Is My Money Real?

We have had a few queries from newcomers to Chengdu who are concerned after hearing horror stories about people losing a lot of money by being given fake money. Here’s a quick guide about how you can avoid this happening to you…

Counterfeit money in China is most commonly given as 10 or 20 Yuan notes, however 50’s and even 100’s are not unheard off.

When you will be given counterfeit money?


Taxi drivers are known all over the world as masters of scams (rather unfairly in most cases). The classic trick is to put fake money in the middle of the stack when giving change, the hope is that you will just do a quick check and not look at the notes berried in the middle. Be sure to take your time when checking your money and don’t feel under pressure to get out the car until you are happy with your change. On a related note, make sure the driver puts on the meter!

2.Small, local shops

Intentionally or unintentionally small, family run shops are more likely to give you counterfeit notes as they normally don’t check the money as rigorously. They will also been keen to get rid of the fake notes they have been given, so if they have any fakes they could try to put them in your change.

3.Touristy area

Where there are tourists, there are tourist traps, this is the way of the world. Of course most people are just trying to make an honest living but there’s always some who target the most vulnerable, so be sure to check you money if you are visiting somewhere you think you are likely to be taken advantage of.

How to check if it’s real or fake

Most shops will have an electronic money checker, or at least a UV light to test the higher denominations or notes. However it’s fairly reasonable to assume you will not be carrying these around, so here’s the best way to check your money on the streets of Chengdu…

1. Chairman Mao

Every denomination of note has an image of Chairman Mao on the front. If the money is real then you should be able to feel a slight texture on his collar, you can also feel a finer, more detailed texture on his hair. This is the go-to method for most locals for a quick and effective check.

2. Transferring colours

If you happen to have some paper or tissues you can rub it against the note. If the colours start to transfer onto the paper then you’re good to go, but if no colour gets onto the paper you’re probably dealing with a counterfeit.

3. Lining up the edges

This is probably the least known trick, but if you line up you note so that it makes a complete loop, the patterns should line up perfectly so you have a continuous loop of pattern. If it doesn’t, it is fake!

4. Trust your instinct

Finally, if something just feels wrong then there’s no harm asking for a replacement. Better safe than sorry!

If you checked you money with these tests and it still turns out to be fake, don’t worry, it will be easy to pass on if it was really that well counterfeited!

Another way to get peace of mind when paying for things is to use Alipay or WeChat and avoid paper money altogether.

To read about other scams see our post about other scams in China.

Post by the Cheaper Chengdu Team

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