That's a Whole Lot of Renminbi!
If you happened to keep an eye on the currency markets, you may have noticed that it's been a banner week for China's renminbi. The Chinese currency hit its highest mark yet against the U.S. dollar.
And now you too can have a bank account full of renminbi, protected by the FDIC for up to $100,000. $100,000 in U.S. dollars, that is.
Apparently, it's part of China's 5-year economic plan to "internationalize" the renminbi and make it (possibly? one day? soon??) the world's reserve currency.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. For now, let's say you want to open your own deposit account. Now what?
The Bank of China is the first to offer non-commercial renminbi accounts to Americans. They have a branch on Madison Avenue and one in Chinatown in New York, as well as one in Los Angeles (that doesn't offer the FDIC backing, BTW). But if you walk into a New York branch with some photo ID, a driver's license and at least 500 dollars, you can walk out a newly-minted international currency speculator. The details are here.
For now, you can't write checks on that new account. And it's unclear whether or not you'll be able to get a Great Wall credit card.
One other shortfall too - the accounts don't pay interest, so you'll only make money when the renminbi is up. So this might not be the week to open that account.