With the digital RMB, also known as the e-yuan, on track for official release in time for the 2022 Olympics, Beijingers should be prepared for the rollout – after all, no one wants to be caught off guard when a fat hongbao is sent to the group chat (or when the government starts sending it out through lotteries to get the ball rolling).
Fortunately, as trials ramp up in Suzhou, we’re finally starting to get a a better idea of what this baffling new currency actually means for consumers and business owners, thanks to fresh reporting by The South China Morning Post.
Keep in mind that these things may be subject to change before the official rollout, but based on the latest trials, here’s what we know so far:
Mandatory acceptance by merchants
Documents distributed to merchants who have participated in the latest pilot programs indicate that, unlike digital payments systems such as WeChat Pay or Alipay, businesses will not be allowed to decline the digital RMB as payment. This may worry small business owners, but state-owned banks have assured that they will provide all necessary support that businesses will need.
When all is said and done, this means that consumers will be able to treat the digital RMB like cash – there should be no worry that you won’t be able spend it at a certain business.
While small business owners may be wary of being forced to set up digital RMB accounts and acceptance systems, the currency will make up for the trouble by letting merchants keep every cent that is paid to them. That’s in contrast to WeChat and Alipay, both of which subtract a small fee to keep for themselves with every transaction.
No Internet needed
Network cut out? Forgot to re-up your data? No problem. Finally, consumers will be able to make purchases from their digital RMB account without an internet connection.
No cash conversion?
For now, trials have not allowed users to convert their money into cash. This may simply be a temporary solution to force lottery winners to spend the digital RMB as is, rather than depositing it in an existing bank account. But it’s not yet clear whether or not conversion will be enabled after the official rollout.