The renminbi or RMB is the currency that China has used for the past 54 years since the inception of the Communist Party in 1949. Otherwise known as the people’s’ money, the RMB does not have legal value in Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan. Since 1949, the People’s Bank of China has issued five sets of currency, printing its last issue in 1999.
The renminbi is divided into subunits known as Yuan or kuai. Yuan means round object, getting its name from the round silver and gold coins that were used for transactions prior to the development of paper money. These silver coins arrived from European merchants in the 16th century who bought porcelain and silk from China. The word kuai literally translates to the word piece and would be analogous to the word buck in the United States.
Yuan and kuai are the commonly used terms when purchasing something in China. Consumers would always refer to the price in terms of yuan or kuai and not mention RMB. For example, a bottle of water would cost you 2 yuan or kuai not 2 Renminbi.
The word Yuan is also used to denote other countries currency as well. In China, the US dollar is known as the Meiyuan (Meiguo = American), the Japanese yen is known as the Riyuan (Riguo = Japan) and the Euro is known as the Ouyuan (Ouzhou = Europe). If you come across the abbreviation CYN in a financial transaction, this is how the International Standards Organization denotes the Chinese Yuan.
One yuan is divided into 10 jiao. Jiaos can then be further subdivided into another class known as fen. One jiao is worth 10 fen. (1 Yuan = 10 jiao = 100 fen).
If you ever decide to visit China, you should exchange some of your country’s currency for RMB. Once you arrive in China, you will still be able to exchange your country’s currency for RMB, and this will likely be at a more favorable rate than your home country. Many hotels offer the option to exchange currency for their guests; otherwise you will have to visit a bank, and present your passport in order to make the transaction.
The Hong Kong dollar serves as the currency in Hong Kong, Macau uses the Pataca as its currency and the New Taiwan Dollar is used in Taiwan. Some convenience stores, like Park N Shop and Wellcome (similar to 7-11), in Hong Kong, accept RMB as a form of currency but the exchange rate will not be favorable to the consumer. These shops will have some type of sign present so that customers are aware that they can use RMB. The same principle applies in Macau and seasoned travelers recommend that you purchase an ATM card when traveling between the Mainland, Macau and Hong Kong.
See visually the different types of Chinese notes here.
As of January 21st, 2013 one US dollar is worth 6.22 Yuan.
As of January 21st, 2013 one US dollar is worth 7.75 Hong Kong dollars
As of January 21st, 2013 one US dollar is worth 7.99 Patacas.
As of January 21st, 2013 one US dollar is worth 28.97 Taiwan dollars.