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What Is CIPS? A Guide to China's Cross-Border Payment System

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CIPS (Cross-Border Interbank Payment System) is a payment system designed to improve the efficiency of cross-border transactions in Chinese yuan (RMB).

Unlike SWIFT, which is a messaging network, CIPS offers clearing and settlement services, making RMB transactions faster and more cost-effective.

CIPS facilitates trade and investment between China and other countries by enabling direct payments in yuan and onshore settlement.

Imagine being able to pay a Chinese supplier or send remittances in yuan as easily as paying your local vendors. It might sound impossible, but CIPS has made cross-border payments to China much more convenient than in the past.

If you’re sourcing products from China or are looking for a fast way to transfer money in the Chinese yuan (RMB), CIPS is certainly the solution you need to know about. 

But what exactly is CIPS, and what does it stand for? In this article, we’ll explain the basics of CIPS, including how the system works, its difference from SWIFT, and why it’s important for anyone dealing with Chinese yuan transactions.

What Is CIPS?

CIPS stands for Cross-Border Interbank Payment System. It is a financial telecommunications and payment system that was founded in 2015 to facilitate the clearing and settlement of cross-border transactions in Chinese yuan (RMB). 

Authorized by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), CIPS China allows international RMB payments to be cleared directly onshore within the country’s domestic financial system, making the transactions faster and more cost-effective. 

As of May 2024, CIPS has over 1530 direct and indirect participants, including banks and financial institutions in major cities and regions around the world.

As one of the main financial market infrastructures in China, the other one being CNAPS for domestic payments, CIPS plays a huge role in internationalizing RMB and facilitating cross-border trade with China, reducing reliance on the US dollar. 


Tip: The Chinese yuan can be referred to as CNY, CNH, and RMB (Renminbi).

How Does CIPS Work? 

CIPS acts like a clearinghouse for handling RMB transactions. The system allows financial institutions to directly settle payments with each other through a secure network in real-time.

Financial institutions must be either direct or indirect participants to access CIPS clearing and settlement services. 

Direct participants are typically large domestic and international banks that hold accounts directly with the PBOC, such as the Bank of China, HSBC, and Standard Chartered. These banks can process and settle cross-border RMB payments for themselves and indirect participants.

On the other hand, indirect participants are smaller banks that can access China’s CIPS services through a correspondent relationship with a direct participant.

Here’s a typical process of a CIPS payment:

  1. Initiating the payment: You instruct your bank (an indirect participant) to send money in RMB to the Chinese supplier’s bank (a direct participant).
  2. Connecting to CIPS: Your bank sends the payment instructions to CIPS, typically via SWIFT.
  3. Clearing and settlement: CIPS processes the payment message, ensuring compliance with regulations, then settles the transaction by transferring the money from your bank account to your supplier’s within China’s local banking system. 
  4. Payment confirmation: Once the transfer is settled, CIPS will send a confirmation message to both banks. 

Can I make a RMB transfer through CIPS by myself?

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CIPS and SWIFT may be confused since they are both related to international payments and worldwide interbank financial telecommunications.  

However, while the SWIFT network facilitates international payments through a globally secured messaging system, CIPS is a payment system that directly clears and settles RMB transactions

To put it simply, SWIFT does not offer clearing or settlement services, while CIPS does.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences:




Primary Function

A payment system used to process and settle cross-border transactions in RMB. 

A global financial messaging network that facilitates communication between banks about payment instructions.


Specifically designed to facilitate RMB transactions and promote RMB internationalization.

Supports a wide range of financial transactions in global currencies through an extensive network. 

Payment Settlement

Settles RMB payments in real-time or near real-time. 

Does not directly settle payments.


Operates by China International Payment Service, a company overseen and regulated by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC).

A cooperative society owned by the member financial institutions.


Useful Resource: Learn more about telegraphic transfers and SWIFT payments for international transactions in our guides. 

While CIPS has its own messaging system, it still relies on the SWIFT network to send messages between banks, especially those not directly connected to CIPS. 

In 2016, SWIFT and CIPS agreed to a strategic collaboration, allowing CIPS to expand its global reach and enhance China’s growing financial power through SWIFT’s extended network. 

SWIFT also implemented the use of Chinese characters in its system to enhance global financial messaging, particularly for RMB transactions. 

The Benefits of CIPS

Ever since its introduction in 2015, CIPS has been continually updating to provide an effective Chinese renminbi payment system for the participating banks and financial institutions. 

By enabling direct clearing and settlement of RMB transactions within China, CIPS reduces reliance on intermediary banks and the US dollar, providing a viable alternative to SWIFT for international payments in Chinese yuan. 

These are some of the key benefits of CIPS for businesses and individuals:

  • Faster Payments: CIPS enables real or near real-time settlement of cross-border RMB payments. This could save you a lot of time compared to traditional wire transfers
  • Reduced Costs: CIPS processes and settles payments without the need for intermediary banks, reducing transaction and handling fees, as well as foreign exchange costs.
  • Available Around the Clock: CIPS operates 24 hours on business days, with an additional 4 hours over the weekend to accommodate global business hours. 

Additionally, China’s CIPS matters in supporting renminbi internationalization by making it easier to send funds across borders in the currency. 

In fact, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), CIPS is one of the factors that contributed to the RMB’s growing market share as a nontraditional reserve currency following the decline of the dominant currency, the USD. 

The Future of CIPS

CIPS offers an alternative financial arrangement within the global financial system by enabling faster and more cost-effective global RMB transactions settled onshore, particularly in bilateral trade between China and its partner. 

The effectiveness of CIPS makes it a key component of China's efforts to strengthen its position in international finance, contributing to the country's position as one of the world’s largest economies and a leading player in global financial systems. 

And as the country’s economy continues to grow, the RMB is likely to play a significant role in international finance and trade, driving even greater demand for CIPS as a platform for cross-border RMB payments and a growing network of CIPS participants. 

Statrys mobile application dashboard showing a total balance in a business account.


What is the difference between SWIFT and CIPS?

SWIFT (Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) is a messaging network for international payments, while CIPS is a payment system specifically designed to clear and settle cross-border transactions in Chinese yuan (RMB).

What is the difference between CIPS and CNAPS?


How many countries use CIPS?


Is CIPS recognized in the USA?


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