"The RMB breaking into the top five world payments currencies is an important milestone," Wim Raymaekers, Head of Banking Markets at SWIFT said in statement Wednesday.
The renminbi (RMB) is the official name of the Chinese currency, while the yuan is the basic unit of the renminbi.
China's currency has been outrunning both the Canadian and Australian dollars since November, according to the SWIFT statement. In January 2013 it was ranked 13th.
The renminbi was used in 2.17 percent of world's transactions in December, the SWIFT data revealed.
In recent years the role of the yuan in international financial transactions has increased dramatically. It is now commonly used in both global payment and mutual settlement. Some experts say the yuan could eventually overtake the American dollar share in international markets.