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Chinese Currency


In China, the official currency is renminbi, meaning ’the people’s currency’. It can be abbreviated to RMB. The abbreviation CNY/CN¥ (Chinese yuan) is also used for the currency.

Currency Units

In Mainland China

The basic unit of Chinese currency is the yuan (元, abbreviation ¥), which Chinese people also call kuai (块). There are 10 jiao (角), known colloquially as mao (毛), to the yuan. The fen (分), 1/100th of a yuan, is so seldom used now that fen coins and notes are almost out of circulation.

Paper notes come in 1 and 5 jiao, as well as in 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 yuan denominations. There are also 1 jiao, 5 jiao, and 1 yuan coins.

In Hong Kong

The basic monetary unit in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong dollar. Common abbreviations are HKD and HK$.

In Macao

The basic monetary unit in Macao is the Macau pataca. The abbreviation is MOP or MOP$.

Where to Change Money

An ATM Machine in Macau An ATM Machine in Macau

In China, the Bank of China, China Construction Bank, and ICBC are the best places to exchange your money. Other banks may offer an exchange service as well, but some don’t.

Exchange Rate

The rate changes every second but US$1 usually equals around CN¥6.5, so it doesn’t matter if you don’t change a large amount of cash.

How Much Cash You Should Take

China is considerably cheaper than Western countries in general. Beijing and Shanghai are the most expensive cities in Mainland China, and Hong Kong is comparable to the West pricewise.

You can pay a little to enjoy a lot in China. Visiting most attractions costs under US$10. Public transport is cheap, and taking a taxi is much cheaper than in the West. You can pay less than US$5 for a good meal, except in HK.

You need to pay in cash most of the time in China, so bring a wallet. However there are ATMs everywhere, so you don’t need to bring cash in from abroad, or carry large amounts.

How to Use an ATM in China

ATM machines are everywhere in China. You can find them easily in airports and train stations, so you can get some cash as soon as you arrive. Their networks are familiar with global cards, such as MasterCard and Visa. You can also find them in streets next to the banks.

It’s easy to use ATMs because the instructions are available in English.

Be Careful of Losing Your Card

Some keyboards display the numbers from nine to zero and others are displayed from zero to nine, so you should be careful. If you enter the wrong password three times you will lose your card. Even when you are reading the instructions, the machine is also counting down and if your time runs out, your card will be swallowed.

If that happens, you will need to reclaim your lost card in the bank. It is easier to solve this problem when using an ATM machine next to an open bank. As well as taking your passport it might be helpful to have a photocopy of your card or a letter from your bank to reclaim it.


It is best not to use the ATM if someone looks suspicious nearby when you are ready to make a transaction. In China, it is important to protect your password and your personal space.

However, some latent thieves may be miles away. Machines may be refitted to steal your personal information; therefore, if the ATM looks like it has something stuck to it or the card seems to stick in the slot, just avoid it and find an ATM next to a bank that is open.


The withdrawal amount depends on the network and your own bank’s limit, which is normally US$400 or ¥2,500. Banks will normally levy a commission charge. It can be a fixed amount like US$3 or some banks charge a percentage of the amount withdrawn. For your security and for ease in case of inquiries, use machines that are connected to an open bank.

Photo of Current Chinese Banknotes

Chinese Cash Chinese Cash

Vivian Cen
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