Last year the Wall Street Journal published an article with the title "5 reasons to open a Chinese bank account". In that article it mentioned that the U.S. branch of Bank of China makes this possible. As I described in my review, this looked like an option for those in the New York City area to open a bank account in Chinese yuan, also called renminbi (RMB). That branch has recently come out with three short-term RMB CD specials to celebrate Bank of China's anniversary and the Chinese New Year. The rates are much higher than what's available in dollar CDs. The rates are 2.58% APY for 1 year, 1.68% APY for 6 months and 1.28% APY for 3 months. Minimum deposit is $10,000. These rates are listed in the bank's promotions page as of 1/24/2012. According to this page, these specials are scheduled to last until 2/21/2012. At the bottom of this promotions page, it states that the account is FDIC insured. However, it warns of the currency risk:
Investment Risk: Due to the nature and volatility of the foreign exchange market, if the value of your foreign currency deposit moves adversely against the U.S. dollar, you may lose money, including principal.
You can review the exchange rate history for the RMB to dollar in this EverBank page. You can see that the RMB has appreciated compared to the dollar over the last year. Of course, there's no guarantee that will continue. Credit for this find goes to FW member tuphat who mentioned this deal in this FW thread. It was also mentioned in that thread that Bank of China doesn't limit deposits as the WSJ article mentioned last year.
In the bank's FAQ page it states that "you have to open an account in person with 2 valid IDs." Bank of China has two branches in New York City: 410 Madison Ave and 42 East Broadway. These have two FDIC charters: FDIC Certificate # 33252 and FDIC Certificate # 33653. The FDIC has the following note regarding deposit insurance:
Bank of China, New York, NY (FDIC Cert# 33652) and Bank of China, New York, NY (FDIC Cert# 33653) are branches of the same banking institution. Therefore, deposits held in these two branches do NOT receive separate FDIC insurance coverage. Deposits held in the same capacity at each office would be added together prior to applying the insurance limit for that ownership type.
Bank of China also has a Los Angeles branch, but that branch is NOT a FDIC member.
Other Foreign Currency CD Options
The only bank available nationwide that I'm aware of that offers foreign currency CDs is EverBank. They don't offer Chinese CDs, but they do offer several foreign currency CDs. Some of these do have yields much higher than similar dollar CDs. These are FDIC insured, but you can still lose principal due to currency risk. I have more details in my EverBank Foreign Currency CD review.