CNY vs CNH - Differences between the two Chinese Yuans

3 minutes
CNY vs CNH - Differences between the two Chinese Yuans
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China’s currency plays an enormous role in global commerce. In 2023, the Yuan surpassed the Japanese yen to become the fourth most used currency in global settlements. The same year, it replaced the US dollar as the most traded currency in Russia.

Working with Chinese suppliers or selling to the Chinese market can help skyrocket profitability for business. To do so efficiently, eCommerce merchants and others should be aware of some basic facts about China’s currency.

What’s crucial to understand is that “Yuan” (officially called the Renminbi or “people’s money”) actually refers to two different types of currency that are closely related. These are referred to using two different abbreviations: CNY and CNH. This article will explain what these are and any other information merchants might need to know about sending money to China. 

CNY and CNH: What’s the difference?

If you are exchanging Yuan online for a different currency, you may be confused by the fact that there are two different currency codes that both refer to Yuan. But there’s a clear distinction between the two types of Chinese Yuan:

What is CNY?

CNY stands for the Chinese Yuan Renminbi (RMB) and is the official currency used in mainland China. 

What is CNH?

CNH stands for Chinese Yuan Renminbi Offshore and refers to the Chinese Yuan traded in the offshore market, mainly in financial hubs like Hong Kong.

The key differences between CNY vs CNH can be outlined as follows:

Value can only shift within 2% of the reference rate, which is controlled by People’s Bank of China (PBoC) Value is determined by the market
Regulated by the PBoC and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE)
Regulated by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority
Restrictions on currency trading Fewer restrictions on currency trading
Traded onshore within China for domestic transactions Used for international trade and investment
Used by Chinese citizens and residents More freely convertible compared to the CNY, making it more attractive to international business and finance
Less accessible for international investors without specific permissions

What is the difference when trading CNY and CNH?

For people who are exchanging CNY for CNH, the exchange rate is always 1:1. The two types of Yuan are worth the same amount relative to each other. However, when exchanging CNY or CNH for a third currency, such as the Hong Kong Dollar, the two types of Yuan may be worth slightly different amounts, and this rate may fluctuate.

That’s because CNY is controlled and regulated by the Chinese government, which puts restrictions in place for its currency trading. It is the currency used within China. CNH is designed as an offshore version of the Yuan and can be freely traded. International companies can accept CNY, however if they want to use Yuan outside of China, they need to exchange the CNY to CNH.

What does sending money in CNY to China mean for businesses?

When you’re sending money to China with a currency conversion, it is most likely you’ll be sending them CNY, but if you’re receiving money from China, it is more likely to be in CNH. There might be a slight difference in the exchange rate when sending and receiving Yuan for this reason. 

There are also some restrictions and requirements that businesses should be aware of when sending money to China. The Chinese State Administration of Foreign Exchange requires certain information on transactions that involve sending CNY to China, to prove where the funds came from. Banks in China also require order information.

Tips when importing from China and paying in CNY

Sending money in CNY can help businesses avoid the risks associated with fluctuating exchange rates between their home currency and the Chinese Yuan. This can lead to more predictable costs and financial planning, especially for long-term contracts or recurring payments. Be aware that not all banks can facilitate CNY transactions, so working with financial institutions experienced in international trade with China is important.

If you’re looking to import goods from China and send payment in CNY, it will be beneficial to open a CNY-denominated bank account with a bank that offers international services. This facilitates receiving and sending payments in CNY. You can also look into fintech platforms that specialise in cross-border transactions to streamline payments and improve efficiency in handling CNY.

How can Airwallex help businesses send money to China?

With an Airwallex Global Business Account, you can set up Global Accounts in moments and start sending and receiving CNY straight away. You’ll access all the perks of a digital business account, plus market-beating exchange rates and multi-currency virtual payment cards. 

Airwallex offers integrations with your preferred accounting software such as Xero, Quickbooks and or Netsuite. This means that each of your CNY transactions are logged automatically to your CNY account, so you can keep track of your revenue and expenses wherever you go.

If your team has company expenses or travels frequently to China (or anywhere around the world), you can also issue multi-currency Visa Borderless Cards. This allows you to pay from already held balances, eliminating the fees normally incurred with foreign currency exchanges.

Get started with Airwallex today to streamline your vendor payment process to Chinese suppliers and start expanding into the Chinese market. A product specialist can explain how an Airwallex Global Account can help you avoid the tedious conversion process between CNY and CNH. Get in touch today.


What is the main difference between CNY and CNH?

There are several main differences between these two types of Renminbi or Yuan, including where they are used, how accessible they are to the market, and how they are regulated. These differences can be summarised as follows:

Regulation: CNY is strictly regulated by the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) while CNH operates with less intervention.

Usage: CNY is primarily used within mainland China for domestic transactions while CNH is used for international transactions and is accessible to global investors and businesses.

Market: CNY is traded within mainland China whereas CNH is traded in offshore markets, such as Hong Kong, Singapore and London.

Exchange rate determination: CNY’s is managed by the PBoC while the value of CNU is determined by market forces.

Convertibility: CNY is not freely convertible due to capital controls, while CNH is freely convertible in offshore markets.

Are RMB and CNY the same thing?

Yes, they both refer to Chinese currency, but they are used in different contexts.

RMB is short for “Renminbi,” which translates to “the people’s currency” in English. It’s used to refer to the currency as a whole, as “sterling” is used to refer to British currency. It’s often used in formal and official contexts

CNY stands for “Chinese Yuan.” It is the ISO currency code used in financial and trading contexts to refer to the onshore version of the Chinese Yuan. It is typically used when referring to the currency in banking, financial transactions and when determining exchange rates. It is the equivalent of GBP (“Great British Pounds”) in British currency.

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