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Money Matters in China

If you travel to China, for business or pleasure, you need to understand how Chinese money works so you can exchange currency and go about your business without fear of being conned or scammed. And you will need to exchange currency because, for now, cash is king in China. You can find ATMs in all the big cities. Credit cards aren't widely used or accepted except at businesses catering to foreigners.

China's currency is called the renminbi (RMB), meaning "the people's money." Its basic unit is called the yuan. Some people also refer to the yuan as kuai.

Here are the main denominations of China's currency:

  • 100 RMB note (currently red — older versions are purple)
  • 50 RMB note (green-blue)
  • 20 RMB note (brown)
  • 10 RMB note (blue)
  • 5 RMB note (brown)
  • 2 RMB note (green)
  • 1 RMB note (purple brown) and coin

Other smaller bills and coins, called jiao and fen, are also in circulation.

You should convert your personal foreign currency into China's local currency. You can do so at a bank in China, at the airport, or at your hotel. Generally, you get a better deal at the bank. Look carefully at the rates and fees to make sure you're getting a fair deal.

Prices and exchange rates vary. To find up-to-date exchange rates between Chinese yuan and your home currency, go to finance.yahoo.com/currency.

If you expect to exchange currency at the end of your trip, save your exchange receipts. If you don't have the receipts, you can't convert the money back into your original foreign currency.

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