New RMB Coins in 2019

I think it really says something that it wasn’t until the last week of 2019 that I even noticed that there are new 1-RMB coins in circulation (I knew about the bills).


What does it say? Well, with mobile payments becoming the new norm in China (at least in big cities), a lot of us just don’t handle much cash anymore (especially coins).

My family just recently visited me in Shanghai, and it was rather surprising for them how “cash-less” meant “mobile payments only,” and foreign credit cards remained largely unusable. The easiest way to get money, by far, was to withdraw RMB in cash from ATMs using American debit cards. (Adding a foreign credit card to AliPay is still early and somewhat unverified.)


What I don’t understand about these RMB coins, though, is the size. Why make them smaller?? It seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth. I guess it saves on metal, and with fewer and fewer coins actually being used every day, maybe it’s finally the right time…


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I’ve added both a US visa and MasterCard to Alipay, along with China debit cards. This facilitates most purchases on Taobao. However, the option to use the US cards when paying at physical storefronts becomes unavailable. My Alipay is also unusable in Macau or Hong Kong, because the ID to set up Alipay was a US passport, rather than a China ID. Go figure. Apart from that, I now leave the house without cash. Coins…not even the street vendors want them.

  2. I was able to add a foreign credit card to both Alipay and WeChat Pay, but they can’t be used for most transactions. They _can_ be used for Mobile Top-Up, and maybe buying airline tickets.

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