Fake Money in China

How to Detect Fake Money in China

Because I had to deal a couple of times with fake money during my stay in China, I familiarized myself a little more with the security features. There are several ways of spotting counterfeit Chinese money and it’s not that hard if you know what to look for. I have listed the best ways to detect this kind of money in China below.

Fake money is more common in Asia then in Europe, as I’ve noticed myself. I’ve never had to deal with fake money issues back home so I never really double checked the money I’ve been given. This makes me the perfect victim for fake money scams because most of the people in China have a habit of always checking the banknotes for 1 or 2 signs of falseness and every self respecting shop has a fake money detector.

It seems that much of the fake money comes from taxi drivers who like to scam people that are unfamiliar with Chinese money. It does happen in other places also, though. You should be especially alert when you get a lot of small bills as change.

The picture below is of a 20 RMB counterfeit bill that I recently ended up with. It was given to me by the gym I always go to and they didn’t want to reimburse me for it. This is unfortunate because I liked this gym but it did make me more perceptive about spotting fake money.

Fake 20 RMB Bill

When looking closely at the bill, it’s very easy to see that it’s fake but because they hand it out in a pack of more bills, it’s not very obvious. The paper of the bill feels different from normal real money. When folding the paper it leaves a very unusual folding line which you won’t see with real money. Other then this, the watermark was printed on the outside, instead of ‘inside’ the bill.

The Chinese bills have a couple of security features. There are 6 of them which are very easy to detect.

Security Features 100 RMB Note

1: The symbols in the circle should line up perfectly with the other symbol on the back of the bill to form a round shape.

2: The value number of the bill should be green when looking straight at it but change to a blue color when ‘looking over it’.

3: When holding the bill flat, the value of the bill should be visible in this symbol.

4: The watermark should only be visible when holding it up to the light. If you can see it when it’s not held up to the light, that means that its on the outside of the bill.

5: When you scratch over the collar of Mao, you should be able to feel the paint on the bill.

6: On the back of the 100 RMB note, there is a magnetic thread going through the note. It shows the value of the bill when looking from the right angle. This is also on the back of the 50 RMB note while on the 5, 10 and 20 RMB notes, it’s on the front side.

Security Thread 100 RMBOther then checking the security features of the money, the paper of the fake bills is different also and will feel different. Especially when you stretch out the bill it just sounds different from a real one.

I mostly look at the magnetic thread going through the bill as this is very hard to copy. If you don’t see the value of the bill printed in there, it’s safe to say your bill is fake. If you look at the fake 20 RMB bill that I photographed, the thread is replaced with some pieces of silver which is very easy to spot.



As you can see there are several ways of spotting fake bills in China. Always take some time to check your change before walking away and don’t feel rushed. If you do get handed fake money, just hand it back and most of the time you’ll be alright. If you do run into some threatening situations of any kind, you can always call the police on the number 110 to get an English speaking employee.

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