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    Currency in China CNY - Things to know

    Foreign exchange guide to China and the Chinese yuan


    What currency is used in China?

    The official currency of China (country code: CN) is the Chinese yuan, with symbol ¥ and currency code CNY.

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    Things to know about the Chinese yuan

    The Chinese currency is actually called renminbi, but you will more frequently hear it called by the name of its primary unit, the yuan. The renminbi-yuan relationship is similar to that of Britain’s sterling-pound (sterling being the name of the currency and a pound being one unit of that currency). The ISO for renminbi, or the yuan, is CNY. An ISO of CHN denotes yuan traded in offshore markets, such as Hong Kong.

    According to the Bank for International Settlements’ 2016 survey of the foreign exchange market, the yuan is now the world’s eighth most traded currency and has overtaken the Mexican peso to become the world’s most traded emerging market currency. However, disappointingly, 95% of all yuan trading remains against just one other currency, the US dollar.

    The yuan reached its all-time low against the dollar in January 1994 when the exchange rate for USD/CNY reached 8.73. It's all-time high occurred in January 1981 when USD/CNY hit 1.53.

    A high point for Chinese officials in recent years came when the yuan was added to the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights basket of currencies in October 2016 and, with its inclusion, joined the dollar, euro, yen and the pound as an official world reserve currency.

    Importantly, China’s currency is not freely floating, which is to say that it is not determined wholly by market forces or purely by demand and supply. While market forces do play a part in China’s ‘managed float’ system, daily changes to the value of the yuan are restricted by the country’s central bank to moves of 2% above or below a midpoint, or reference rate, against the US dollar. This special rate is set each day by the central bank after consideration of the values of currencies from China’s main trading partners.

    Here are a few more things you might want to know about the CNY:

    1. The CNY has been the official currency of China since 1948, when it replaced the Chinese Nationalist dollar.

    2. The CNY is not pegged to any other currency, and its value is determined by supply and demand in the foreign exchange market. However, the Chinese government does intervene in the market to help maintain the value of the CNY within a certain range.

    3. The People's Bank of China is responsible for issuing and regulating the CNY.

    4. The CNY is a widely used and traded currency, and it can be easily exchanged for other currencies in most parts of the world.

    5. Inflation has generally been low in China in recent years, and the CNY has remained relatively stable.

    6. The CNY is divided into 100 fen. Coins are available in denominations of 1, 5, and 10 jiao, as well as 1 yuan. Banknotes are available in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 yuan.

    The front of the banknotes feature images of famous Chinese historical figures, such as Chairman Mao Zedong, Sun Yat-sen, and Liu Bei, as well as landmarks and cultural symbols. The back of the banknotes feature images of Chinese landscapes and cultural scenes.

    The front of the coins feature the denomination and the national emblem of China, which is a depiction of the Tiananmen gate in Beijing. The back of the coins feature a variety of designs, such as landscapes, historical figures, and cultural symbols.

    An example Chinese yuan banknote


    Travel money for China

    Save money and time by Ordering your Chinese yuan online from Travelex, you get better rates and can pick up the CNY cash locally or even on travel day at the airport.

    Another popular option is to use a Pre-paid Travel Card. Your Debit/Credit Card provider will charge you 2% from market mid-rate, but your bank may also charge an extra 3% as an “Overseas Transaction Charge” plus “Overseas ATM” fees for withdrawing cash.

    For card purchases if offered a choice of currencies always select to Pay in Chinese yuan otherwise you may get much worst exchange rates.


    Travel Ideas and Money Tips for China

    China is a vast and diverse country that offers a wide range of experiences for travelers. From the bustling cities to the tranquil countryside, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

    The urban landscapes of cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong are a contrast of old and new, with towering skyscrapers standing next to ancient temples and traditional hutongs (alleys of traditional courtyard houses). The rich culture and history of China can be seen in iconic landmarks such as the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, and the Terracotta Army.

    The natural scenery of China is also a highlight, with breathtaking landscapes like the Yellow Mountains, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, and the Li River. Visitors can also explore the many national parks and nature reserves that protect a wide variety of flora and fauna.

    Food is an essential part of the travel experience in China, you can find a great variety of culinary delights from all over the country. From Beijing's famous Peking duck to spicy Szechuan hotpot, and from Cantonese dim sum to Yunnan's diverse ethnic cuisine.

    It's worth noting that China is a populous country, so be prepared for crowded streets, markets, and tourist sites. However, traveling to less-visited destinations or off-season can help to avoid this.

    Also, it's good to be aware that due to different culture, certain customs or behaviors that might be acceptable in your home country may not be considered so in China, such as: public displaying of affection, smoking, and public spitting. Being respectful of these cultural differences can help make your visit to China more pleasant.

    China offers a wealth of opportunities for travelers to experience new and exciting things and it is a destination that offers something for everyone.

    Top things to do in China

    1. Visit the Great Wall of China: The Great Wall is one of the most iconic and well-known landmarks in China, stretching over 13,000 miles through northern China.
    2. Explore the Forbidden City: This former imperial palace in Beijing was the residence of emperors and their households for over 500 years.
    3. Visit the Terracotta Army: This collection of thousands of life-size terracotta statues in Xi'an is a must-see for history buffs.
    4. See the giant panda: giant pandas can only be found in a few places in the world and one of the best places to see them is in Chengdu at the research base of Giant Panda Breeding.
    5. Explore the Yellow Mountains: The Yellow Mountains are known for their spectacular landscapes and beautiful sunsets.
    6. Visit Hangzhou: Known as the "Heaven on Earth," Hangzhou is renowned for its natural beauty and historic sites, such as West Lake.
    7. Explore Lijiang Old Town: This well-preserved ancient town in Yunnan province is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    8. Visit the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: This park in Hunan province is known for its towering pillar-like peaks and beautiful scenery
    9. Visit the Silk Road: The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that connected China to the Mediterranean. Today, visitors can explore historic cities along the Silk Road and see the impressive Mogao Caves.
    10. See the Shanghai skyline: Shanghai is one of the most modern and cosmopolitan cities in China, and its skyline is a must-see.

    Best way for a Traveler or Expat to pay while in China?

    The best way for a traveler or expat to pay while in China is to have a combination of several payment methods, as some methods may be more convenient or accepted in certain places than others.

    1. Alipay or WeChat Pay: These are the most widely used mobile payment platforms in China and are accepted at a large number of merchants, including street vendors and small businesses. These platforms are also useful for paying bills and sending money to other people.

    2. UnionPay: UnionPay is China's national bank card organization, and its cards are widely accepted at ATMs and point-of-sale terminals across China. It can be a good backup option to have.

    3. International credit card: Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in most big cities and tourist areas, but not as much as in other parts of the world, so it is better to have Alipay or WeChat pay as a primary means of payment.

    4. Cash: Although cashless payments are becoming more popular in China, cash is still widely used and accepted, especially in smaller cities and rural areas, so it's good to have some cash handy.

    Beware of people on the street side who offer services of money exchange. There has lately been a growing rate of ATM scam, where certain characters set up fake ATMs to scam credit card details. Just try to avoid any ATM that looks suspicious, or use the ATMs at major banks. There is also counterfeit money circulating in China, these are almost always smaller notes so try not to break up your larger notes all the time. Also be sure to notify your bank that you will be using your card in China so that they do not block your card suspecting fraud.

    How do I get around in China?

    China’s domestic air market is growing rapidly, with more than 180 commercial airports. At least nine new airlines, a few of them focus on low-cost routes, have been approved for operation since the government lifted restrictions on privately invested airlines in 2013. Together with the more established domestic carriers such as Shanghai Airlines, Tianjin Airlines (part of China Eastern), Xiamen Airlines and Dragonair, these new startups provide a vast network of flight services to smaller domestic destinations that previously could be reached only by train or bus.

    Flying in China is very much smog/weather dependent. Delays and cancellations are commonplace due to serious air pollution that affects pilots’ visibility during take-off and landing. Traveling by high-speed rail (HSR) is a much more reliable alternative.

    The train network in China is one of the most extensive in the world, as it combines older, slower trains that stop at smaller towns with the D-class trains that run up to 124 mph, and also the ultra-modern, high-speed G-class trains (HSR, or gao tie in Chinese) that connect bigger cities at speeds up to nearly 200 mph. Advance bookings are recommended, especially for sleeper classes. Travel by HSR in China is fast, punctual, comfortable and clean.

    If you have plenty of time and a limited travel budget, long-distance buses are a good option. They are cheaper than flights and high-speed trains, and tickets are easier to secure however they can take two to three times as long as the high speed trains. Bus service networks also cover many smaller towns and villages that cannot be reached by train.

    If travelling to China be sure to check when the local holidays are as everyone in China tends to holidays at once. So 590 million people take to public transport during peak local holidays known as Golden Weeks, which fall over Chinese New Year and National Day in early October. This makes it almost impossible to casually get a train or hotel room, or to see the sights.


    USD/CNY Market Data

    The below interactive chart displays the USD/CNY change and UP📈 DOWN📉 trends over the past 1 Year.

    1 USD =
    7.2236We compare provider deals to this wholesale mid-market rate. Read more
      1 CNY = 0.1384 USD   (Inverse rate)
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    Frequently Asked Questions

    What currency should I use in China?

    The domestic currency in China is the Chinese yuan.

    What is the Chinese yuan currency code and symbol?

    The three letter currency code for the Chinese yuan is CNY — symbol is ¥.

    Which countries use the Chinese yuan?

    It is the domestic currency in    China.

    Is the Chinese yuan a closed currency?

    No, the Chinese yuan is freely available and convertible. See guide: What is a closed currency?

    What are equivalent amounts of USD and CNY?

    Here are some popular conversion amounts for USD to CNY (US dollar to Chinese yuan)*.

    $ 1 ¥ 7.2236
    $ 5 ¥ 36.12
    $ 10 ¥ 72.24
    $ 20 ¥ 144.47
    $ 50 ¥ 361.18
    $ 100 ¥ 722.36
    $ 250 ¥ 1,806
    $ 500 ¥ 3,612
    $ 1,000 ¥ 7,224
    $ 2,000 ¥ 14,447
    $ 5,000 ¥ 36,118
    $ 10,000 ¥ 72,236
    $ 20,000 ¥ 144,472
    $ 50,000 ¥ 361,180
    $ 100,000 ¥ 722,360
    $ 0.1384 ¥ 1
    $ 0.6920 ¥ 5
    $ 1.3840 ¥ 10
    $ 2.7680 ¥ 20
    $ 6.9200 ¥ 50
    $ 13.84 ¥ 100
    $ 34.60 ¥ 250
    $ 69.20 ¥ 500
    $ 138.40 ¥ 1,000
    $ 276.80 ¥ 2,000
    $ 692.00 ¥ 5,000
    $ 1,384 ¥ 10,000
    $ 2,768 ¥ 20,000
    $ 6,920 ¥ 50,000
    $ 13,840 ¥ 100,000

    More amounts

    *Converted at the current USDCNY interbank exchange rate. Calculate actual payout amounts for Send Money and Travel Money exchange rates.

    Send Money to China - Best Rates

    To get a good (and fair) exchange rate when sending money to China you need to find and compare exchange rates for International Money Transfers (IMTs).

    The available FX rates for sending money abroad can be very different to the mid-market (wholesale) rate which you see reported online and in the News.

    You should especially compare your own bank's exchange rates to those available from Money Transfer specialists to see how much you can save - we make that calculation easy in the below table.

    Get a better deal for foreign transfers to China

    When sending money to China it’s important to compare your bank’s rates & fees with those we have negotiated with our partner money transfer providers. To get a better deal you should follow these 4 simple steps :

    1. Open an account with a BER reviewed FX provider (id docs may be required)
    2. You specify the local or Chinese yuan amount you want to transfer
    3. Make a local currency domestic transfer for the requested amount to the provider's bank account in your country
    4. Once your funds are received by the provider the converted CNY amount will be transfered to the recipient account you specify in China.

    Use the above calculator to compare the exchange rates of FX specialist providers rates versus your bank's standard rates you can hopefully save around 5% and maybe more - end result is more Chinese yuan deposited into the recipient bank account and less margins and fees kept by the banks!


    Expat Money & Business Guide to China

    Managing your money effectively while living and working abroad can be challenging, but there are several steps you can take to ensure that your finances are in order.

    By following these tips and managing your money effectively, you can reduce financial stress and enjoy your experience living or doing business in China.

    How is the Expat life in China?

    The expat life in China can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, including one's location, job, and personal circumstances.

    In major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, the expat community is well-established and there are many resources available for newcomers, such as expat-oriented social groups and clubs. Living in these cities can offer a good balance of modern conveniences and cultural experiences.

    However, life in smaller cities or more rural areas can be more challenging, as the expat community may be smaller and there may be fewer resources available.

    Working in China as an expat can be both rewarding and challenging. Some companies will provide good support to expats and may even offer language classes and relocation assistance, while others may not.

    Expats in China may experience culture shock and find it difficult to adjust to certain aspects of Chinese culture, such as the strict social hierarchy and the emphasis on maintaining "face". Communication and language barriers can also be an issue, though many expats do learn to speak Chinese to varying degrees.

    Expats in China also need to be aware of the different laws and regulations in the country, such as China's strict censorship laws, and be prepared to adapt to the local way of doing things.

    Overall, the expat life in China can be both exciting and challenging, offering unique opportunities to experience a different culture and way of life. It is a good idea to be prepared for the different experiences you may encounter, and to have a good support system in place, whether it be friends, family or a community of expats.

    Cost of living in China

    The cost of living in China can vary depending on where you live and your lifestyle. In general, prices for basic necessities such as food, clothing, and transportation are lower in China compared to many Western countries. However, the cost of living in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai is higher due to higher rental costs and the higher prices of imported goods.

    Here are some estimates for common expenses in China:

    • Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center: $300-$700 per month
    • Meal at a mid-range restaurant: $5-$20
    • Local transportation: $0.50-$3 per trip
    • Utilities (electricity, heating, water, garbage): $30-$60 per month
    • Internet: $20-$50 per month

    Keep in mind that these are just estimates and your actual costs may be higher or lower depending on your specific circumstances.

    Can foreigners buy property in China?

    Foreigners are generally allowed to buy property in China, although there are some restrictions in place. Foreigners are generally not allowed to buy agricultural land or forests, and there may be additional restrictions on the purchase of certain types of property in certain areas.

    In general, the process for buying property in China is similar to the process in other countries. You will need to find a suitable property, make an offer, and negotiate the terms of the sale with the seller. You will also need to sign a sales contract and pay a deposit. After the sale is complete, you will need to register the property in your name at the local land registry office.

    It is important to note that the property market in China can be volatile, and it is advisable to do your due diligence and seek legal and financial advice before making a purchase. It is also important to be aware of any additional taxes or fees that may apply to the purchase of property in China.

    Shanghai "longtang" alleyway

    Is it difficult doing business in China?

    Doing business in China can be challenging, as the business environment in China is unique and different from other countries.

    One of the major challenges of doing business in China is the cultural differences, such as the strict social hierarchy and the emphasis on personal relationships. Building relationships and understanding the culture is essential for doing business in China.

    Language and communication can also be a challenge for foreigners doing business in China. It is helpful to have someone on the team who speaks Chinese or to hire a translator, especially for contract negotiations or meetings with government officials.

    The Chinese government has implemented strict regulations on foreign businesses operating in China. There are many laws and policies that foreign companies must comply with, such as the Foreign Investment Law and the Cyber Security Law. Businesses must also navigate the complex bureaucracy and navigate through the numerous government agencies and regulations.

    China's economy is heavily controlled by the state, so foreign companies may find it difficult to compete with state-owned enterprises (SOEs) which enjoy various privileges such as easier access to credit, tax breaks and other benefits.

    Despite these challenges, doing business in China can be a profitable opportunity due to its large market and fast-growing economy. Many foreign companies have successfully established themselves in China by taking the time to understand the market and culture, building strong relationships, and being patient and persistent. It is worth to get professional guidance from experts or lawyer to help navigate the complex regulations and cultural differences.

    Managing your finances in China

    Here we list some key points for expats and businesses to consider when managing financial dealings in China:

    1. Understand Chinese yuan currency exchange rates: Exchange rates can have a big impact on your finances, so it is important to keep an eye on the CNY exchange rate and consider using a currency exchange service or a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees to get the best exchange rate.

    2. Use a local Chinese yuan bank account: A local CNY bank account can make it easier for you to manage your finances and pay bills while you are in China. It may also be more convenient to use a local CNY bank account to make purchases and withdraw cash.

    3. Research local laws and regulations: It is important to understand the local laws and regulations that apply to financial transactions in China. This can help you avoid legal issues and ensure that you are complying with local requirements.

    4. Consider the tax implications: It is important to understand the tax implications of living or doing business in China. This can help you plan your finances and ensure that you are paying the correct amount of tax.

    5. Seek financial advice: If you are unsure of how to manage your finances in China, it is a good idea to seek the advice of a financial professional who is familiar with the local financial system. This can help you make informed decisions and avoid financial pitfalls.

    You can read about the best providers and compare the latest deals for international money transfers to China in our Send Money to China guide.


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