What is the Currency of Taiwan?

Some coins and banknotes of Taiwanese currency

Taiwan is an island nation in East Asia that has its own currency, which is called the New Taiwan dollar.

In this article, I’ll answer several questions about Taiwan’s currency, including its names (in English and Chinese), symbols, abbreviations, denominations, what is looks like, why it’s called “new”, and its exchange rates with other currencies.

What is Taiwan Money Called?

New Taiwan dollar is the official currency of Taiwan.

Although the term “dollar” is used in Taiwan, it has no relation to the US dollar.

The New Taiwan dollar has some shared history but is not the same as China’s renminbi (or Chinese yuan / CNY). Even though China claims that Taiwan is one of its provinces, and both countries use some similar terms in Mandarin for referring to their money, these two currencies are totally different today.

In Chinese

A hand holding out an fan shape of New Taiwan dollar 1000 banknotes, with the Chinese characters 新臺幣 written in black across the image
The Mandarin characters for New Taiwan dollar

In Mandarin, which is the main language of government and education in Taiwan, Taiwan’s currency is officially called 新臺幣 (xīn tái bì). This term is mainly used in formal contexts, like banking and contracts, not everyday life.

The character xīn means new, tái refers to Taiwan, and means currency. So the official currency name could be literally translated as “new Taiwan currency”.

It’s fairly common to see 新臺幣 written with the simplified character for tai, as in 新幣. Even though Taiwanese mainly use traditional characters, they often use the simplified form of tai because it’s much easier to write. This is a special case, though, as they don’t do this with many other very complex characters.

In speech, Mandarin speakers will often simply say “tái bì. In other words, they will drop the “new”. But even in this shortened form, they usually only say this when there is a need to clarify that it’s Taiwanese money they are talking about and not some other currency.

A pink background with the words "元/圓 =" and then a large dollar sign
Yuan means dollar in Mandarin

The Chinese character for dollar is actually 元 (yuán). So in daily contexts, for example if you ask a vendor how much something costs, they will say X 元. For example “100 dollars” would be spoken as 一百元 (yībǎi yuán).

Chinese speakers also use this term for money in China, while Japan’s “yen” is just then Japanese pronunciation of the same character

Since the character 元 is very easy to write, it’s the most common one to see on menus, price labels in shops, and in markets. The traditional character for 元 (used in Taiwan) and the simplified one (China) are identical.

Another more formal character for yuan exists, 圓. You can actually see 圓 used on both Taiwanese coins and banknotes themselves. Everyone knows the character 圓, but it is almost never used in daily life or even banking.

This is not a matter of simplified vs traditional. 圓 has a simplified form in China, which is 圆. But in daily life, both the Taiwanese and Chinese use 元 for writing or typing “dollar” most of the time.      

A crowded aisle between food vendors in Garden Night Market with food stall signs sticking up into the air
You might here hear the term “kuai” in markets in Taiwan

Chinese speakers also use the colloquial term 塊 (Kuài), which literally means “piece”. So 一塊, or “one piece” is a very common way to say “one dollar”.

Saying kuai is like saying “buck” in the US or “quid” in England. So you can expect to here this more often at night markets or wet markets, street food stalls, and so on.

It’s rare to see this character on a sign or price list, though – just like you wouldn’t see an English menu that says a burger costs “10 bucks”.

Related: Tipping in Taiwan: Should You Do It?

In English

English speakers in Taiwan most commonly say “N.T.” when referring to specific amounts of Taiwanese currency. For example, “I just loaded 1000 NT onto my EasyCard”. It’s also fairly common to simply say “dollars”.

The formal term “New Taiwan dollar” is mainly reserved for banking, currency trading, and other formal financial contexts.

As language learners tend to do all over the world, foreigners residing in Taiwan sometimes sprinkle in some Mandarin terms when speaking English in daily life. So an English speaker may use terms like yuan or kuai even when speaking English.

Symbols & Abbreviations

Some common signs, symbols, and abbreviations for New Taiwan Dollar
Symbols and abbreviations for New Taiwan Dollar

So what kind of sign or symbol is used for Taiwan’s currency?

Since the New Taiwan dollar is a kind of “dollar”, the $ sign is used. Thus, you will sometimes see “NT$” on price lists, in the news, and elsewhere.

To use the $ symbol on its own is uncommon, though. Most likely this is to avoid confusion with the US$.

In shops, markets, and restaurants, it is more common to see 元 on labels, signs, menus, etc., not $. Taiwanese are also most likely to use 元 in writing or typing.

Even though the acronym NTD is a common and obvious abbreviation for New Taiwan Dollar, and English speakers often say simply “NT”, TWD is the official currency code.

TWD is what you’ll usually see on currency exchange websites, but it’s not uncommon for NTD to appear.

New Taiwan Dollar Denominations

A small Taiwanese flag and some Taiwan coins on a Taiwan bankbook page
Taiwanese coins on a local bankbook

One New Taiwan dollar is split into 10 jiǎo (角, also spelled chiǎo) and 100 fēn (分). Fen would be the equivalent to American cents, while one jiǎo would be 10 cents.

Jiǎo and fēn are not used today, though. Although there is a ¢50 coin still technically in circulation in Taiwan, in 10+ years of living there, I’ve never seen it. My wife says she used to see it when she was a kid in Taiwan.  

The coins you will see and use on a daily basis in Taiwan are NT$1, 5, 10, and 50. If you’re like me, you will tend to accumulate way more change (or “shrapnel”) than you ever want to carry around in Taiwan.

Some 100, 500, and 1000 New Taiwan dollar banknotes scattered on a table
The three most common banknotes in Taiwan

The three common banknotes you’ll handle in Taiwan are NT$100, 500, and 1000.

Much rarer are the NT$20 coin, NT$200 banknote, and 2000 banknote.

I’ve never seen a $20 coing. However, once in a blue moon, I have actually received a NT$200 banknote as change from a shop, and I usually keep it as a souvenir. I know many of my friends in Taiwan have done the same.

You may actually receive some NT$2000 bills when withdrawing cash from an ATM/bank in Taiwan or exchanging currency, but these are too valuable (roughly USD60) for most people to hold on to merely as a keepsake.

What Do the Coins and Bills Have on Them?

Close up of several Taiwanese coins on a table
The main coins used in Taiwan today

Here are two tables indicating what you will see on the front and back of Taiwan’s coins and banknotes. Although there are some older and special release designs, the following are the most common today.

1元CopperSide profile of Chiang Kai-shek圓壹1
5元Cupronickel (silver color)Side profile of Chiang Kai-shek圓伍5
10元Cupronickel (silver color)Profile of Chiang Kai-shek, Chiang Ching-kuo, or Sun Yat-sen圓拾10 or a large 10 with an image of Taiwan and a plum blossom hidden in the zero and the words 國泰 or 民安 hidden in a panel above
50元All aluminium bronze or aluminium bronze center with an outer cupronickel ringProfile of Sun Yat-sen or Presidential Palace on the ringed coin50圓, hidden images of words/characters 50, and rice stalks on either side or 50圓拾伍 and an orchid on the ringed coin
Five Taiwanese banknotes spread out
The five banknotes in circulation in Taiwan
100元RedSun Yat-senYangmingshan Zhongshan Hall in Taipei
200元GreenChiang Kai-shekPresidential Office in Taipei
500元BrownYouths playing baseballSome Formosan sika deer and Dabajian Mountain in Shei-Pa National Park, Hsinchu
1000元BlueStudents looking at a globeA mikado pheasant and Yushan (Jade Mountain) in Nantou
2000元PurpleFormosat-1 satellite dishesFormosan landlocked salmon and Mount Nanhu in Taichung

You can learn some interesting things just looking at Taiwan’s currency. For example, on the coins, the characters go right-to-left (or “backwards”, from a non-Chinese-speaker’s point of view). This is how Chinese texts traditionally were (and still are) written.

So on the 5 NT coin, for example, it doesn’t say 伍圓 (5 yuan) but rather (圓伍). It also says “5” in Arabic numerals below, to help those of us who can’t read Chinese.

Moreover, instead of using the usual character for 5 (五), it uses the more formal numeral 伍, which has the 亻 or “person” radical in front of it. This form of the character is usually only used in banking, plus you’ll see it on Mahjong tiles (only for the number 5, though).

For banks, in part, this is a fraud prevention technique. For instance, the character for one (一) would be very easy to change to other numbers, like 二, 三, or 十. But the formal character for one, 壹, could not.

A female bank clerk behind a service counter and another woman facing her
Formal numbers are used for banking in Taiwan

Because Taiwanese people aren’t used to writing these formal numbers and sometimes forget how to, some banks even offer a “cheatsheet” to help Taiwanese write those numbers on forms when they have to at the bank’s service counter.

On the back on the coins, the Republic of China year is written in traditional characters, again right-to-left. For example, 年四0一國民華中 is the “backwards” form of 中華民國  (Republic of China) plus “一0四年” (year 104).

Keep in mind that Year 1 on the ROC calendar is 1912, the year to ROC was established in China, so year 104 = 2015.

As for the banknotes, you’ll see 中華民國 (Republic of China) written left-to-right, or the “normal” way, as us outsiders would consider it. Under it is 中央銀行, or Central Bank of the Republic of China, the state-owned bank which prints the country’s currency and mints its coins.

Why is Taiwan’s Dollar Called “New”

A bright red fort with Taiwan flag flying above and path leading to it in Tamsui
The Spanish-built Fort Santo Domingo in Tamsui

There is some interesting history behind why Taiwan’s currency is now called the “New” Taiwan dollar, and why Taiwan even uses the term “dollar” to begin with.

It all goes back to the world’s first international currency, the Spanish dollar (also called the real or peso), which was first minted in 1497. This would inspire the US dollar and also the Chinese yuan.

When Chinese and Europeans started colonizing Taiwan, they also brought Spanish dollars and Chinese yuan with them. During the Japanese colonial period in Taiwan (1895 to 1945), the Japanese created the “Taiwanese yen”.

When the Japanese left and Taiwan was handed over to the Republic of China, the ROC leaders changed the Japanese yen to Taiwan dollars (also called Taiwan Nationalist yuan or TWN). There were only bills, and they were made in Shanghai then shipped over.

An long, skinny, very old banknote than says "1 million dollars" in Mandarin characters
A 1 million “Old Taiwan dollar” banknote (image is public domain)

However, by the late 1940s, Taiwan (like China) was suffering rapid inflation, so that there was even a 1 million yuan Taiwan banknote.

In 1949, the ROC introduced a “New” Taiwan dollar, to replace what would henceforth be called the Old Taiwan dollar (舊臺幣). At the time, they had to say “new” or “old” to differentiate the two. One NTD was valued at 40,000 OTD.

Although you won’t see any more Old Taiwan dollars kicking around (except perhaps in a museum or collector’s shop), so there is no longer that need to differentiate the two, the name “New” stuck.

New Taiwan Dollar Currency Exchange Rates

Here is a table showing the New Taiwan dollar exchange rate with some common currencies at the time this article was written (late 2023). See the most current Taiwan currency exchange rates here.

1 USD = 32 TWD1 TWD = 4.6 JPY
1 EUR = 34 TWD1 TWD = 1.1 THB
1 GBP = 40 TWD1 TWD = 1.8 PHP
1 CNY = 4.4 TWD
1 SGD = 23 TWD
1 AUD = 20 TWD
1 CAD = 23 TWD

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