nearest whole number. If someone insists on you paying the small change, you can just give them one Yuan and tell them to keep the change instead.

How to avoid accepting fake Renminbi while traveling in China

While you are in China, there is a small possibility that you will receive some fake Renminbi notes. Rather than telling you how to recognize fake notes, since this is difficult for local Chinese let alone foreign travelers, instead we will give you a few tips on how to minimize the risk of fraud or fake notes.

1. Always exchange or withdraw money from banks or ATMs attached to a bank.

There have been reports of people withdrawing fake Renminbi notes from banks or ATMs but it is still much safer than many other sources. (Note: Be sure to use a currency conversion website to calculate how much Chinese Yuan you can get once you arrive in China, as exchanging or withdrawing money in China might be cheaper than in your home country. Exchange rates in China are highly regulated, so you will get about the same rate everywhere. Learn more about how to exchange Chinese currency here.)

2. Try to avoid using 100 Yuan notes when taking a taxi or making small transactions.

Some unscrupulous taxi drivers or vendors may quickly switch your genuine bank note for a fake one and then return the fake bank note to you and tell you the money you gave them is fake. They usually do this with 100 Yuan notes since they are most valuable, although it may happen with 50 Yuan notes, too.

3. If you have Wechat or Alipay, you can use mobile payment and avoid cash altogether!

Learn more about mobile payment in China here.

How to minimize exchange losses when booking a trip to China

If you are traveling to another country, you usually need to book your hotels, transportation, etc. a long time before your trip. The exchange rate of the country you’re going to is usually something you need to consider since it is constantly fluctuating.

Chinese currency is not freely convertible, which means the exchange rate of RMB is sometimes affected by the government and can be difficult to predict. However, if you believe there will be a possible upward or downward trend in the exchange rate between your home currency and RMB in the future, then booking a tour with The China Guide is a good way to minimize exchange risk because we are very flexible with regards to payment schedule and amount.

For example, if you think your home currency (such as the US dollar or the euro) will be stronger against RMB in the future, then you can pay us as little as 10% of the tour price at the time of booking to lock the price and pay the rest when your tour gets closer. On the other hand, if you think your currency will be weaker against RMB in the future, then you can pay us up to 100% of the tour price in advance to lock the price and the exchange rate, so you won't have to worry about paying with an unfavorable exchange rate in the future.

There are many useful online tools, such as Yahoo Finance and Reuters, that allow you to track changes in exchange rates over time, so you can formulate a somewhat accurate prediction of how the exchange rate between RMB and your home currency may change before your trip.

Click the bank notes below to learn how to say the names in Chinese:

Coins (1 yuan and 1 mao/jiao)

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