Archives For currency exchange in China

Friends are a good thing to have!  Anytime and anyplace, having friends you can count on is a wonderful feeling. Who knows, they may even help you from time to time — that is what my airport buddy does in China.

Over the years, I have had many interactions with a man in the Beijing airport.  I don’t know his name, and he doesn’t know my name, but we recognize each other when we see one another. He solves a problem for me, and I appreciate that very much!

How My Airport Buddy Helps Me Out

To exchange American currency into Chinese currency when I go to China, I like to go to the Bank of China in the Beijing airport. Other money exchange booths charge unwanted fees, and I am sure the Bank of China has the correct exchange rate. The bad thing about using the Bank of China at the airport is you have to wait a long time in line. They do personal banking and business accounts at the bank, so the line can sometimes be quite long. Also, it can be quite hot waiting at the bank in the summer.

My friend in the picture above not only does the transaction right away, but he also doesn’t charge any fees, doesn’t record your passport information, and gives me a slightly better rate than the bank. Additionally, there are no forms to fill out when dealing with him. For the life of me, I don’t know why the bank lets him hang out around their lobby and take clients away from them, but they do. They even let him use their money counter, which sifts through the bills and counts them quickly. All you have to do is give him your American dollars and he will give you Chinese currency. He is must faster than the bank, and that is wonderful when you have a connecting flight.

I always feel safer on the streets in China than I do on the streets of America. To show you how safe it is there, he walks around with a satchel of money and a suitcase full of money.  I used him on my last trip, and he even let me take a picture of his “vault!”

My Airport Buddy's "Vault"

Have you ever needed to exchange currencies in a foreign country? Did you find someone as helpful as my airport buddy?


Navigating the Chinese Money Exchange.

Regardless of where you are traveling internationally, I feel it is wise to familiarize yourself with the exchange rates and, of course, the currency. Among the many options for determining the exchange rates, websites or banks will work well for you.

Some banks in the states will exchange the money for you, but may charge you a high fee. Be very cautious about using the small booths or the small booths on wheels at the airport because they do charge a high fee. I suggest using a bank. And if you are going to China, I suggest using the Bank of China. They are reputable and have many locations. There is no transaction fee if you exchange more than $500. Transactions of less than $500 will require a small fee.

To exchange money you will need your passport, and keep your receipt of the exchange. Your receipt will help you exchange your Chinese currency back into US dollars when you exit the country.

Money By Any Other Name…

The official name of mainland China’s currency is Renminbi (RMB), but most people call it Yuan. The official abbreviation for the Chinese Yuan is CNY and here is its symbol 元. You’ll see CNY often on paperwork.

To me, the currency is beautiful and interesting in many ways.

• Each bill denomination gets physically smaller as the value decreases.

• A picture of Chairman Mao is imprinted on the larger bills, but pictures of ethnic people are on the bills of little value (of the smaller bills only the Jiao is shown).

• The largest bill is 100 Yuan, and it is red. If you look on the back of the bill, you’ll see a beautiful pattern on it. The pattern, I’m told, makes the bill difficult for a counterfeiter to replicate.

• Some of the bills, like the 20 Yuan, are imprinted with beautiful scenery.

You can see for yourself from these pictures.

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The dark red bottom bill is called a Jiao, and it takes 2 of them to equal 1 Yuan. There are actually other bills of lesser value, but I didn’t show them, because their value is so small. It also should be noted that China uses many coins, and I am displaying the two main ones. The larger one is made of nickel and steel and is worth 1 Yuan. The smaller coin is made of brass, and it takes 2 of them to make 1 Yuan. The various other coins are made of aluminum and are very light weight.

Learn more by reading my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education.