Travel Preparation

Chinese Currency

One currency, several names

People are often confused by how to refer to Chinese money. In English you can call the Chinese dollar. In Chinese it has 3 common names and 2 symbols in use.

The official name for the currency is Renminbi, which means People’s Currency and is abbreviated to RMB. The most widespread international usage is Yuan, which is abbreviated to CNY. You will commonly hear people say “kuai”, pronounced kwai, which is a local word for yuan. 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 this character instead: 元.

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.

Make sure to use a currency converter 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.

You should also note that there is a 500 USD exchange per passport restriction. That means you can only convert 500 USD to Chinese Yuan per day.

Vendors in the street may tell you that an item is 10 renminbi, 10 yuan or 10 kuai, 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. It can be called one "mao" or "jiao". Both refer to the same thing: 1/10 of a yuan.

Learn about managing cash and payment while travelling in China

Bank notes

Coins (1 yuan and 1 mao/jiao)


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